In the wake of an ongoing investigation by the Department of Justice, Seattle Police Chief John Diaz is ordering some major changes, calling for a “complete revamp of how the Police Department develops its ‘professional standards and expectations’ for officers.” The Department will also be reviewing all of its policies and procedures.
At the center of the issue is the manner in which the SPD handles use of force procedures by the police. This is the issue now being looked into by the U.S. Department of Justice. They have already stated that the department makes it difficult to investigate such incidents because they have historically allowed officers to withhold information on the basis of preventing self-incrimination.
Mayor McGinn informed the Justice Department of his plans for an overhaul and stated that the policy regarding officers’ transparency in use of force investigations is under current review.
He plans on establishing a “Force Review Board” and a “Force Investigative Team”, though hasn’t yet said what the two bodies will be tasked with doing. Currently, the department’s Firearms Review Board determines whether shootings by police are justified.
McGinn hopes to have the two panels and other significant changes made within the next year.
An eight member unit will be tasked with reviewing all standards and best practices as well as conducting internal audits and inspections. The unit will include a captain and two supervisors with law degrees, according to the Seattle Times. According to the mayor, this board “will be forming a Police Practices Research Consortium with leading academic institutions, and will collaborate with other agencies to bring the best thinking to bear on our police standards.”
The Department may have a difficult task ahead, with public approval shaky after noteworthy use of force cases and police shootings. It can be difficult to win the trust of a community again after too many questionable scenarios.
The Justice Department started their investigation into SPD at the beginning of this year. Though their investigation isn’t complete, a report could be expected within the coming months. It is likely that additional changes could be recommended by the DOJ following the completion of their investigation.
The impact of the review proposed by Chief Diaz will play out within the next year or so. In order for the public to feel confident in the police force, the changes will have to be more than symbolic.