A settlement was submitted today to Judge James Robart in US District Court in Seattle, which officials for the city and US Department of Justice expect to be approved within the next month. I touched on it earlier. At 76 pages pages, though, I haven't read the whole thing. But it lays out three reforms for the Seattle Police Department that I want to mention briefly:
It sets strict new standards for reporting use of force. Of particular note, a Type I use of force didn't used to be reported. This is defined as an officer's action "not reasonably expected to cause injury" but one that "causes transient pain and/or disorientation." It could be an open hand strike, shoving a suspecting in the chest, or a "soft" take down, for example. Now an officer must report these types of activities—in addition to other more severe uses of force, considered types II and III—and they will be automatically investigated by a superior who will visit the site of the incident. There is much more detail on using and investigating force, and penalizing officers who use it wrongly, but this among the most explicit changes to department policy to make sure it's documented in the first place.
A court-appointed monitor will oversee the city. Selected jointly by the city and DOJ within 60 days, the monitor will be paid by the city. (The salary is unclear, but Mayor Mike McGinn estimates the the city will pay $5 million next year to implement reforms overall.) Responding to speculation that this person is a "shadow chief," DOJ's Thomas Perez told reporters, "The monitor does not supplant the role of the chief." However, the monitor will report back to Judge Robart, and this monitor will sound the alarm if anything is falling behind schedule, from providing new crisis intervention training to implementing new force policies.
The agreement does, in fact, discuss biased policing. Federal investigators hadn't found any constitutional violations of biased arrests, but it did note a concerning pattern of law enforcement involving racial minorities. That said, the language in the settlement appears weak. My first read through shows that the city will, in essence, re-pledge its commitment not to use bias. If there are specifics—particularly about data collection—please point them out.
The settlement includes many departmental goals, lacking specifics, relating to supervision (such as providing an adequate number of staff), tightening disciplinary procedures (such as when officers must report misconduct), and detaining suspects (clarifying that social stops are voluntary and ensuring training on the Fourth Amendment). However, unlike longstanding city goals in the same vein, the settlement leans on the monitor to guarantee they happen.
Separate from the settlement, the city has also entered into an Memorandum of Understanding, which is mutually enforced by the parties, not a court. Among other ambitions, it calls on the mayor to create an advisory board, the Community Policing Commission, which will recommend new methods for data collection, stops and detention, and officer discipline.
Perez rebuked the talking point held by some officers that reforms are tantamount to tying their hands. Effective policing and constitutional policing can go "hand in hand," he said, adding that after Los Angeles implemented a similar policing reform plan, "crime went down, and the quality of policing went up, and public confidence in the police department shot up."