Judge appoints new Seattle police monitor after resignation

September 8, 2020 GMT

SEATTLE (AP) — The federal judge overseeing reforms in the Seattle Police Department has appointed a new monitor to oversee those efforts.

Dr. Antonio Oftelie, a Harvard professor and police, public policy and technology innovator, will replace Merrick Bobb of Police Assessment Resource Center in Los Angeles. Bobb has served as the Seattle police monitor since 2013. Bobb on Tuesday told The Seattle Times he resigned.

“It’s time for a change,” Bobb said. “We got (the Seattle Police Department) to this point,” with the department achieving “full and effective compliance” with a 2012 consent decree negotiated with the U.S. Department of Justice. The consent decree followed an investigation that determined Seattle officers routinely used excessive force and demonstrated troubling evidence of biased policing.


U.S. District Judge James Robart announced the change in an order Tuesday.

Robart appointed Monisha Harrell, chair of Equal Rights Washington, as deputy monitor.

Oftelie is executive director of Leadership for a Networked World, which is based at the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard. Telephone messages left at Oftelie’s office at Harvard were not immediately returned. Harrell’s office did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Oftelie has worked with other police departments, according to articles he’s authored, and has addressed calls by some to defund the Seattle Police Department by 50% by urging caution, calm heads and bridge building.

“What I know is we must do three things simultaneously: end police brutality, protect vulnerable people, and create the future of public safety,” which must include shifting priorities and funding to address social problems, rather than criminalizing them, he wrote in an article published on the website Medium in June.

The change in the monitor comes at a time of turmoil in reform efforts at the Seattle Police Department, which has come under scrutiny for using force against protesters who have taken to the streets in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

In his order, Robart said that, “It is with great respect that the court acknowledges and thanks Mr. Merrick Bobb and the members of the Seattle Monitoring Team for their many years of service to both the parties and the court and for their significant contributions to police reform in the City of Seattle.”