The Seattle Police Department (SPD) is facing increased scrutiny and policing challenges as Mayor Ed Murray selects former Boston Police Commissioner Kathleen O’Toole as the new police chief while still under the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) watchful eye.
In recent weeks, the city has seen a rise in the number in violent crimes, with eight shootings in the Central Area, Delridge and Rainier Valley — one involved about 60 rounds shot from a high-powered rifle and two handguns, and another involved two groups firing at each other near a playground. This while the SPD starts testing thumb-sized body cameras, faces criticism from a report citing a deep drop in the enforcement of misdemeanor crimes (“de-policing”) and anticipates missing a DOJ decree to hire enough sergeants to oversee field officers by June 30.
Seattle’s new police chief will undoubtedly not only need to adjust to a new city and police force but also take on a troubled department that must confront escalating crime throughout the city, a skeptical citizenry and ill-defined policies. It’s not an envious position for a person without a strong constitution.
To turn the tide, the new police chief will certainly need the support of the officers, city officials, the city’s judicial system, the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild, social-service programs and the people they’ve pledged to serve and protect.
What the public needs is the assurance that SPD won’t be run status quo.