Office of Police Accountability Director Joins Harrell Cabinet as Public Safety Advisor

Public Safety Director Andrew Myerberg

By Paul Kiefer

Andrew Myerberg,  the director of Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability, will join Mayor Bruce Harrell’s cabinet as the new director of public safety. In his new role, Myerberg will serve on the mayor’s bargaining team during contract negotiations with police unions, draft changes to Seattle Police Department policies, and advise other city departments as they stand up new civilian alternatives to policing.

Myerberg will report to Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell, who previously served as part of the monitoring team appointed by a federal judge to oversee reforms to the Seattle Police Department. On Wednesday, Senior Deputy Mayor Harrell told PubliCola that she will share most of her “broad portfolio” of responsibilities with Myerberg.

Both the deputy mayor and Myerberg will also sit at the bargaining table as the city negotiates new contracts with Seattle’s two police unions. Bargaining with the Seattle Police Management Association (SPMA), which represents police captains and lieutenants, began last year; negotiations with the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG), which represents officers, detectives and sergeants, is expected to begin later in 2022.

The city’s most recent contract with SPOG expired in 2020, and police reform advocates see the next contract as the key to implementing a slate of oversight measures that the last contract blocked. After the departure of Ned Burke, the city negotiator responsible for bargaining with SPOG, in October, Myerberg is one of the few remaining city staffers with expertise on law enforcement union contracts. Myerberg was also heavily involved in the development of the city’s landmark 2017 accountability ordinance, which the most recent SPOG contract largely defanged.

At a press conference Wednesday, Mayor Harrell said that he views Myerberg as “someone who knows police accountability, who knows police reform, [and] who knows how situations play out in real time.”

Myerberg faced criticism this week from the public and members of the Seattle City Council over his handling of an investigation into a disinformation campaign by a group of Seattle police officers during protests for racial justice in June 2020.

The OPA completed its investigation of the incident in September, finding a now-retired captain responsible for ordering the disinformation campaign, but the office did not release its findings until last week. During a presentation to the city council’s public safety committee on Tuesday morning, Myerberg faced questions from council members about the delay, as well as about his recommendation that SPD not discipline the rank-and-file officers who spread disinformation through SPD radio channels at the behest of their supervisors. One of those officers subsequently left the department only to rejoin SPD a month ago.

Police accountability advocates frequently criticized Myerberg for being too lenient, in their view, with officers accused of misconduct. Most of the criticism centered on his handling of excessive force cases, which Myerberg argued are rarely black-and-white enough to merit firing an officer. In an interview with PubliCola in February 2021, Myerberg said that he was reluctant to push for harsher consequences because he was wary of spurring officers to appeal their cases to an arbitrator.

“It’s difficult to jump up to termination or suspensions if you haven’t done that in the past,” he said, “because if I’m not consistent, the discipline could be overturned on appeal.” Myerberg sometimes had similar reservations about upholding bias allegations against officer, particularly when complaints center on the ways that officers’ unconscious biases manifest in their interactions with the public.

Myerberg’s efforts to avoid having discipline overturned on appeal may be one reason for the overall decline in the number of disciplinary appeals filed by Seattle police officers over the past five years. But Myerberg’s successor could reverse that trend, using the risky appeals process to attempt to stake out stricter standards for police conduct.

Harrell will be responsible for appointing the next OPA director, who will also need a confirmation vote from the city council. The mayor’s office has not yet named a temporary director for the office.

3 thoughts on “Office of Police Accountability Director Joins Harrell Cabinet as Public Safety Advisor”

  1. PubliCola & Kiefer have been unfailingly credulous of police & accountability agencies & have disregarded information I, & many others, have shared with them. I got the receipts.

    Look at their coverage compared to Carolyn Bick at the South Seattle Emerald & Daniel Beekman at the Seattle Times who ask hard questions & follow-up with more questions & actual investigative journalism.

    Whereas Carolyn Bick has been a pit-bull & watch-dog regarding police accountability over these last 20 months they have been lap-dogs.

    Besides ignoring Bick’s reporting here is what they also ignored:

    https://hjgale.tumblr.com/post/643859576948654080/february-2021-interviews-with-opa-dir-myerberg

    &

    https://hjgale.tumblr.com/post/661009838278639616/what-seattles-investigation-of-the-spd-killing

  2. Paul: Because of the idiots in Seattle, SPD was assigned tasks they never should have been sucked into in the first place. Police should not need to be babysitters for bad planners with addictions. Don’t call these unrelated tasks “policing” (which you just did). Also don’t make the mistake of thinking that civilians can do any actual police work either. I will remind you of that the next time a civilian responder gets shot or knifed by a psycho who was on the streets due to progressive prosecutors and judges. So much for the policies you have consistently supported. People like you point out that the war on drugs never worked. So how well are your ideas on drugs and crimes working? The answer depends on which side you are on. Steve Willie.

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