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June 21, 2012 at 10:49 AM

Community groups blast SPD and Justice Department over lack of progress

Frustrated by the pace of negotiations between Seattle police and the U.S. Department of Justice, nearly three dozen community groups announced this morning they will no longer cooperate with the Police Department’s “”20/20” plan of proposed police improvements.

The 34 groups, led by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and El Centro de la Raza, said they are demanding a place at the table as both sides negotiate an agreement for Police Department reforms sought by the Department of Justice. They decried the lack of progress in the negotiations, which were prompted by a scathing Justice Department report on police practices

“There’s a saying: If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” said Jennifer Shaw of the ACLU.

In December, the Justice Department announced the results of  its civil-rights investigation of the Police Department, finding that officers routinely use excessive force and citing troubling evidence of biased policing. Among the changes being proposed by the Justice Department is that the Police Department add 54 sergeants to improve supervision and bolster training requirements, according to a confidential city memorandum previously disclosed by The Times.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn has responded with the city’s “20/20” plan, calling for 20 changes in 20 months in the Police Department. But U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan has labeled the plan a “framework” that lacks substance to assure changes would be made.

This morning, the community groups called the “20/20” plan “vague” and complained that in its current form cannot be enforced. As a result, they said, they could no longer cooperate with police as they put the plan in place.

The groups were also critical of the Department of Justice because an agreement is still in the works six months after it announced its findings.

McGinn met last week in Washington, D.C., with Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, who oversees the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and said they discussed a “framework for negotiations” to bring about changes in the Seattle Police Department.

Hours after McGinn’s meeting, Durkan met behind closed doors with City Council members Sally Clark and Tim Burgess to discuss the Justice Department’s proposal to curtail excessive force in the Police Department.

The separate meetings could suggest negotiations to reach a settlement have stalled, with McGinn and Durkan seeking to explain their positions before federal attorneys decide whether to file a lawsuit that could force changes.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, Seattle Police Department, U.S. Department of Justice

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