Low-income people may now have an easier time participating in a commission that oversees police department reforms.
The Seattle City Council approved an ordinance Aug. 5 that allows members of the Community Police Commission (CPC to ask for a $550 monthly stipend, meant to increase diversity on the commission.
The stipend will only go to commissioners who apply for the stipend because they face financial hardship by serving on the commission, Executive Director Fé Lopez said at a July 30 meeting of the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee.
“The stipend is to make sure everyone has a chance to sit at the table,” she told Real Change.
Including the CPC, members on seven of the city’s 67 boards and commissions will receive stipends, according to city spokesperson Megan Coppersmith.
The CPC meets twice a month, and smaller work groups meet separately to discuss specific issues in the Seattle Police Department (SPD): police accountability, training and community outreach. Most commissioners spend more than 15 hours in meetings per week, commissioners said.
“It certainly isn’t for the faint of heart,” Commissioner Jay Hollingsworth said.
The stipend will give a boost to those who sacrifice work hours and vacation time because of their commitment to the commission, co-chair Lisa Daugaard said. At least three commissioners have considered resigning from the commission because of the hardship, she said.
The CPC should be open to all people who are affected by policing, including people of color, members of the LGBT community, poor people and immigrants, Lopez said. The stipend will help expand the pool of potential applicants because those who are most concerned about policing are often the least able to afford volunteering on a commission.
Many of the current 15 commissioners, including Daugaard, who is the policy director for the Public Defender Association, work for organizations that allow them to serve on the commission as an extension of their jobs.
The commissioners serve three-year terms, and the city will take applications for new members in 2015.
Former Mayor Mike McGinn appointed the current members in 2013, after a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation found that SPD had a pattern of excessive force that disproportionately targeted people of color and people with mental illness. A settlement between the city and DOJ required the city to reform the police department and create a citizen group to oversee the reforms.
The CPC organizes meetings with community members and writes recommendations to the SPD. In May, for instance, it asked the SPD to disclose information from the investigation of several police-related shootings.
Executive Director Lopez said a stipend was supposed to have been implemented from the start, but was forgotten in the chaos of getting the commission on its feet.