The Seattle Police Department's director of investigations into officer misconduct says she intends to leave her post by May, thereby ending her tenure overseeing a police force that had run wild with abuses under her watch.
In a letter to Mayor Mike McGinn today, Kathryn Olson didn't explain why, exactly, she will withdraw her candidacy for director of the Office of Professional Accountability, but she seems to acknowledge controversial investigations and mounting criticisms that she has lost the public's trust. "I appreciate that OPA can be doing even more to assure the community that police misconduct is identified and addressed," Olson said.
The resignation letter comes despite McGinn instilling his faith in Olson's leadership in August, when McGinn announced he would seek to reappoint her to another three-year term. Olson, who would need the Seattle City Council's confirmation, has served since May 2007. But pending a federal investigation into the SPD's unconstitutional pattern of excessive force and subsequent lawsuit, McGinn held back on seeking her reappointment in 2010. However, when the mayor nominated Olson for a second term this summer (which would have ended next May), McGinn was also telegraphing his intention to appoint her to a third term from 2013 to 2016.
"However," Olson's letter said, "I have decided not to pursue a third term as OPA director."
It is unclear if the council will reappoint Olson to the seven-month balance of this second term; it seems more likely they will simply leave her status in limbo while the city opens a search for a replacement.
Olson commits most of her letter to naming her accomplishments—such as recognition for thorough reports—while acknowledging that "there is always room for improvement" in her office. She also pledges her commitment to help the city meet its end of a settlement agreement with the US Department of Justice to reform the police department.
All told, Olson's departure seems best for the city. It's unclear she would would have the council's support for reconfirmation, and it makes sense for the mayor and council to replace Olson at the same time they meet terms of the federal agreement to hire a police monitor who reports to a federal judge, identify a compliance coordinator, and appoint a police commission.
In a statement, the mayor said, "Kathryn is a dedicated public servant who has worked with great professionalism to guide the Office of Professional Accountability through a time of historic change in our police department. I thank her for her work.”