Mayoral candidate Bruce Harrell, who is chair of the Seattle City Council’s public safety committee, said this week that, had he been mayor when the Department of Justice issued its findings about the Seattle Police Department, he would have put up a bigger fight than Mayor Mike McGinn did.
“I wouldn’t have entered into the settlement,” he told the Seattle Times editorial board Wednesday. “As an experienced litigator,” he said, he would have demanded more information from the Department of Justice, in particular about the department’s finding that 20 percent of the uses of force they studied were unreasonable. That finding without the details to back it up, he said, left the city “negotiating in the dark.”
Harrell said the same thing Saturday at a City Hall forum on criminal justice issues. The mayor was too hasty to settle and stuck the city with a bad deal, he said.
Harrell’s recent statements are virtually the opposite of his public position while the debate over the settlement was raging last spring. He and council members Tim Burgess and Sally Clark were critical of the mayor for being too adversarial and too slow in his settlement negotiations with the justice department.
In March 2012, Harrell signed a letter to the mayor that said: “While we appreciate the negotiations with the DOJ are sensitive, we feel strongly that they need not be adversarial. We continue to urge swift resolution with the DOJ so we can proceed to implement these and other related reforms.”
Harrell said that, behind closed doors, he urged the mayor to push harder for more facts about the department’s investigation.
McGinn is often criticized for picking a fight with the Department of Justice, and most of the candidates for mayor are saying McGinn should have done more to work with the feds on the issue. McGinn accepted the settlement, but not before angering department officials with his demands. Harrell, Clark, Burgess and City Attorney Pete Holmes were on the front lines of that criticism during the negotiations.
In yesterday’s meeting, Harrell said he would not have expected his negotiations with the Department of Justice to go all the way to court, but by demanding that the Department of Justice show its work, he could have gotten a better settlement.
And here’s another new one: Harrell also told the editorial board his plan for KeyArena is to get rid of it. Harrell said if a new arena is built, as planned, in Sodo, he thinks the best plan for KeyArena is to tear it down and make Seattle Center a destination for walking and gathering. He described a destination park, like Green Lake or Seward Park for the downtown area. He said he has good memories of KeyArena, but his plans for Seattle Center do not start with a concrete building.