Robart, a George W. Bush appointee, is presiding over a consent decree—a court-ordered settlement—between the Justice Department and Seattle reached in 2012.
That agreement required the city to remedy unconstitutional practices at nearly every level of policing, from illegal stops to unreasonable and deadly use of force. Since then, Seattle’s chief of police Kathleen O’Toole has pushed the police force to adopt innovative and successful trainings on crisis intervention and bias-free policing. But further reforms are necessary to fulfill the consent decree’s requirements—and the police union has tethered its adoption of these reforms to pay raises and benefit increases.
In order to fulfill its legal obligation, Seattle attempted to reach a compromise with the police union this summer, offering a new contract that mixed the requisite reforms with wage hikes. The union overwhelmingly rejected the contract on the grounds that it did not sufficiently reward officers with more money and benefits in exchange for engaging in constitutional policing. According to the Seattle Times, it was this repudiation that pushed Robart to speak out so forcefully. In particular, the union appears resistant to adopt new standards and procedures regarding officer discipline and internal investigations, which Robart insists are vital to any sufficient reform.
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