Marching Backwards with Mike McGinn

Mayor Mike McGinn's responses to the Justice Department's crackdown on excessive use of force by Seattle police sound a lot like his responses to the waterfront tunnel battle: go slow enough to let the next mayor solve it. But then, he hasn't exactly shown a flair for handling difficult issues. This is after all the mayor who calls press conferences to announce an increase in crime.

Most recently, he called in the press to announce he was setting aside $5 million to pay for the police reforms sought by the feds, then conceded he had pulled the figure "out of a hat." Days later, he raised the projected cost to $41 million. He didn't say where he pulled that one out of.

McGinn called that high cost "frankly shocking." The feds called it frankly wrong. The feeling was the mayor purposely exaggerated the cost because he simply doesn't want to institute the U.S. reforms, which include having a federal monitor watching over his shoulder to assure he complies.

McGinn wants to do it his way, and says reforms are already being made, even though we're still seeing headlines like the one about an officer threatening to fabricate felony charges against two citizens. The mayor's latest tack, after turning in the city's official response to the feds this week, is to characterize the U.S. reforms as wildly unrealistic and too expensive, according to The Associated Press.

Most memorable was this line today in a Seattle Times report on the mayor's refusal to respond to evidence the department's practices were racially motivated: "McGinn has said he is willing to accept a consent decree, depending on the scope of the monitor's powers, the financial costs and other conditions." In other words, he's not willing to accept a consent decree.

But that's no surprise. When Justice Department officials announced in December the police department routinely and unconstitutionally beat up people who tend to be non-white--demonstrating just how badly SPD's policies were "broken"--a defiant mayor and his chief John Diaz immediately said it wasn't so.

"I want to make this clear," Diaz said hours after the findings were unveiled. "The department is not broken." A few days later, it was. McGinn, trying to pick up the pieces after a public blowback, said "This process of change cannot wait."

Or maybe it could. His solution was the "20/20 plan," the city's own proposed police reforms. Though the feds and others call it vague and say it falls way short of correcting the department's problems, the plan calls for 20 changes that would take 20 months.

That would take us somewhere just beyond next year's election. Then again, maybe that's a workable plan, in his view. If that King 5 News poll this month showing just 38 percent support for McGinn is correct, it won't be his problem after that, just ours.

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