Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn warned Monday that it could cost up to $41 million a year to pay for the U.S. Justice Department's proposed remedies to curtail excessive force in the Police Department, issuing a dire-sounding memorandum outlining severe consequences for the city...
Among the costliest items would be the promotion of 54 officers to sergeant to satisfy Justice Department concerns over adequate supervision.
To be fair, DOJ disputes the Mayor's estimates, and no one in the city budget offices have really checked his math yet. McGinn has every political reason to lay as much blame for future financial pain over this on the feds, and the feds have no compelling reason to get the numbers right (because they don't have to pay for any of this.) The truth almost certainly lies somewhere in between.
I don't know what the pay scales in SPD are, but it is no surprise to me that personnel costs make up the bulk of any initiative the SPD is looking at. The parking lot by the East Precinct contains an awful lot of very nice, very new cars...much nicer, in fact, than 95% of the cars parked in the (fairly affluent) surrounding neighborhood. (As in Lexuses, Beamers, and a whole lot of $40-50K SUVs and tricked out trucks.) That's a lot of overtime.
I'm sure there are issues of inadequate supervision and training at work here. But the figure I keep coming back to in thinking about all of this is this one:
Only a fraction of Seattle officers use force more than once a year, with 789 officers using no force at all during 2010 and 44 officers out of more than a thousand using force more than five times that year.
Certainly, some cops are just working rougher beats. But that cannot be the only thing happening. Other analyses have indicated that a very small population of the Department account for a very large proportions of the excessive force complaints.
It seems to me a more effective (and less costly) solution is not more SPD sergeants, but rather more former SPD officers.