SEATTLE -- The head of the Seattle police union is urging members to accept federally mandated reforms, saying it is time to put aside complaints and "move forward" with the changes.
"Our job is to adapt to the change in a healthy way so we can remain safe and not turn into an old grump who only wants to talk about `the good old days,' " Sgt. Rich O'Neill, president of the Seattle Police Officers' Guild, wrote in the June issue of the union's newspaper, The Guardian.
In April, O'Neill lamented the city's settlement agreement with the Department of Justice, referring in his monthly column to the need to survive "DOJ Dark Days." At that time, he said the Justice Department investigation that led to the settlement had proved to be false and "lacks credibility."
A federal judge approved an independent monitor's plan for reforming the Seattle Police Department in March.
Noting the settlement agreement is "not going away and is not going to be thrown in the shredder," O'Neill wrote that the monitoring team headed "is not leaving until the reforms have been achieved."
The Justice Department issued a report in late 2011 that found Seattle officers were too quick to use force, including using their batons and flashlights, especially in situations that could have been defused verbally.
The investigation was precipitated by an officer's fatal shooting of a Native American woodcarver who crossed the street in front of him carrying a small folding knife, a killing the Seattle Police Department ruled unjustified, as well as other questionable incidents.
The report determined that when Seattle officers used force, they did so unconstitutionally 20 percent of the time. The figure was based on a sample of use-of-force reports reviewed by DOJ lawyers and policing experts, but the DOJ never turned over its data or said how many cases it reviewed, and the police department initially found the figure unfair.
Information from The Seattle Times: http://www.seattletimes.com