10:33 AM: We’re on the seventh floor of City Hall with a couple dozen other media reps, where the mayor and police chief are about to appear for a briefing. The news release has just been handed out and it confirms the Southwest Precinct is getting a new commander – a familiar face, though – Steve Paulsen, who left as its Operations Lieutenant back in January, will return as Captain, and as its commander. The current SW commander, Capt. Joe Kessler, who’s been in West Seattle for two years, will become captain of the West Precinct. More to come.
10:43 AM UPDATE: The briefing has begun. The mayor is here with four top SPD leaders including Chief John Diaz. The Southwest Precinct command change is part of a larger change in command structure departmentwide. As part of that, Acting Deputy Chief Nick Metz (second from right in our photo) is now officially Deputy Chief Metz, and in charge of “community” (he was in West Seattle a week and a half ago for the briefing after the Admiral Way shooting and we are about to hear from him) – “community” is one of three priorities that Chief Diaz has listed, with another being “not being afraid” (paraphrase).
10:53 AM UPDATE: Deputy Chief Metz – who was introduced by Chief Diaz as the second-in-command of the department, now – says that community outreach will permeate every part of policing. And he says the community’s partnership is vital to that. Returning to the podium, Chief Diaz has briefly listed the command changes at precincts (not all precincts are getting new commanders) – Capts. Paulsen and Kessler are not here, but Chief Diaz says the changes are effective October 1st, and mentions that the West Precinct to which Capt. Kessler is moving is one of the toughest jobs in the department. (The SW Precinct commander before Capt. Kessler, Capt. Mike Fann, also is moving, from Traffic to Homeland Security.) The chief is now talking about “de-escalation” and decision-making at the scene – in light of recent incidents, including (though he hasn’t mentioned it specifically) the Admiral Way shooting. He says they will be making some changes in training to work more on “de-escalation.” He also says they will increase the number of Tasers – they have 300 now. They also will expand the use of video.
(Afternoon note – we’re putting the rest of the as-it-happened coverage after a jump – also, the full official news release is now available online, if you’re interested in reading it):
11:03 AM UPDATE: Deputy Chief Clark Kimerer is now talking more about training, saying the department’s training program is “on trial right now.” He says that officers already are trained in de-escalation, so “the real question we’re wrestling with … is, what is the best approach to that continuum of force which includes de-escalation?” He is also handing off to Kathryn Olson, director of the Office of Professional Accountability, who with Chiefs Diaz, Metz, and Kimerer, is among the police leaders at the front of the briefing room here with Mayor McGinn. Chief Kimerer also is discussing the investigation into the downtown shooting of Native American carver John Williams, while saying they won’t release details before the forthcoming inquest. A Firearms Review Board will convene Oct. 4th to consider what he calls “this tragic incident,” he says. (There also will be a coroner’s inquest.)
11:19 AM UPDATE: The mayor is also discussing the Williams shooting, saying that while people are asking what will be “done to the officer” (who killed him), “we are bound by a process” before they can make a decision. He has moved on into talking about racial issues including profiling, and says the city is working to address those issues, with programs such as the Youth and Families Initiative, and by meeting with those who are concerned. “This is one of the most difficult conversations we can have in this community,” he says, adding, “the dialogue is broader than the Police Department itself.” Now, Q/A – first question, from KIRO’s Essex Porter, asking when video and audio from the Williams shooting will be made public, since much of the process described earlier will be conducted in secret, despite the police leadership having talked about “transparency.” The mayor says “agreements … with the police union” and “due process issues” hamstring them to some degree with that, but a third-party review they also are ordering hopefully will address concerns about the objectivity of the review.
11:41 AM UPDATE: The briefing continues with questions about the Williams shooting, including some from community advocates who are here as well as reporters. One note we didn’t mention from earlier in the briefing: Reporting to Chief Metz is Captain Ron Wilson, who will command the SPD Community Outreach Section, which will include overseeing what the official announcement lists as “Demographic Advisory Councils, Special Projects, Crime Analysis, Crisis Communication (Internal and External), Neighborhood Viewpoint, and Youth Violence Initiative … also … responsible for coordinating training for the Department’s Community Police Teams and the Crime Prevention Coordinators who are often on the front lines of working to build relationships with the community. He will also look at how the Department can better train its first responders in building partnerships with businesses and residents within their districts.”
11:56 AM UPDATE: The briefing’s almost over; since the news release mentions the Crime Prevention Coordinators, we asked the mayor if that means there will be funding for them (there’d been concern earlier in the year that there wouldn’t). The mayor’s answer boiled down to “no comment” till the budget is unveiled on September 27th.