Seattle, feds agree to police reforms
Seattle police officers in riot gear are seen in this Nov. 9, 2011, file photo, during a demonstration near the University of Washington. / AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
(AP) SEATTLE - Seattle officials agreed to an independent monitor and court oversight of the city's police department as part of an agreement announced Friday with the Justice Department following a damning report that found officers routinely used excessive force.
City and federal negotiators were involved in tense talks over the scope of a deal for months, and Justice Department lawyers had threatened to sue the city if a deal was not reached by July 31.
"It's no secret there were a few bumps in the road to get here," Mayor Mike McGinn said. "We do have a lot of work in front of us."
The Justice Department launched its civil rights investigation early last year after the fatal shooting of a homeless, Native American woodcarver and other incidents involving force used against minority suspects. In December, a DOJ report found officers were too quick to reach for weapons, such as flashlights and batons, even when arresting people for minor offenses.
The agreement was announced at City Hall by McGinn, Jennifer Durkan, U.S. attorney for Seattle, and Thomas Perez, the Justice Department's chief civil rights enforcer.
The deal also calls for a special commission, appointed by the mayor, to concentrate on use of force issues.
Talks between Seattle officials and the Justice Department had been hung up after city officials initially balked at some federal proposals for reform.
The settlement, which must be approved by a federal judge, requires the Seattle Police Department to revise use of force policies and enhance training, reporting, investigation and supervision for situations involving use force. Police also would have to change policies and training concerning "bias-free" policing and stops, and create a Community Police Commission, which would be a civilian oversight body.
Court oversight would continue for five years, but the city could ask to end the scrutiny earlier if it has complied with the agreements for two years.
"This city is committed to eliminating bias," McGinn said.
Perez said the agreement could serve as a way to help reduce crime and increase public confidence in the city's police officers.
"We must continue to be well aware of the very raw feelings that many Seattle residents continue to have toward the Seattle Police Department," Perez said.
Surveillance cameras and police-cruiser videos had captured officers beating civilians, including stomping on a prone Latino man who was mistakenly thought to be a robbery suspect, and an officer kicking a non-resisting black youth in a convenience store.
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