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Mayor, City Officials Respond To DOJ Deadline

Kate Elston

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn says he's still in talks with the US Department of Justice. He spoke to reporters Tuesday about ongoing negotiations about how to reform the Seattle Police Department.


Last year the Department of Justice (DOJ) found the Seattle Police Department (SPD) engaged in a pattern of excessive force. The DOJ wants the city to agree to a series of reforms. If Seattle doesn't do that by the end of the month, the DOJ has said it would sue the city. Mayor McGinn said his goal was to reach a settlement.

McGinn: "I would prefer not to enter into litigation. That ultimately is the Department of Justice's decision, as to whether they choose that or not. We have put good–faith counterproposals on the table, which we believe address their concerns, and are prepared to engage in discussions to reach a solution."

But some City Council members doubt the mayor can pull that off before the deadline is up.

Bruce Harrell: "It looks like there could be a litigation decision in two weeks. I think we should be prepared to embrace that."

City Councilman Bruce Harrell is chair of the public safety committee. He was one of three council members who received a letter from a city attorney. That letter reportedly blasts the mayor for how he's handled the DOJ's concerns.

Harrell says he's not worried about possible litigation. He says a lawsuit could, in fact, be beneficial to reforming the police department. Harrell says if the city is sued, there would be a discovery process. That's a legal procedure where both parties share information.

Harrell: "Part of litigation very well could be to get at the truth. We all know there has been unreasonable use of force in the police department. We're not refuting if that sort of force exists, but we do want to know if there's a pattern of practice."

While expensive, Harrell says that a discovery process could unveil crucial data that would help the city.

Harrell and other council members are criticizing the mayor. They say he has been unwilling to collaborate with community leaders and council members in crafting the city's own SPD reform. Councilman Tim Burgess says he wishes the council members had been more involved with the mayor during the negotiations.

Burgess: "We tried really hard over a period of six or seven weeks to persuade the mayor to our position, and we were unsuccessful in doing that."

Mayor McGinn has said his door is always open for council members to raise their concerns. McGinn will now have two weeks to meet the Justice Department's deadline.

I'm Kate Elston, KUOW News.

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