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June 25, 2012 at 5:44 PM

City, feds release key documents in SPD talks

City officials have released for the first time their official proposal to address a Department of Justice finding that Seattle police officers routinely use excessive force.

The proposal, which was submitted to the Department of Justice on May 16, had been kept secret under a confidentiality agreement between the two sides but was released late this  afternoon under a public-records request.

It contains the city’s formal response to the Justice Department’s settlement proposal, which was given to city officials in late March.

The Justice Department separately released its proposal. It had also been kept confidential, although the contents were leaked May 15 to The Associated Press, which disclosed many of the details.

Also released were two sternly worded letters sent to City Attorney Pete Holmes by a top Justice Department attorney in the Civil Rights Division shortly after the May 16 response, questioning the city’s willingness to negotiate in good faith.

Both sides are currently engaged in negotiations to reach a settlement and avoid a federal lawsuit that could force the city to make changes. A mediator has been brought in to assist in the talks, Mayor Mike McGinn said last week.

As part of the negotiations, the Justice Department and U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle have insisted on a court-enforced consent decree.

McGinn has said he is willing to accept a consent decree but has questioned the scope and cost of the Justice Department’s proposals, saying the city might be forced to spend up to $41 million a year and put vital city services at risk amid a $30 million budget shortfall for 2013.

Federal attorneys have said the city’s financial analysis of the costs is wrong.

Among the changes sought by the Justice Department are a significant boost in sergeants to oversee supervision, enhanced training and an expansion of the internal-investigation process, according to a confidential city memorandum previously disclosed to The Seattle Times.

McGinn has pushed the city’s own “20/20” plan, which was unveiled in March and calls for 20 changes to the Police Department in 20 months, saying it would be less costly and address the Justice Department’s concerns.

U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan has described the plan as a “framework” that lacks substance, a sentiment echoed last week week by community groups who originally pressed the Justice Department to investigate the Police Department.

The Justice Department found in December that police had engaged in pattern of excessive force, along with troubling evidence of biased policing affecting minorities.

In their May 16 response, city officials addressed the excessive force issue, but omitted a response regarding biased policing because the Justice Department had not reached a formal finding on that issue, sources have said.

McGinn has said the city is dealing with biased policing in the “20/20” plan.

Comments | More in General news, Government, The Blotter | Topics: City of Seattle, Department of Justice, Seattle Police Department

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