With Seattle's police under federal scrutiny for using excessive force you would think everyone's top priority would be solving the problem.
It's a struggle to find something positive to say about Seattle's response to the police crisis. There's fault among the city council, the mayor, the media and unelected community leaders. It's an example of playing politics while fundamental problems fester.
The city council. Sally Clark, Tim Burgess and Bruce Harrell (who I challenged last year) publicly sent a letter to the mayor complaining that they've been left out of the city's response to the Justice Department. All three have talked about running for mayor next year. Burgess, a former cop who oversaw the police department while the acts of excessive force occurred, only outlined a package of reform ideas on the day he rotated out of that post in January. And Harrell, who replaced Burgess as head of the public safety committee, criticized the mayor's "top-down approach" after working with the council failed to get anywhere. During the campaign his main proposal was to put a body camera on each cop and he used frustration with police as a racial wedge. Harrell reportedly didn't attend the meeting with the DOJ, mayor and other councilmembers yesterday.
The mayor. The package of 20 reform ideas announced by Mayor Mike McGinn is a good start but delivery was poor, details are missing and implementation is too slow. Imagine the snickers on the police force at vague long-term goals like learning to "understand Seattle" and a code of ethics. I appreciate the attempt to deescalate the use of force and get at the root of the problems. But ultimately the city's chief executive must get the police department in order asap (all the easier if the council is jockeying for position rather than trying to do the job).
The media. The Seattle Times, which barely hides its support for Burgess For Mayor, takes every opportunity to bash McGinn as the supposed cause of friction between the executive and legislative branches -- even repeatedly using anonymous sources to do so. Please. The Stranger, which seems to regret its over-the-top support of McGinn three years ago, is suddenly counseling maturity.
Community groups. The city and the Justice Department are naturally negotiating behind closed doors but some community leaders grumble about being left out. Do we really need more public process now? Sadly, almost every conversation I've had with political busybodies in town recently revolves around what the police problems mean for next year's campaigns, as if politics is what really matters.
For brevity, I'm leaving out the police union, which howls at any mention of reform and deserves a big helping of fault here. It needs to know that this crisis is serious and we're out of time. Unfortunately few politicians seems willing to say that (note that the union endorsed incumbents for reelection last year).
This whole saga gives me pause since safety is one of the biggest keys to a city's livability. Thank goodness the feds are here to force us to do better.