The Seattle Initiative for Civilian Oversight of Police

Outline for a Seattle Initiative for the Creation of a Police Civilian Oversight Board:

This is a work in progress. Below are the fundamental elements we believe are essential to the genuine civilian control of policing and real accountability for abuse.

REVISED ON APRIL 28, 2021 at 9:32 PM

1. What is the board required to investigate?

(a) The Board MUST, regardless of complaints, investigate all deaths, all uses of lethal and Type III use of force (force that causes or reasonably could cause substantial bodily harm or worse), as well as interactions with the public that involve the discharge of a firearm.

(b) The Board MUST investigate any complaint alleging First or Fourth Amendment constitutional violations.

2. What is the board permitted (but not required) to investigate?

  1. The Board MAY investigate any complaint or violation of law or policy that it becomes aware of.

  2. All complaints, regardless of whether they are investigated, must be fully documented and made publicly available.

3. What processes must the Board follow?

  1. All finalized complaint investigations, along with recommendations for discipline, must be presented before the board for approval of sufficiency at a regularly scheduled public meeting. In cases requiring a special meeting a minimum of 7 days public notice must be provided.

(b) There must be an appeals process (for complainant and accused SPD employee) that occurs at the regularly scheduled Board meeting which rules on the sufficiency of an investigation.

(c) The board MUST:

(i) ensure all meetings (including subcommittee meetings) are open to the public and held only after reasonable (minimum 48 hours) public notice through a variety of public channels.

(ii) stream and record all meetings (regardless of voting or quorum) and make the meeting videos available via the web.

(iii) hold at least one regular full board meeting per month, allowing for public comment at the beginning of all regular board meetings.

(iv) hold at least quarterly town halls dedicated to receiving public feedback and public comment

(v) publish reports, easily available via the internet, covering the following topics at least once per year: the outcome and timeliness of investigations; disciplinary decisions and results; proposed changes to police training, policy, and equipment; and board responsiveness. These reports will be made available before holding the town halls specified in (iv) in order to receive public feedback.

(vi) make complaints/investigations, a summary of the information/evidence gathered, and the resolution of the complaints (i.e., disciplinary decisions) publicly available via a searchable database (subject to confidentiality/privacy rules).

(vii) set-up an easy way for the public to submit complaints, confidentially if requested by the complainant, via email, web interface, postal mail, in person, etc.

4. What can the Board discipline SPD officers/employees for?

(a)The Board recommends/decides discipline, up to and including termination, based on the results of its investigations.

(b)The board's role in enforcing discipline is either:

(I) Board makes disciplinary decision and can overrule police chief after a hearing (Oakland model), or, if this proves legally problematic,

(II) Board recommends discipline and police chief can only depart for documented good cause presented in public (modified Newark model)

5. How is discipline level determined?

(I) Leave this up to the Board to come up with its own rules/discipline matrix, etc., with possible restrictions limiting using past practices as guidance

6. Board input on SPD policy/training

(a) The board has the power to establish and revise SPD policies/training and shall submit all changes in policy/training to SPD for review

(b) The Board must hold a public forum on all proposed policy/training changes relating to SPD's use of force, crowd control, or other policies impacting First Amendment rights of assembly.

(c) Policy changes proposed by SPD must be reviewed and approved by the Board before they can take effect.

(d) If the SPD and the board's decisions on policies differ, the City Council must decide which policies to adopt via a public vote within __ days, preceded by a public hearing at least __ days before such vote. If the City Council takes no action within the time limit, the Board's decisions control.

7. Should the Board have the ability to fire SPD Chief/input on hiring SPD Chief?

(a) (I) The Board may fire the SPD Chief for cause, or, if this proves legally problematic,

(II) The Board may recommend the City fire the SPD Chief and the City Council must vote on the matter within __ days, or, if both of above prove legally problematic,

(III) The Board may recommend the City fire the SPD Chief

(b) The Board shall be involved in all Mayoral decisions regarding the hiring of a police chief.

8. How are board members selected and what are the requirements for a board member?

(a) Three groups of Board members, seven from each group, 21 total. All nominated board members must be approved by majority vote of the City Council

GROUP 1: Selected from nominations put forward by Coalition itself. The Coalition will nominate ___ candidates and the City Council will choose 7 from within that group.

GROUP 2: Selected from nominations by each of the seven city council members representing Districts 1-7.

GROUP 3: Selected by the initial 14 board members (Group 1 and 2) via a public process determined by the board with ample opportunity for community input and completed within a year of the initial boards first meeting. (we can define "public process" in the defined terms)

(b) Each board member will serve a three-year term, and be eligible to serve up to two consecutive terms. Former board members may reapply to the board after a three-year absence.

(c) All board member replacements/reappointments will be determined by the original selecting authority, with final approval of the City Council.

(d) There are no reserved slots for board membership but we will provide guiding principles and preference points that must be used in selection.

(e) All application materials for board membership must be made public (with standard confidentiality exceptions) and the City Dept. of Human Resources (or other appropriate agency) will maintain a data bank of applicants.

(f) The board will develop its own by-laws, including rules for removing board members, though unexcused absence from __% of the calendar year's meetings will be considered cause for dismissal.

(g) Requirements and restrictions for serving as a board member:

(i) Individuals (and their first-degree relatives) that were previously employed by a law enforcement agency (or union) in any capacity may not serve as a board member unless:

  1. They have not been employed by any law enforcement agency for the last _ (3-5) years, and;

  2. They provide all records relevant to discipline and complaints during any such employment.

(ii) Individuals that are currently employed by the City of Seattle, or are serving in an elected position in the City of Seattle, or are a first degree relative of such individual, may not serve as board members.

(iii) Board members must live or work in the City of Seattle. OR No requirement.

(iv) Board members must be eligible to vote in Washington state.

(h) Within 12 months of appointment, the initial board members must complete some or all training (as determined by the board) in the following areas: those noted in the Governor's task force recommendations (racial justice and bias training), SPD operations and policies and/or the SPD Community Police Academy (one 4 hour session per week for 9 weeks), and possibly other trainings (from NACOLE/Oakland list). Subsequent board members must complete training within 6 months of appointments.

9. How should the minimum budget for the board be set?

  1. The City shall allocate sufficient funding that insures the full operation of the board, especially in regards to completing investigations on time. The board will advocate, on a yearly basis, for budget provisos that tie any increase in police complaints in a given quarter to supplemental funding.

  2. Supplemental funding that would be required due to an increase in complaints must be taken from SPD funding.

10. What staff positions should be specified/mandated?

(a) Provide for an Executive Director

(b) Provide for legal counsel (City Attorney + city pays for independent counsel when necessary)

(c) Investigators (set initial staffing at current level of 12 investigators, the Board can adjust up or down based on volume of complaints)

11. What requirements/restrictions should be put on staff positions, including investigators?

Mirror the restrictions on Board members, with the following exception:

(i) no current or former law enforcement can serve as an investigator other than within the first five years of Board’s existence, and

(ii) in first five years, the Board can hire law enforcement who’ve been out for at least 24 months and have a clean disciplinary record

12. Who hires/fires staff?

Board in charge of hiring/firing Executive Director (confirmed by City Council) and independent attorney (in the cases where they have independent counsel), remain silent on other staffing decisions so that the Board can keep or delegate that power as it sees fit.