According to several sources familiar with the situation, all asking to remain anonymous, attorneys at the US Department of Justice have called a meeting with city officials this Friday to unveil draft terms for reforming the Seattle Police Department.
This would be the first time city officials have seen the federal recommendations for reforming our troubled police force; however, it's unclear if City Hall is prepared to adopt the recommendations in unison. Talks have stalled among the city's elected leaders and the DOJ, reportedly frustrated by the city's internal logjam, is calling this week's meeting sooner rather than later to put forth its proposals, according to numerous sources.
The parties must ultimately settle on a court agreement, meeting standards set by federal prosecutors, that outlines steps the city must take to correct endemic problems with the SPD—described in a detailed report by DOJ in December—including excessive use of force, failures to deescalate situations, and opaque machinations for officer discipline.
However, talks among five elected leaders broke down about three or four weeks ago, sources tell The Stranger. Involved in those discussions were Mayor Mike McGinn, City Attorney Pete Holmes, and Seattle City Council members Tim Burgess, Sally Clark, and Bruce Harrell. Certain members of the group pressed for the city to conceive its own reform proposals—responding to concerns raised in the report. The thinking reportedly went that by proactively suggesting changes to policing, the feds' requirements could be less onerous; for example, the city could perhaps avoid a federal monitoring office to track the reforms, which could add millions to the city budget. The group now disbanded, sources say, the mayor's office has spent the last several weeks consulting with the Minority Executive Directors Coalition (one of the groups that first requested the DOJ investigation in 2010) to help form the city's response.
It's unclear how long federal and local officials will take to hammer out an agreement. Once the terms are reached, federal prosecutors are expected to file a lawsuit against the city along with a consent decree (essentially a settlement) in US District Court in Seattle.