Councilmember Debora Juarez says she wants the Seattle Community Police Commission’s representation to be divided up by district as part of a series of reforms under consideration by the City Council.
The council’s Gender Equity, Safe Communities, and New Americans Committee met April 6 to conduct the first reading of a bill from Mayor Ed Murray, which would establish an independent Office of Inspector General, increase the scope of the Office of Police Accountability, and make the civilian Community Police Commission permanent. The legislation was submitted by the mayor Feb. 1 as the result of discussions with the police commission and Merrick Bobb, the federal monitor in charge of overseeing the city’s progress on biased policing under the 2012 consent decree issued by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The police commission’s representation is currently divided by the Seattle Police Department’s five precincts. But Juarez, wants representation split by the seven geographically-based City Council districts.
Speaking to North Seattle residents at a North Precinct Advisory Council meeting the night before the committee reading, Juarez, who represents the northernmost neighborhoods of District 5, argued the shift would be a logical step for the city.
“I am not pushing for district representation on the commission just for the sake of district representation,” she said. “The ball on this [the formation of the police commission] got rolling before 2013, when the voters overwhelmingly said they wanted geographic representation.
“And let me remind all of you, we are under consent decree. When the Department of Justice sued the city, they sued all of us.”
But police commission leaders disagree, arguing that a precinct-based system already gives the commission broad representation, and lends them a level of flexibility a district-based system would not.
Co-chair Enrique Gonzalez said Seattle’s shifting demographics mean different neighborhoods could be disproportionately policed at different times. When that occurs, the commission could benefit from more representation in those neighborhoods, he said.
“[The precinct system] does not bar us from appointing people on the north end or south end if they’re more affected,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez had not submitted district representation as an amendment at the first reading, but the subject remains under discussion and committee chair Lorena Gonzalez created a map comparing representation via the two methods.