By now you have likely become familiar with the goals and shortcomings of the Seattle police accountability systems. As we have seen, both the CPC and OPA were established with the intention of increasing police accountability and civilian oversight, yet are largely ineffective due to a lack of power and continued police interference. The Office of Inspector General for Public Safety (OIG) follows the same trend. Just as with our last two blog posts, we hope that the final part of this series regarding the Seattle police accountability system provides you with the information needed to understand this system and gain the knowledge needed to do your part in holding the SPD accountable.

A little bit of background information…

In 2010 - after years of the Seattle Police Department (SPD) violently targeting marginalized communities - the Department of Justice (DOJ) opened an investigation into the SPD’s practices and policies. In 2011, the DOJ determined that the SPD had been engaging in unconstitutional policing and recommended reforms in three key areas: use of force, biased policing, and supervision and accountability. The following year, the City of Seattle, under the supervision of the DOJ, formally began federal court-mandated reforms to reconstruct the Seattle policing and accountability system.

Fast forward five years to 2017, the City of Seattle finally passed the Police Accountability Ordinance 125315 (PAO), from which our current three-part accountability system was established. One of which is the Office of Inspector General for Public Safety (OIG), the third Accountability Partner, which works alongside the Community Police Commision (CPC) and the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) to “hold the SPD accountable for their actions”.

A year later, in 2018, the first Inspector General, Lisa Judge was elected into office by the Seattle City Council (SCC). Judge spent her first year in office hiring her team and building the framework to efficiently work in partnership with the CPC, OPA, and SPD.

So, what does the OIG actually do?

The OIG is responsible for the systemic oversight of the SPD and OPA. This entails:

  • Performing audits and reviews of SPD processes and operations
  • Recommending policy changes to to ensure SPD compliance to the Consent Decree
  • Oversight of the OPA
  • Review classification and investigation processes
  • Review a sample of OPA investigations for quality control
  • Investigate any complaints about the OPA
  • As needed, the OIG may oversee investigations of Type 3 uses of force and provide administrative review of such cases

So, is the OIG effective?

In short, no - here’s why:

Community Input: Community input is essential for any police accountability body to properly perform their job, even the OIG frequently acknowledges this. However, very little community involvement has actually happened. In the two years since the OIG’s inception, only one public forum has been held. Additionally, only 3 of the 10 staff at the OIG were Seattle residents, the rest were outsourced - including the OIG herself.

Limited Resources: The OIG is new and has minimal staff, which means their efforts are spread thin. One audit takes two auditors 6-8 months to complete and the OIG also has additional smaller reports and non-audit projects on the side. This causes the OIG to limit the number of audits they perform.

SPOG Contract: The OIG's subpoena power was limited by the 2018 CBA with respect to SPD employees and their personal records.
Strictly Advisory: This is the most important factor that is restricting the effectiveness of the OIG.  They provide advice to the SPD, but there is no guaranteed follow-through because the Chief of Police has the power to decide how to proceed.  The OIG simply cannot ensure accountability if the Chief of Police is not requiered to abide by their advice. If there is nothing in place ensuring that the OIG's recommendations are implemented, then how are they adding any value?

This information is also readily available in a visual format on our Instagram. There are three separate posts available: What is the OIG? History of the OIG. Is the OIG effective? Please like and share. Let us know any questions or comments you may have.

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