Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell wants the Seattle police chief to be periodically reviewed and reconfirmed by the City Council.
Harrell, who is running against Mayor Mike McGinn, is proposing a charter amendment, which would require a citywide vote, to give the council the authority to reconfirm the chief. Currently the mayor appoints and the council confirms the pick. Harrell’s measure calls for the chief to be reconfirmed for the job every four years. Currently, 13 Seattle department heads are subject to reconfirmation by the council.
Harrell said his measure is not aimed specifically at Chief John Diaz, whose tenure has been marred by high-profile incidents involving the use of force against minorities and federal mandates for reform outlined in a Justice Department settlement agreement.
“This is not a knock on Diaz. This is a knock on the process,” Harrell said. “It’s an effort to evaluate him on measurable and articulable criteria, which is really not done. How do we measure this most important role? It’s very vague.”
Deputy Police Chief Clark Kimerer said allowing the council to reconfirm the chief makes him more subject to political influence. He noted that currently the chief can be dismissed by the mayor at any time.
“The chief has to be able to do the right thing, not the popular thing,” Kimerer said.
The council public safety committee, which Harrell chairs, will take up the proposal this afternoon, but hasn’t scheduled a vote. The proposed charter amendment would have to be submitted to the City Clerk by July to be placed on the November ballot.