Deputy Mayor Hyeok Kim gave the following opening remarks to the Seattle City Council’s Public Safety Committee. These remarks are as prepared:
Thank you all for inviting me here to discuss this important issue with you today.
I want to start by acknowledging the considerable confusion this issue has generated for the Council, for the press, for the police department and for members of the general public.
The Mayor has assumed responsibility for this confusion, as you know.
And while the Mayor did not play a role in designing the overall context in which this confusion is taking place, the Mayor will play a role in helping to redesign and reform this context, to eliminate the potential for this kind of confusion from occurring again in the future.
And so, along those lines, I want to reiterate today the Mayor’s commitment to police reform in general, and, in particular, to the issues of transparency and accountability that the Marion case and the six additional settlement agreements have brought forward in recent days.
I’ll touch briefly on those cases before turning to the much broader and more difficult issue of an OPA complaint, investigation, discipline and grievance process that is outdated and overly complicated, and that lacks not only transparency but reasonable timeframes and any natural or predictable end point.
In the Marion case, Chief Bailey has said that it was not his intent to overturn the misconduct finding determined by the OPA. Rather, it was his intent to impose a progressive form of discipline that would help shape the kind of behavior the public and the department expect from SPD officers. But in his actions to impose such an alternative form of discipline, Chief Bailey, with the consent of the Mayor, did in fact overturn the misconduct finding.
Additionally, I want to note and be very clear that the Law Department did not have the opportunity to provide recommendations in the Marion case. Because we can clearly identify where our checks and balances broke down, and because the resulting reversal of misconduct was not what the Chief had intended, the Mayor and the Chief reinstated the original finding of misconduct.
You are also aware that there were six additional cases in the arbitration pipeline for which Chief Bailey finalized settlement agreements in order to avoid arbitration. These cases date from 2010 and 2011.
Let me also be clear that a memo dated January 13th included recommendations from the Law Department, and that these recommendations varied in the options that were presented to SPD for how to address the discipline in each case. Interim Chief Bailey understood these cases and these recommendations from the Law Department to have been thoroughly vetted by the previous leadership of the SPD. But we, the Mayor’s office, have not been able to receive documentation of how, when, and who in the previous SPD leadership actually approved the disciplinary actions that Chief Bailey ultimately signed off on in these six cases. Due in large part to this lack of documentation of decision-making, Mayor Murray is asking Barney Melekian, his special advisor on public safety, to revisit these six cases in the following manner:
We have spoken with the Federal Monitor and the Department of Justice about our approach. They agree that the best next step is for Barney to convene a group consisting of representatives from Law, Labor Relations and the Police Department, with input from the Federal Monitor and the U.S. Department of Justice, to provide a thorough, critical review of all six cases.
These cases, as we know, are important, and we know that it’s important for us to make sure that the outcomes were fair, send the right signals to the department and to the public, but most importantly for the people involve in these cases – the complainant and the officer.
If you have specific questions you’d like to pose around any or all of these cases, please present them to us and we will make sure they are addressed in the context of this effort.
But we also know that our focus needs to be broader. We already knew that the OPA complaint, investigation, discipline and grievance process was flawed and needed to be reviewed.
And so that’s the work that we are going to undertake.
And in order for us to be able to conduct such a review with transparency, the Mayor has asked and the Chief agrees to place an indefinite hold on any further actions that would result in any potential settlement of any outstanding grievance where an OPA finding of misconduct has been determined.
As you know, the OPA Auditor sent SPD a letter on Monday requesting the opportunity to look at various aspect of the OPA process. We welcome and embrace this.
In addition, the Community Police Commission will be offering initial recommendations at the end of March for improving the OPA process.
In the last few years Council Member Harrell, as public safety chair, has also raised issues and concerns. In fact, so have SPD, the OPA Director and even the Seattle Police Officers Guild. On this we can all agree our convoluted process – actually three processes – requires review – and more.
So Barney will initiate and lead a broader group to unpack and address, comprehensively, the complaint process, the investigation and discipline process, the labor review process, and the appeals and settlement process, incorporating both previous recommendations and the current CPC work.
The fact is, the overall OPA process was initially designed to address major complaint issues and many questions remain, like:
How can we better, classify and categorize discipline to address the regular workplace issues in a much more expedited manner for the complainant and the officer?
How can we make the complaint process easier and faster for everyone?
How can we make sure that the integrity of the open OPA complaint and investigative process is not jeopardized or undermined by the closed, labor review, appeals and settlement process?
And so on.
So Barney will conduct this effort with Law, Labor Relations, SPD, the OPA Director and OPA Monitor, and the CPC in consultation with the Federal Monitor and DOJ.
In addition to the six cases we’ve discussed today, we know there are 10 cases that were recommended for arbitration. There are also five additional grievances from the union. All cases pending settlement will be placed on hold while we conduct this process review.
I will close by stating for the record that the Mayor will be sending a letter to the Monitor, DOJ, the Chief, the OPA Director, and the OPA auditor, Law, Labor Relations and the CPC to memorialize much of what I discussed here.
Thank you again for the opportunity to be here today.”