The Emerald’s Watchdragon reporting seeks to increase accountability within our city’s institutions through in-depth investigative journalism.
The Emerald has learned that Office of Inspector General (OIG) auditor Anthony Finnell, who appeared to have been found to have fully certified Office of Police Accountability (OPA) cases without fully reviewing evidence — including not opening any files at all, in some cases — had been allowed to continue certifying cases up to at least the end of October of this year, despite the fact that Inspector General Lisa Judge and Deputy Inspector General Amy Tsai were aware that he had not been properly reviewing cases prior to certification for at least several months, if not more than a year.
(This article previously appeared on PubliCola and has been reprinted under an agreement.)
A bill that would create a framework for civilian oversight of law enforcement agencies across Washington State is making its way toward a vote on the floor of the State House, but police accountability experts say that the bill needs refinement to avoid unintended consequences.
With less than a week to go before the deadline for which it was asked to provide feedback to the Seattle Police Department (SPD), the Seattle Community Police Commission (CPC) hosted a virtual town hall event on January 26 to address some of the policy changes that SPD has been considering.
The CPC is a commission created by the City of Seattle to amplify its community voices during police accountability processes. The SPD is currently proposing more than 100 pages of policy changes — concerning issues like officers’ use of force and how they can police protests. SPD originally set a deadline for comment at January 8, but the CPC pushed SPD to extend that deadline until January 31 — in order to give the CPC more time to host the online forum and engage the community and encourage people to submit recommendations about the policy changes. Members of the community have until January 31 to submit their feedback directly online.
In an online summary of the proposed changes SPD describes changes to its use of force core principles, which only state that officers “will” engage in an action, instead of “should” or “shall” (e.g. “officers will use de-escalation tactics”). In its analysis of the changes, the CPC said that “although SPD committed to re-envisioning public safety together with community, leaving this section effectively unchanged signals that it does not intend to meaningfully alter the way and frequency it uses force on community members.”
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has released an Executive Order meant to “create an accountable and transparent timeline to evaluate Seattle Police Department (SPD) functions and identify areas of SPD response that can be transitioned to civilian and community-based responses,” according to a press release from her office on Oct. 1. According to the order, the first public deliverable — a work plan and community engagement timeline — will be available in October, while the last one — a final analysis report that examines several factors, including current SPD practices and functions, as well as community input on community policing — will be available in March 2021.
The Seattle Community Police Commission, Office of Police Accountability, and Office of Inspector General have released a joint recommendation that the Seattle Police Department (SPD) stop using tear gas, due to the extra dangers it poses in light of the current novel coronavirus pandemic.