What a week!
Commissioner Randy Leonard threw city hall into a tizzy on Wednesday evening, October 22, after announcing he was withdrawing himself from consideration for the job of police commissioner. Mayor-elect Sam Adams had asked him to think about the job months earlier, and directed Leonard to put together a public safety assessment.
As chronicled in this column, drama ensued—to say the least. Leonard and Police Chief Rosie Sizer clashed, as she made it clear she'd never work for Leonard. Behind the scenes, there was chatter about Leonard's family (his daughter had a few run-ins with the law, and drug treatment). Even this paper found itself on the receiving end of mud-slinging "tips" about Leonard that weren't newsworthy—unless you consider it news that some cops didn't want Leonard to head up the bureau.
Unfortunately, Adams wasn't able to smooth things out (despite my suggestion to lock both Randy and Rosie in a room until they worked out their differences). Leonard's announcement was reportedly a surprise to Adams.
Early Monday morning, October 27, Adams announced his second choice: Commissioner Dan Saltzman.
"The city needs a mayor who can focus on jobs, economic development, and pressing infrastructure issues," Saltzman said on Monday morning. "When [Adams] hits the ground running in January, he will definitely do a lot of good things for the citizens of this city in addressing these issues. And in support of that, I'm here to accept the position of police commissioner."
So what does this mean? For starters, Saltzman and his staff will likely lose a beloved bureau or two; Adams says he'd like Saltzman to be a nearly full-time police commissioner.
Saltzman will no doubt be a capable police commissioner. He's as unflapp-able as they come, a skill that will be handy as the police union negotiates a new contract next year (and will likely ask for a big raise, as Seattle officers got this year).
But it's hard to see Saltzman pushing back on the cops too hard, especially when it comes to cop accountability. He supports the Prostitution-Free Zones—not based on evidence that they work, but because the cops like it as a tool. Rent-a-cops run rampant in the city's parks, but Saltzman hasn't done much about it. In his acceptance speech, he named priorities you can't argue with: addressing child abuse, domestic violence, gang violence, and consumer fraud.
There was no mention, however, of controversial items like racial profiling, the anemic Independent Police Review division, police-community relations, or the cops' reliance on private security as a backup.
Saltzman says he and Sizer will be getting to know each other over the next two months. Perhaps they can break the ice by talking about the real issues.