ACLU of Washington Seeks Information on City of Seattle's Stance on Police Accountability

Affiliate: ACLU of Washington
July 1, 2003 12:00 am

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SEATTLE–Seeking to promote an open and more transparent government, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington filed a lawsuit today seeking public documents detailing contract negotiations between city officials and the Seattle Police Guild.

“”In its contract negotiations with the Police Guild, the City of Seattle will be discussing important issues relating to police accountability,”” said Julya Hampton, Legal Director of the ACLU of Washington. “”The public needs to know the city’s position to make sure that the city is insisting on a strong, effective system to hold police accountable.””

The lawsuit, ACLU of Washington v. City of Seattle, was filed under the Washington Public Disclosure Act in King County Superior Court. The ACLU seeks the disclosure of information that will aid public understanding about policies vital to ensuring that police are accountable to the citizens they serve.

In order to begin contract negotiations, the ACLU explained, the city and the police guild are required to exchange lists of topics to be discussed. In April 2003 the ACLU requested copies of these lists because they involve matters of public concern, including the city’s procedures for investigating allegations of police misconduct.

Despite the fact that the issue lists are not exempt under the Washington Public Disclosure Act, the city declined to disclose the documents.

“”Public policy should not be made behind closed doors and without public comment,”” said Dorry Elias, Executive Director of the Minority Executive Director’s Coalition (MEDC) of King County who supports disclosure of the public documents. “”Policies regarding police accountability in particular must be made in a way that engenders public confidence. The MEDC fails to see any valid justification for keeping the citizens of Seattle in the dark.””

In a statement supporting the lawsuit, a local group called Mothers for Police Accountability said: “”The public has a democratic right to know at least the outline if not the details of discussions that will directly affect them. Such knowledge is crucial if Seattle citizens, especially those who are minority and young, are to have any trust in the system that is ultimately created.””

ACLU of Washington staff attorney Aaron Caplan and Public Interest Fellow Gail Gove are handling the case for the ACLU. The ACLU’s complaint is available online at /node/35129

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