SEATTLE -- Mayor Mike McGinn on Wednesday ordered Chief John Diaz to begin implementing reforms outlined in the highly critical U.S. Justice Department report on the city's police department that was released last week. A 180 degree turn from what he told reporters last week, that he wanted more time and information to analyze the report.
McGinn also said the city will convene a public review panel to monitor how the police department proceeds with the changes.
The move followed a letter sent to the Mayor by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and dozens of other community activists calling on McGinn to take immediate action. Mere hours later, he acquiesced issuing his reply.
The people of Seattle deserve a police force that fights crime in a way that is fair and equitable, McGinn said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. That means we must listen to criticism from everyone with a stake in the success of the Seattle Police Department. We have heard from the public and now the federal government that more must be done. We agree. Let us be very clear: we are committed to reform.
The Justice Department's recommendations focused on officers' responsibilities when filing use-of-force reports, improving internal controls and investigating public complaints about police behavior.
Police Chief John Diaz told KING 5 News late Wednesday, that he and the department are working with the Justice Department in, Close collaboration. Diaz said, however, he would like to see the data and methodology used by the Justice Department to reach its conclusions target the root problems and to tailor any changes in policy or procedures .
Reactions on the force
In the aftershock of the Justice Dept. report, SPD made officers in the west precinct available to the media. The occasion was a holiday meal served to 200 Seattle Police officers by celebrity chef Tom Douglas.
The mood was festive but guarded because of the media around. Many of the officers were camera shy in light of recent events.
I don't agree with it obviously. I think it's interesting that they won't tell us how they came up with the statistics, said Seattle Police Officer Tom Burns.
The DOJ's report said that when Seattle Police use excessive force, it violates people's civil rights 20 percent of the time.
I have two beautiful kids, a beautiful wife, family, friends, do you think I want get into a fight? said Officer Burns.
Officer Burns has been on the force for 22 years and now patrols the Belltown neighborhood and says he'll do anything to avoid the use of force. He said it's the suspect's choice in how police react.
Just because I wear a uniform doesn't mean I'm a robot. I'm a human and I do make mistakes. But are they egregious? To hear we are being compared to drug dealing scandal in Los Angeles is very insulting to me, said Burns.
This comes on the day of another embarrassing video release.
A jogger was critically injured by a semi truck when the Alaska Way viaduct was closed and commuters were urged not to drive. While on scene, police in their patrol car and talking to each other, mocked the injured jogger.
That's why you drive a car, said one officer.
Yeah, don't try to jog to work, you dumb (expletive), said the other.
Asked about the new video, Burns said, What I see in a month you won't see in a lifetime. Horrific and part of coping with that is through humor.
Humor is in short supply these days in the rank and file, but Seattle Police are struggling to remain a proud group this holiday season.
The Chief told KING 5 he still wants to review the Justice Department's report, but his main objective now is to implement change.
Mayor McGinn's full statement about the DOJ findings:
The people of Seattle deserve a police force that fights crime in a way that is fair and equitable. We deserve a police force that is well trained and accountable for its actions. We deserve a police force that is respectful and professional in all areas, and worthy of the community s trust. Meeting these demands requires a police department that is continually learning and improving, willing and able to implement reforms.
KING 5's Jim Forman and Linda Brill contributed to this story.
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