Capitol Hill

Seattle mayor says obstacles removed for police reform

Seattle mayor says obstacles removed for police reform

SEATTLE -- Seattle Mayor Ed Murray held a first-ever summit on police reforms Tuesday and said the meeting led to a breakthrough agreement on how to move forward.

The mayor was joined by federal law enforcement officials, who say everybody is on the same page when it comes to working toward reform.

"We've made much progress toward that," said Jocelyn Samuels with the civil rights division of the U.S. Attorney General's office. "There is much more that remains to be done."

Seattle is 18 months into a Department of Justice mandated effort to curb excessive force and bias in the police department. Local and federal law enforcement leaders who participated in the summit say they made a breakthrough to remove the last of the obstacles.

"I cannot understate the importance of this meeting," said U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan.

The focus is to regain community trust, which has been compromised over the years and culminated in a DOJ report that found one in five police contacts led to excessive force. The summit meeting was meant to assure the public the effort is on track.

"I will do what needs to be done to make sure police are fulfilling their jobs," said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray.

Murray says much work still lies ahead. Foremost is translating new reform policies into practical training guidelines. The other is in upgrading computer technology the department uses.

"The technology alone that we need to put in place will have significant costs," the mayor said.

Seattle will remain under federal oversight until all the terms of the DOJ Settlement Agreement are met. That could take years to achieve.

"This isn't just about getting the Justice Department and the monitor to go away," Murray said. "This is about creating a model for the nation."

So far Seattle has spent more than $6.4 million to pay for DOJ mandated reforms. The mayor says his office is aggressively seeking grants to help offset the growing costs of compliance.