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Seattle to hire its first police inspector general

Seattle is about to appoint its first-ever inspector general of police. The city’s chosen candidate, Lisa Judge, said the Seattle Police Department shows “a hunger for progressive change” that is a rarity in the policing world. 

She expects the political climate in Seattle to be pretty much the opposite of her previous job in Tucson, where she helped educate the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Posse, which included civilian volunteers who embraced the anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

As a result of a federal lawsuit against Arpaio, Judge administered a 20-hour training to Posse members in constitutional policing and preventing bias.

“Just by educating that particular segment of the community about the law, I think we got fairly far in bridging a gap that we had philosophically,” she told a Seattle City Council committee Wednesday.

The new Office of Inspector General was created by police accountability legislation passed last year. It’s part of the new framework for police oversight put in place under the 2012 federal consent decree.

The IG’s role will be to audit specific investigations of police misconduct and to flag any broader concerns at SPD.

Isaac Ruiz co-chairs Seattle’s Community Police Commission and helped oversee the search for the IG position. He said Judge brings a depth of expertise as well as a willingness to listen to community members and to remain independent.

SPD Assistant Chief Lesley Cordner also served on the search committee and said she supports Judge’s appointment as well.  

Judge comes to Seattle after serving as legal advisor to the police department in Tucson. She said many police attorneys feel it’s their duty to validate the actions of officers. But she saw her job as scrutinizing the training and culture of police officers, who she said “are supposed to be ‘the good guys.’”

“My sole function and mission was to make sure they remained ‘the good guys’ through training, and just an insistence on constitutional policing and justice and professionalism,” Judge said.

Seattle officials said they are impressed with Judge’s efforts in Tucson to revamp the department’s responses to people who are suicidal or in mental health crisis from a traditional SWAT-team approach.

“We did that by removing the uniformed patrol aspect and creating an entire unit of plainclothes, specially-trained law enforcement officers who could go out and use tools and experience they had picked up with our mental health partners to try to resolve those situations in a different way,” Judge said.

For her part Judge said Seattle is an attractive place to work because the city and SPD have used its federal consent decree as motivation to try new things.  

“Seattle has been viewed for a period of time now as almost a test kitchen for reform and progressive policing around the country,” she said.

She said her first priorities will be to have an intimate understanding of SPD systems.

“It’s impossible to clearly and effectively audit a system you don’t really understand,” she said. “And probably the most important thing for me is going to be building relationships and getting out in communities and establishing trust.”

She said the amount of power that this provision provides for community members is “unique and very incredible.” 

Year started with KUOW: 2005