Urban Politics #171: City Council Committees Reorganized


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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

With assistance from my L. A. Lisa Herbold on this issue.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.

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City Council Committees Reorganized

The Seattle City Council will vote on Monday, January 12 to establish new Council Committee Chairs

I will chair a committee called the Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Arts Committee. This committee will deliberate and make recommendations on legislative matters in the areas of police services, fire safety, criminal justice, including coordination with County, State and Federal law and justice agencies; civil rights issues; and arts activities. Councilmembers David Della and Peter Steinbrueck will be joining me as members of this committee. Outgoing Public Safety Committee chair, Jim Compton, will serve as an alternate.

A goal that I hope to achieve under my tenure as chair of the Public Safety Committee of the Seattle City Council is to begin a dialogue about the common self-interest of the officers, that work to protect our residents, and those citizens that are sometimes critical of City Government including the Seattle Police Department.

I believe that there are common interests that exist for both city employees and residents. I hope by focusing upon them, rather than upon our disagreements, we can forge a common vision for Seattle. For this reason, I am combining the areas of public safety and civil rights under one legislative umbrella because they are really two halves of one whole.

Other Council Committee Chairships will be as follows:

Councilmember Richard Conlin will continue to chair the Transportation Committee.

Councilmember Richard McIver will chair the Finance and Budget Committee.

Councilmember Jim Compton will chair Seattle Public Utilities.

Councilmember Jean Godden will head the Energy Committee (City Light).

Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck will chair Land Use and Planning.

Councilmember David Della will chair a reorganized committee that combines Parks and Neighborhoods.

Councilmember Tom Rasmussen will chair Housing, Human Services and Health.

Councilmember Jan Drago will head a new committee called Government Relations.

Councilmember Jan Drago, who chaired the Finance and Budget committees for the past four years, will lead the Council as president in 2004-2005. Drago also served as Council President in 1996-1997.

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Office Of Professional Accountability Review Board Member Sought

One of my first items of business as chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Arts Committee will be to fill a vacancy on the Office of Professional Accountability Review Board (OPARB). OPARB is one of the City’s three arms of civilian police oversight.

A Review of the Seattle’s Current Three Civilian Oversight Bodies:

1. Office of Professional Accountability (OPA)

Residents who believe that a Seattle Police Department officer has engaged in misconduct may file a complaint with the Office of Professional Accountability. Similarly, people wishing to commend good police work may file a commendation with the office as well. Filings can be directed to OPA@seattle.gov or 1-888-355-3900. This is the City Department that accepts complaints and commendations and investigates complaints.

2. Office of Professional Accountability Review Board (OBARB)

The OPARB was created to establish independent review of the Office of Professional Accountability police complaint handling process and to enhance the credibility of the OPA investigation process.

The law creating the three-member OPARB defines the composition of the board. The current vacancy is one that the Council must fill with an individual who has at least five (5) years of experience in the field of law enforcement, which includes work as a prosecutor. I am looking for an applicant with law enforcement experience that can help create a bridge between the Seattle Police Department and the broader Seattle community, as well as foster a sense of cooperation and common cause.

In accordance with the law that establishes the 3 member board, one of the other two members is a graduate of an accredited law school and a member in good standing of the Washington State Bar Association and the other member has significant experience in community involvement, organizing and outreach.

The OPARB reviews closed case files investigated by the civilian OPA Director and submits a report on those files bi-annually. In addition to the case files, OPARB’s report may also cover issues, problems and trends noted by the OPARB as a result of its review; any recommendations that the police department consider additional officer training, including recommendations that the department consider specialized training for investigators; any recommendations the police department consider policy or procedural changes; and a review of the OPA Director’s involvement in community outreach to inform citizens of the complaint process and the role of the Office of Professional Accountability.

3. OPA Auditor

This is a non-City employee that reviews all unnecessary and excessive force complaints filed against police and reviews selected non-force cases. The Auditor also prepares an annual report on the dispensation of police investigations.

How Do I Apply or Nominate Someone?

The current OPARB vacancy that the Council must fill, must be by someone with at least five (5) years of experience in the field of law enforcement. If you are interested in becoming an OPARB member, or would like to nominate someone for the position, submit a cover letter, resume, and daytime contact information by Monday, February 2, to:

OPARB Nominations,
Seattle City Council,
P.O. Box 34025, Seattle, WA
98104-4025.

You may also e-mail application materials to Gabrielle Hampton at gabrielle.hampton@seattle.gov. Additional information about OPARB, as well as its reports, are available online at www.seattle.gov/council/OPARB or by calling the Seattle City Council at 206 684-8888.

Potential applicants who are interested in viewing an OPARB meeting are encouraged to do so. OPARB meets in an open public meeting each Tuesday at noon at City Hall, 600 4th Avenue in the Boards and Commissions Room, L280.

The new OPARB appointee must be confirmed by the City Council. OPARB members are selected to 2-year terms and cannot serve more than two 2-year terms.

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