Topic: Department of Justice
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November 27, 2013 at 2:35 PM
Assistant Chief Nick Metz, one of the most visible and longest serving members of the command staff in the Seattle Police Department, is being removed in the wake of a highly critical report on the progress of police reforms, according to sources familiar with the move.
As part of continuing shake-up in the top ranks, Interim Police Chief Jim Pugel has given Metz an ultimatum: take an assignment to captain or accept a severance package, the sources said.
In an emotional written message to the community and department this afternoon, Metz said he has accepted the change and pledged to serve the city with the “same level of care and professionalism that I promised when I took my oath over thirty years ago.”
Pugel’s action represents the most dramatic personnel fallout since the city entered into a July 2012 settlement agreement with the Department of Justice to curb excessive force and biased policing.
Word of the decision has swept through the department, sending shock waves through the ranks.
Metz declined to comment.
As part of the changes, Capt. Carmen Best, who heads the South Precinct, is to be promoted to assistant chief, one source said. Capt. John Hayes Jr. will take her spot in the South Precinct, the source said.
Pugel earlier this week informed the department of the demotion of Assistant Chief Dick Reed, who asked to return to the rank of captain.
Reed has overseen the department’s technology and data-collection operations, which came under sharp criticism in a Nov. 15 draft report by the federal monitor overseeing the city’s settlement agreement with the Department of Justice. The agreement calls for reforms to address the use of excessive force and biased policing.
The draft report from the monitor, Merrick Bobb, also cited resistance to the reforms in the top ranks of the Police Department, although he did not provide names.
Previously, Metz served as one of two deputy chiefs, the second highest rank in the department, until Pugel eliminated the position when he became interim chief in April. Metz was moved to the rank of assistant chief, where he currently oversees the Investigations Bureau.
Metz, 51, joined the Police Department in 1983. He was promoted to assistant chief in October 2001.
Metz previously headed the Patrol Operations bureau, at a time when the department came under scrutiny.
City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the council’s public-safety committee, said today that Pugel had been asked who should be held responsible for public perceptions about decades of misconduct.
Pugel was asked to seriously look at the issue and make changes he believed to be appropriate, Harrell said.
“We’re asking him to make tough decisions,” Harrell said.
November 26, 2013 at 11:21 AM
A federal judge today denied a citizen commission’s request to formally intervene in court-ordered Seattle police reforms and refused to grant delays the panel had requested to offer its views regarding policy changes.
But in a 19-page order, U.S. District Judge James Robart permitted the Community Police Commission (CPC) to file memorandums with the court “commenting on any issue or motion” raised as part of the City of Seattle’s settlement agreement with the Department of Justice to curb excessive force and biased policing in the Police Department.
Robart also granted “compromise” delays offered by federal attorneys to allow the CPC, which was created as part of last year’s settlement agreement, more time to comment on bias-free policing, brief detentions of citizens and the Police Department’s community outreach.
However, Robart denied the CPC’s request to extend deadlines to comment on use-of-force training curricula, an early-intervention system to identify problem officers and policy manual for the Police Department’s internal-investigation unit, the Office of Professional Accountability.
Robart’s ruling represented a victory for federal attorneys, who objected to the CPC’s request to intervene, saying it would cause undue delay in the reform. They also fully objected to some of the delays sought by the CPC.
In his ruling, Robart wrote that “permitting intervention would likely result in undue delay without a corresponding benefit to existing litigants, the court, or the process of reform because the existing parties are zealously pursing the same ultimate objectives as the CPC.”
October 2, 2013 at 4:22 PM
An indigent-defense project at Seattle University School of Law and the Sixth Amendment Center in Boston will share a $450,000 grant from the Department of Justice (DOJ) to work on solutions to failings in the public-defense system nationwide.
The two-year grant is part of Attorney General Eric Holder’s focus on addressing systemic problems in local and state-run public-defense systems.
Holder, in a series of speeches and editorials, has said those systems “exist in a state of crisis” 50 years after the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously declared it an “obvious truth” that the criminally accused, no matter what their circumstances, have the right to an attorney and effective legal counsel.
The grant was awarded by the DOJ’s program called “Answering Gideon’s Call,” overseen by its Civil Rights Division, and is aimed at improving state-level public-defense to a minimum suggested by the American Bar Association.
Bob Boruchowitz, the director of the Defender Initiative at Seattle University School of Law, said “Hundreds of thousands of people each year plead guilty without ever talking to a lawyer.”
David Carroll, the executive director of the Sixth Amendment Center, said an effective defense system can, in the long run, cut down on unnecessary appeals and the number of people incarcerated.
With a presence on either coast — Seattle and Boston — the directors say the program is “uniquely situated to respond quickly to struggling jurisdictions to provide timely technical assistance” to address issues that stand between defendants and their right to be represented by an attorney, whether they can afford one or not.
They point out that seven states — Utah, Mississippi, Arizona, California, Idaho, Pennsylvania and South Dakota — currently devote no money for non-capital, trial-level defense services. Those responsibilities have been relegated to local jurisidictions, which often don’t have the resources to fund indigent defense.
The grant comes as many eyes in the U.S. legal and law-enforcement communities are focused on a pending decision in a civil-rights lawsuit over the misdemeanor indigent-defense systems in Mount Vernon and Burlington. A federal judge is weighing whether to find those systems in violation of the Constitution and review an unprecedented request by the DOJ to consider placing those locally run defense systems under federal oversight.
March 12, 2013 at 3:09 PM
A federal judge this afternoon approved an independent monitor’s first-year reform plan for the Seattle Police Department, putting in place specific deadlines and tasks ranging from use of force to crisis intervention.
U.S. District Judge James Robart, who is overseeing a settlement agreement reached in July between the city and the Department of Justice, accepted the plan at the urging of the city and federal attorneys.
The plan represents a significant milestone in the police-reform effort, triggered by a finding of the Justice Department in December 2011 that Seattle police had engaged in a “pattern or practice” of using excessive force and displayed troubling evidence of biased policing.
Drafted by Merrick Bobb, whom Robart appointed to the monitor position following the settlement, the plan provides a road map for department reform that could take up to five years.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and Police Chief John Diaz initially objected to some elements of the plan, pitting them against City Attorney Pete Holmes, who favored a more collaborative approach.
To view a video of today’s hearing, recorded under a pilot project involving 14 U.S. District Courts, click here.
March 5, 2013 at 11:40 AM
Merrick Bobb, the independent monitor who will track Seattle police reforms, submitted to a federal judge today his proposed first-year plan for carrying out sweeping changes to curb excessive force and biased policing.
Bobb’s proposed plan, outlined in a 23-page document, said he will monitor that use of force is properly documented and investigated and that “findings that force was out of policy” will be referred to the Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability for appropriate discipline.
It also said, among other things, that Bobb will gauge “levels of confidence and trust by all members of the diverse community” in the Police Department, as measured by surveys, rates that crimes are cleared, cooperation from witnesses and full implementation of community-based policing at the precinct level, with particularly emphasis on the African-American and other minority communities.
February 27, 2013 at 2:50 PM
Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said today that he will not abide by Mayor Mike McGinn’s request to step aside from representing the city in its negotiations with a federal monitor to reach an agreement on how to carry out police reforms.
McGinn reiterated earlier today that he would not include Holmes in formal talks because of concerns about his ability to ethically represent the city.
In a statement released this afternoon, Holmes’ office said, “City Attorney Pete Holmes will not screen himself from representing the City in this case. The City Charter gives the City Attorney supervisory control of all litigation and, although the City has entered a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice, this remains a pending lawsuit under the supervision of a federal judge.
“Mr. Holmes has violated no client confidences or breached any ethical obligations to his client, the City of Seattle. Mr. Holmes communicated his position to the mayor’s legal counsel in a private letter today,” the letter said.
Holmes’ statement comes one day after McGinn moved to bar Holmes from participating in talks on police reforms, accusing Holmes of “undercutting” Police Chief John Diaz in negotiations with the monitor.
In a strongly worded email, McGinn’s legal counsel, Carl Marquardt, accused Holmes of an ethical breach of the attorney-client privilege as the city works to comply with a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice to curb excessive force and biased policing.
Marquardt said it was time to institute an “ethical screen” between Holmes and the attorneys in his office who are representing the city in the matter.
Holmes’ office replied in a terse statement Tuesday night, saying his office “categorically denies any breach of the City Attorney’s ethical obligations to the City.”
February 14, 2013 at 11:41 AM
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn gathered with top Seattle police brass this morning to update the progress in the city’s “20/20″ policing plan.
The “20/20″ plan is aimed at overhauling the Police Department after a Department of Justice investigation found officers had used excessive force and displayed evidence of biased policing. Unveiled in March, the plan calls for 20 initiatives over 20 months. McGinn has touted the plan for change, saying it would address Justice Department concerns while likely staying within the existing police budget.
The Police Department is under federal oversight after reaching a settlement with the Department of Justice.
“We are about halfway through our timeline for reforming the Seattle Police Department in 20 months, and significant progress has been made,” McGinn said this morning. “I encourage the public to visit seattle.gov/spd2020 to learn more about our changes to recruitment, training, transparency, community outreach, use of data in policing and much more.”
Among the highlights cited this morning by McGinn:
– The city hopes to hire 85 new officers this year. (For more information on the department’s hiring efforts, click here.)
– The SPD now has a Force Review Board, designed on the model of the Firearms Review Board. It meets each week to review every use of force by every Seattle officer and draw conclusions about whether the use of force was handled correctly. The department also has a Force Investigation Team to respond and investigate at the scene of a use-of-force incident.
– The department now has a fulltime Race and Social Justice Initiative program coordinator.
– By the end of the year, all sworn and civilian officers will take part in in race training titled, ”Race: The Power of an Illusion.”
– SPD is working with tribes across Washington, including the Lummi Nation and Tulalip Tribes, to develop specific training for officers on issues affecting Native-American populations.
– The department last year launched Tweets by Beat, an interactive 911 crime map with real-time updates, and precinct specific webpages are coming soon.
McGinn has said that the “20/20″ plan represents a broad effort that goes beyond the changes sought by federal attorneys. Some initiatives directly address issues raised in the Justice Department report: reducing police escalation of low-level incidents into violent incidents; having specific guidelines for reporting the use of force; managing public demonstrations; educating officers on when and how they can stop to question or search citizens; and ensuring that front-line supervisors are doing their job. It also calls on officers, for the first time, to sign a code of ethics.
January 14, 2013 at 11:50 AM
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn this morning announced his 15 appointments to the city’s new Community Police Commission to help oversee police reforms. The 15 appointees are subject to City Council confirmation.
Appointed by the mayor were:
Claudia D’Allegri, vice president of Behavioral Health for Sea Mar Community Health Centers;
Lisa Daugaard, deputy director of The Defender Association;
Kate Joncas, president and CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association;
Bill Hobson, executive director of the Downtown Emergency Services Center;
Jay Hollingsworth, John T. Williams Organizing Committee;
Capt. Joseph Kessler, Seattle Police Department;
Diane Narasaki, , executive director of the Asian Counseling & Referral Service;
John Page, Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, program coordinator at the Defender Association’s Racial Disparity Project;
Tina Podlodowski, former Seattle City Councilmember;
Marcel Purnell, Youth Undoing Institutional Racism;
Jennifer Shaw, ACLU of Washington, deputy director;
Kevin Stuckey, Seattle Police Department officer;
Kip Tokuda, former state representative for the 37th Legislative District;
The Rev. Harriett Walden, co-founder of Mothers for Police Accountability;
The Rev. Aaron Williams, , senior pastor of the Mount Zion Baptist Church.
Daugaard and Narasaki will co-chair the commission. To read brief bios of the nominees, click here.
The Community Police Commission was created as part of the city’s settlement agreement with the Department of Justice requiring reforms to curtail excessive force in the Police Department and curb biased policing. The commission will help ensure community involvement in the reforms and will guide an independent, court-appointed monitor who will oversee the agreement.
The settlement agreement requires that the commission be made up of one member from the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild and one member from the Seattle Police Management Association, according to the city. The remaining 13 members were selected from applicants who reside or work in Seattle and include residents from each of the five geographic police precincts.
November 16, 2012 at 11:29 PM
U.S. Rep. Adam Smith and 17 other U.S. Congress members formally asked the Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration not to enforce federal drug laws against marijuana use in Washington and Colorado in a letter released Friday.
Though both states have made regulated, recreational use of marijuana legal, federal agencies still have the power to enforce a federal ban on the drug.
“We believe that it would be a mistake for the federal government to focus enforcement action on individuals whose actions are in compliance with state law,” says the letter addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder and Drug Enforcement Administrator Michele Leonhart.
According to the letter, the Department of Justice made assurances in 2009 that it would not prioritize criminal charges against those who are in compliance with state law. But the Congress members are concerned about whether those assurances still stand.
The letter then goes on to ask federal drug law enforcers to allow states such as Washington and Colorado to be “laboratories of democracy” that help progress drug policy nationwide.
“These states have chosen to move from a drug policy that spends millions of dollars turning ordinary Americans into criminals toward one that will tightly regulate the use of marijuana while raising tax revenue to support cash-strapped state and local governments,” the letter says. “We believe this approach embraces the goals of existing federal marijuana law: to stop international trafficking, deter domestic organized criminal organizations, stop violence associated with the drug trade and protect children.”
October 22, 2012 at 4:25 PM
In a major breakthrough, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn agreed today to allow the name of Los Angeles police-accountability expert Merrick Bobb to be recommended as the independent monitor to oversee police reforms.
McGinn’s decision came shortly after the City Council on Monday directed City Attorney Pete Holmes to join with the Department of Justice in recommending the appointment Bobb to the key job.
The 8-to-1 vote to recommend Merrick Bobb as the independent monitor had set the stage for a potential clash of executive powers within the city as a Friday deadline looms to reach a decision. But a conflict was avoided by McGinn’s decison.
McGinn said last week that he objected to Bobb because a board member of Bobb’s nonprofit helped write the Justice Department report that led to a settlement agreement and the appointment of a monitor to oversee efforts to curb excessive force by officers and biased policing.
But the council, in passing the resolution, cited Bobb’s national reputation in the police-reform field, as well as an opinion by the city’s chief ethics official that Bobb did not have a confict of interest. It passed a resolution directing Holmes to file a joint pleading with federal attorneys urging U.S. District Judge James Robart to appoint Bobb.
Councilmember Mike O’Brien was the sole dissenter.
Federal attorneys have said Bobb is their choice, according to the resolution.
In a statement released late today, McGinn’s office said:
“We know from the experience of other cities that reform efforts are successful when the police force buys in to the effort. Our office and others expressed concerns that Mr. Bobb would not be seen as an impartial monitor of our settlement agreement with the Department of Justice. We are disappointed that the Council did not listen to those concerns and that our reform efforts may prove more difficult as a result of their vote. We believe that their vote was a mistake, but respect that this is now the City’s position. Going forward, the mayor will roll up his sleeves and continue to work with all stakeholders to implement reform in our police force.”
About The Today File
The Today File is a general news blog featuring real-time coverage of Seattle and the Northwest. It is reported by the news staff of The Seattle Times and edited by Assistant Metro Editor Nick Provenza.
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