For months now, numerous documents exchanged during the city's negotiations with federal lawyers were under lock and key.
But less than an hour ago and without much explanation, Mayor Mike McGinn's office posted online numerous records relating to the negotiations with the US Department of Justice. And it appears relations have been awful. The two parties have been attempting to reach terms of a court settlement that would end the police department's pattern of using excessive force, a problem detailed in a critical DOJ report in December.
The city posted its lengthy proposal for a court settlement (and in an update at the bottom of this post, I've posted the DOJ's original proposal and a joint statement from both parties). But of the documents now online, the most immediately notable are the harsh words from federal authorities:
"We have been very discouraged by the way these negotiations have been handled by the City," says a terse May 16 letter to city officials from John Smith at the US Attorney's office. He blasts the city for failing to address issues of discriminatory policing in its proposals.
Moreover, Smith says, "The city has made this process unnecessarily contentious and personal," adding that this attitude "raises the risk of unnecessary litigation."
In a letter the following week, Smith writes to the city again about its settlement proposal. "The city's proposal will not achieve reform that is measurable and enforceable," says a May 23 letter from Smith. He adds that the feds reject the city's attempt at "piece meal bartering" and say the "positions take by the city in negotiations are making settlement unlikely."
There are several other documents—too many synthesize quickly in this post—so TAKE A LOOK. If you see something, say something.
UPDATE at 6:15 pm: The DOJ has now issued its counter proposal for a court agreement with city. I've uploaded it HERE. Furthermore, the DOJ and city say in a joint statement that they are currently in mediation and they will acceptmake no further public comments, what appears to be a rebuke of advocacy groups that wanted a seat at the table during negotiations. [Updated to make it clear that it's the parties who will make no further comment. The city and DOJ have not made a statement about other parties joining the negotiations.]
"In an effort to increase transparency and respond to the broad public interest in proposed reforms of the Seattle Police Department, the Department of Justice and the City of Seattle jointly have agreed to release their initial settlement proposals," says the joint statement. "These proposals have served as the starting point for negotiations between the parties to reach an agreement on all issues. We continue to move forward with those negotiations beyond these documents and are currently in mediation. While the mediation is ongoing, the parties have agreed that further public comment on the substance of the initial proposals and the status of the ongoing talks would be counter-productive to progress and long-term reform efforts."