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Police monitor reports significant, if uneven, progress toward reform

Tom Harpel

The court-appointed watch dog monitoring the Seattle Police Department has completed his first reporton the department's progress, and the report paints a picture of a police force moving unevenly toward reform.

Merrick Bobb and his team's job is to make sure police follow the plan to end excessive use of force and racially-biased policing.

In his report, Bobb wrote the department has made “considerable progress” in overhauling policies and procedures. He said his team is generally being granted the access it want, and has had productive meetings with city and department leaders.

But the report also cites several problems. The police union has been unwilling to work with the monitor, Bobb wrote, and many members have “dug in.”

Police Officers Guild President Rich O’Neill disputes that claim, but says some officers are resistant to a mandate based on what they see as an exaggerated problem.

“To get full-fledged commitment—full-fledged buy-in, so to speak, it would have been more helpful if there’d been some acknowledgment that, yeah, the Department of Justice probably overinflated the force estimate,” said O’Neill.

Bobb’s report also noted the police department’s method of records and data storage is badly dysfunctional, and should be overhauled.

Meanwhile, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn announced his pick for director of the Office of Professional Accountability. If confirmed, Boise ombudsman Pierce Murphy will oversee investigations into police misconduct.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.