We go about our business as citizens of a nation governed under constitutional laws, which is all that guarantees us that every individual will be treated equitably and consistently.
Since we cannot allow ourselves to live in a lawless society, we are provided that assurance by our police officers. They perform their duties under constitutional law and are accountable to our representatives. In turn, our communities must assure our police that the laws they have to enforce are unambiguous and resistant to change by edict or whim, a policy that must be firmly established and upheld by the Mayor.
But, consider the following excepts which were printed about the tragedy in the Seattle PI (Protests follow police killing of black motorist - June 2, 2000)
"A hearing by the department's Firearms Review Board will be held in two to three weeks, followed by a formal inquest before a District Court and jury
." and that "
Acting Police Chief Clark Kimerer said the department will keep community leaders and civilian advisers informed of their investigation into the shooting."
I cannot accept the idea that any organization can "police" itself, whether it's a police department, medical, legal or any other profession. Neither can I accept the principle of the city's currently conceived Civilian Review Board, which will have the director of the office reporting to the very department it is investigating. It certainly won't instill or build community trust in the system. As Mayor, I will submit a referendum to reinstate the city's Office of the Ombudsman, which used to conduct independent investigations of complaints, with power to subpoena evidence and testimony from city departments. In support of a referendum, my verbatim responses to the City's proposal will immediately follow excerpts from that proposal. My comments have been put in anecdotal form and, of necessity, are out of sequence. (SPOG is the Seattle Police Officers Guild and SPD is the Seattle Police Department.)
The creation of an Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) and OPA Review Board by the City of Seattle is a good first step toward adjusting the balance of power equally between the City, SPD and citizens. It will begin the process toward assuring effective civilian oversight of SPD
." and that "
.Under the current SPOG contract the OPA Review Board is only empowered to 'review' complaints made against SPD."
Start of my verbatim responses to the proposal. First, I must take exception to the premise that a "balance of power" currently exists "between the City, SPD and citizens." Even with the addition of OPA and SPOG, there can be no "balance of power" among the City, SPD, citizens, OPA and SPOG. Consequently, I must decry what is described above as one of the conditions of the current contract between the City and SPOG.
From my perspective, the premise
is flawed. That "power" is the same which, under our U.S. Constitution, is delegated by the people to their elected officials for their use in governing us. By adding the OPA Review Board, SPD, SPOG, and a "representation from the broader community" to the mix certainly cannot engender any confidence in our elected officials, as they abdicate their responsibility for the Police Department to individuals who are not accountable to the people.
I accept the allegation
that some of the actions of SPOG were insensitive. But, I also consider it to be an unjustified reason for the creation of OPA. It must have been obvious to those who prepared the enacting language that SPOG, whether its acts are perceived to be insensitive or a flaunting of its authority, is within its constitutional right to do so. Government has no right to censure the organization for its legitimate activities.
To repeat, the Mayor -- as the chief executive -- is solely responsible and ultimately accountable to the people for the management of City departments, including the Police. From that perspective,
It obliges the Mayor to also guarantee accountability to the people from all City departments. Subsequently, OPA cannot be given independent and complete authority to act in SPD reviews.
In a felony case involving a City employee, the Mayor could convene a grand jury to seek an indictment
If elected Mayor, I would propose a referendum to place a revised version of an Office of Professional Accountability under the "protection" of the Seattle City Charter.
It goes without saying that communities that have large populations of diverse ethnic, cultural and racial groups may have cause for as many diverse fears and frustrations relative to government's police powers. Among them, there may still be many who distrust any authority, having fled totalitarian tyranny which included police and military intrusions in their daily lives. They have since learned to live in relative peace and tranquility under laws that govern our greater community, the same laws which African-Americans perceive to be a license allowing a potential and real threat of police intrusion at any time in their daily lives. Again, from my perspective, African-Americans do not see laws that govern them as being the same laws that govern the rest of society. Should our laws or should the police be blamed?
Consequently, the African American community continuously acts out its frustration, while all others bear theirs in silence, voicing their feelings only during high profile incidents involving the police. All recognize, however, that the police presence is their only defense against anarchy.
..the basic mistrust exhibited by the African-American community stems from the fact that it doesn't trust the authority of government, which is manifested in its police powers. So, the community lashes out at the group that most obviously protects the system -- the police.
Their frustration increased as they joined their fellow African-Americans in the front lines of the civil rights movement in the United States. For all of their work and sacrifice made on behalf of the movement, they now share only certain civil rights laws with other protected groups. But, there are still NO dedicated "benefits" designed with African-Americans specifically in mind. As a class, they are not even enjoying the fruits of their own efforts, although more recently included classes are. As examples, women have broken through the "glass ceiling", the physically handicapped have the Americans with Disabilities Act, and domestic partners have laws that were enacted on their behalf. African-Americans are still on the outside looking in. They are certainly justified in asking: "What about us?'
The classic example of being shunted aside manifested itself in the tale of two Seattle museums. In 1986, the African-American community was asked to hold off on its own museum proposal, with a promise of consideration after a Seattle Art Museum (SAM) levy was decided. After the passage of SAM's measure, the promise was never honored.
From my perspective, to establish the OPA Review Board with publicly elected members would simply be adding another level of government. Indeed, it would be one that is fraught with danger, providing special interests an opportunity to control the Board and micromanage the Police Department
The auditing function properly belongs with the City Council. Conducted in conjunction with the Internal Investigations Section of SPD, the Mayor's office and the Law Department, it is more than adequate for providing any information necessary for "fine- tuning" department procedures and policies.
End of my responses.