June 4, 2020 / 3:42 AM / a month ago

Seattle police oversight to continue after 12,000 Floyd protest complaints

Protesters use umbrellas at the front line of a barricade guarded by Seattle police and the National Guard following the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, near the department's East Precinct in Seattle, Washington, U.S. June 3, 2020. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Police in the city of Seattle will continue to be overseen by federal monitors, the mayor said on Wednesday, days after the force drew 12,000 complaints for its handling of protests over the death of George Floyd.

Mayor Jenny Durkan reversed her position from last month when she and the U.S Justice Department filed a motion to end the eight-year federal intervention, arguing police had met obligations under a “consent decree” imposed for excessive use of force, such as killings of young men of color.

Prosecutors have leveled new criminal charges against four policemen implicated in the death of Floyd, a black man pinned by his neck to the street during an arrest in Minneapolis. Outrage over the death has sparked more than a week of protests and civil strife in major U.S. cities.

The backpedaling in Seattle came after its Office of Police Accountability on Monday reported a host of complaints against the police response to weekend protests, including pepper spraying a young girl and placing knees on the necks of two people arrested.

“The City knows it still needed to address concerns on discipline and accountability,” Durkan, who helped introduce the 2012 consent decree as a U.S. attorney, said in a statement. “We should pause as our community is rightfully calling for more police reforms.”

The Seattle Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Seattle’s decision came as former President Barack Obama urged every American mayor on Wednesday to work with communities to review police use-of-force policies.

Seattle lawyer and community organizer Nikkita Oliver, who ran against Durkan in the 2017 election, characterized the city’s decision to continue federal oversight as a longstanding demand from police reform advocates.

States like New Jersey and Colorado have proposed police reforms in response to the Floyd killing, but critics say deeper overhauls like defunding or dismantling of departments are necessary to bring real change.

Reporting by Gregory Scruggs in Seattle, additional reporting and writing by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Raju Gopalakrishnan

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