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“Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere”

Black Lives Matter

I have received over 37,000 e-mails, including over 2,000 from constituents in Seattle’s District 4 about police accountability, following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the police response to protests here in Seattle, and the long history of institutional racism here and throughout our nation.  I am grateful so many engaged constituents have taken the time to contact my office with their grief, their outrage, and their tough questions about police accountability — and budgets. While the communications I receive from constituents offer a variety of views, I see common ground growing for re-imagining what effective and equitable public safety means as we continually seek to achieve healthy communities. Please read my initial thoughts here and I include links to additional information. There is much work to do.

UPCOMING ACTIONS: In July and August, the City Council and our Budget Committee examined our Seattle Police Department (SPD) budget to see how we can best reallocate City revenues and responsibilities to re-imagine public safety and community wellness, especially as we face budget deficits from the COVID pandemic. Many of the details not tackled during the summer can be addressed during our regularly scheduled budget process this Fall (which will impact our City’s 2021 budget). Please see below for the many posts on these vital matters since May 2020:

WEEK OF SEPT 7, 2020 UPDATE:

  • New Police Reform Monitors Appointed by Federal Judge Robart: I am grateful for the years of hard work by Merrick Bobb and look forward to the efforts of Antonio Oftelie and Monisha Harrell. For the Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.
  • Police Accountability Organizations Present Their Recommendations on Crowd Control Methods: As described elsewhere in my blog, Council passed a bill in June with the goal of limiting crowd control weapons. Section 2 of that bill asked for the input from these accountability organizations. For the link to the presentations from the Community Police Commission, Office of Inspector General, and Office of Police Accountability, CLICK HERE.
  • City Council will officially reconsider our Mayor’s vetoes of 3 of the Council Bills during week of September 21, 2020. (More on the vetoes are discussed elsewhere in this blog post.)

WEEK OF AUGUST 17, 2020 UPDATE:

  • MAYOR’S VETOES: On August 21, Mayor Durkan vetoed 3 of the many budget bills that City Council adopted on August 10 to rebalance our City budget: (1) the controversial Council Bill 119825 that impacts our Seattle Police Department (2) Council Bill 119862 to spend $3 million (in addition to the Mayor’s $500,000) for additional community engagement on safety issues, and (3) Council Bill 119863 authorizing a $13 million internal loan for an initial boost to community organizations working to prevent crime.
    • The Mayor’s Aug 21 press release stated: “I respectfully veto the 2020 budget and will continue conversations between my office and the Council on how we can partner to make needed changes in a consistent, thoughtful, and deliberate manner.
    • According to her press release, “The Mayor vetoed these bills, sending them back to Council to address the following issues:
      • “Cuts of 100 officers, including layoffs of 70 sworn officers in 2020 despite legal and labor limitations of “out of order” layoffs; 
      • “The effective elimination of the Navigation Team, including outreach workers in the Human Services Department, without any alternative approach to address hazardous encampments;
      • “Cuts to the salaries of the Chief of Police and her leadership team;
      • “Cuts and changes to SPD that could implicate the City’s obligations under the federal consent decree;
      • “Borrowing $13 million dollars from other City funds for new spending this year when the City faces an unprecedented budget deficit of $326 million; and
      • “Taking an additional $3 million dollars from the Rainy Day fund to increase Council’s budget by 17 percent.”
    • For the Mayor’s official statement (Aug 23) explaining her veto, CLICK HERE.
    • I share our Mayor’s concerns with key pieces of the budget package City Council adopted August 10. For example, I opposed cuts to Chief Carmen Best’s salary (the first Black chief in Seattle’s history) and I opposed cuts to our city’s Navigation Team that we need to address homeless encampments. To help to balance the budget, that bill also included budget reductions equivalent to the salaries of 100 police officers (out of 1,400 officers) for the last two months of this year (less than 10%).
    • Here’s a positive way to view this situation: The Mayor vetoing these budget bills provides more time for our Mayor and City Council leadership to smooth out their differences on the rough edges of the bill and how to proceed productively going forward. I support this collaboration because that will enable us to implement positive results faster.
    • Fortunately, the recent agreement between the Mayor, Council President, and Budget Chair on COVID relief is evidence that the legislative and executive branches can collaborate to find common ground and get things done.  We need that collaboration at City Hall if we are going to put together a detailed action plan to revamp public safety in way that provides positive results and justice. 
    • The residents of my district have a wide range of views, but most agree now is the time for smart changes in how we police our communities and how we pay for safety in a way that eradicates institutional racism, reduces harm to oppressed communities, and prevents crime for all of Seattle.  But instead of rash, ill-informed decisions, people first want to see a sensible and detailed plan to achieve cost-effective public safety.
    • The Council is on a brief “recess” (no meetings) until September 8 (the day after Labor Day) and the Council President will, after we return, schedule a meeting for us to vote to sustain or override the Mayor’s vetoes. (The City Charter requires that we vote on each veto within 30 days. According the City Attorney, it takes 6 votes to override a veto on appropriations and 7 votes to adopt any replacement appropriations bills.)
    • For the initial Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.
  • INQUESTS DELAYED AGAIN. King County needs to complete the inquest of the killing of Charleena Lyles by two Seattle Police officers in 2017. Unfortunately, a King County Superior Court judge August 21 ruled in favor of other King County jurisdictions challenging the reformed inquest process established by our King County Executive. One of the key demands of Lyles family members is to allow the inquest to proceed, as they reiterated at the vigil I attended for her in June. Seattle thankfully withdrew its challenge of the inquest process and I sent a demand letter to the other jurisdictions calling on them to allow the process to proceed. That tragedy also reinforces the need for trained professionals other than armed police officers to respond to those who need help in many situations — a key rationale for re-imagining public safety. I hope the Washington State Supreme Court takes up this case soon and rules to allow the new inquest rules to proceed. For the Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.

WEEK OF AUGUST 10, 2020 UPDATE:

  • COUNCILMEMBER PEDERSEN STATEMENT ON DEPARTURE OF POLICE CHIEF CARMEN BEST: “I am deeply saddened by the resignation of our Police Chief Carmen Best. Chief Best has served Seattle faithfully and honorably for decades and happens to be the first Black woman to serve as our City’s police chief. While a majority of City Council voted on August 5 to cut Carmen Best’s salary, it’s important to note that Councilmembers Juarez, Lewis, and I did NOT vote to cut her salary. I did not support suddenly cutting the salary of the first Black police chief in Seattle’s history and the diverse, experienced team that she picked. While I believe we should take a hard look at reducing excessive city government pay during budget deficits, the entire City Council should be more thoughtful and methodical so we avoid unintended consequences.  There are few leaders better equipped than Carmen Best to help lead the hard negotiations needed to fix the police contract — today’s expensive and unreasonable police contract is among the biggest impediments to revamping and boosting public safety in all communities.  I will continue to work collaboratively with our Mayor and other colleagues to seek and implement solutions for Seattle, even though the road today is much more difficult. People deserve to see less sniping and more solutions.
  • BUDGET LEGISLATION ADOPTED: A DOWN-PAYMENT TOWARD DRAMATIC IMPROVEMENTS FOR COMMUNITY SAFETY
    • Key Council bills — including CB 119825 which makes reasonable, initial reductions to the budget and staffing levels of our Seattle Police Department for the rest of 2020, in light of the growing budget deficit and the need to rethink community safety, CLICK HERE.
    • Resolution 31962 for a future Community Safety Department, CLICK HERE. If implemented, a streamlined, refocused, and reformed police department would remain, while effective community-led crime prevention and community wellness programs are ramped up. The Resolution calls for concrete plans.
    • Resolution 31961 to protect journalists during protests and demonstrations, CLICK HERE.
  • COUNCILMEMBER PEDERSEN REMARKS AT PASSAGE OF BUDGET RE-BALANCING:
    • In the middle of a persistent pandemic, ballooning budget deficits, and even the cracking of our West Seattle Bridge stranding 100,000 of our residents – in the middle of these crises — your elected officials are also striving to seize this historic moment in the wake of the brutal and wrongful killing of George Floyd and countless Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, so that we address systemic racism by rethinking policing and revitalizing community health and safety.  
    • It is not a neat and easy process. It’s messy, it’s difficult, and it’s uncomfortable, but it is necessary.  Even as I speak now, I am getting e-mails and phone calls from constituents who want us to do more now and other constituents who want us to slow down and think it through more. We were elected not only the synthesize the various viewpoints and address the concerns of our constituents but also to craft thoughtful plans on how to do things better. We need to apply our own critical thinking and plan ahead rather than just reacting.
    • I am cautiously optimistic that the legislation today is a prudent mix of all these goals. It leverages the few tools in the toolbelt of this City Council to make a downpayment toward a bigger, broader discussion and bigger, bolder changes as part of the long, more thoughtful Fall budget process. 
    • I thank my colleagues for incorporating my amendment earlier today to answer some basic question: with the reasonable initial reductions approved today, what will the impact be on the ground in every neighborhood?  How will the Chief choose to re-deploy her resources and what will the impact be on response times?  According to the most recent data, only 71% of the time spent by police officers is for Priority One and Two calls.  That means 29% of the time is spent on non-priority calls – there is an opportunity there for community-led solutions. 
    • With the reductions we are making for 2020 that will likely carry on to 2021, I believe adjustments can be made so that response times do not get worse. For example, the remaining officers would respond to fewer types of non-criminal calls. This report will get those details that we need for further decision-making.  We need plans, more than pledges.
    • These reports will also make sure we do not recklessly jettison the good work done by our Harbor Patrol throughout Lake Union.
    • The reports we are asking for as part of this legislative package can be combined with the planning efforts of our Mayor and our Police Chief as they craft their budget proposal for next year. These reports and planning documents are an opportunity — a 2nd chance — for this City Council to work authentically and proactively with our Mayor and our Chief of Police to rethink and revamp public safety and healthy communities.
    • We also need to recognize that we cannot do it all through the budget. We need to discuss what has not been discussed enough: the need to re-do the police union contact.  This complex contact needs to be redone to encourage the good police officers to stay in Seattle, to reduce excessive salaries and costs, to fix their disciplinary system so that it no longer impedes justice. We need a good contract, more than good slogans.
    • Even as this City Council partially defunds our police department, we will still have a police department as part of a broader public safety strategy that involves more community-led solutions. Are the police reforms implemented since the federal consent decree enough? No. Reforms are not enough when there is systemic and institutional racism. But should we toss aside the progress made by the Community Police Commission, the Office of Police Accountability, and the Office of Inspector General. No. We need both real reforms AND reinvestment.
    • And when we reinvest tens of millions of dollars, we need more black-led organizations at the table. From the Every Day Marchers to the Urban League deserve a seat at the table, too. And we need to make sure those investments are smart and effective and that we measure results to show the general public whether we are achieving the positive outcomes that we all want.
    • This legislative package today is not perfect.
      • I do not support ending the Navigation Team –  a team created so that we had a coordinated response — a team of dedicated city government employees (public servants from our Human Services Department and Parks Department) who have been engaging those experiencing homelessness and who work for the public health of all city residents.  By a narrow 5 to 4 vote, a majority of this Council, unfortunately, took that hasty action without a replacement plan.  Business Improvement Areas across the city that represent hundreds of small businesses that employee thousands of our residents are disappointed and concerned.  Even if the Navigation Team goes away, the challenges of homelessness will not.  I look forward to working with our chair of our Committee on Homelessness Strategies to piece together a reasonable and responsive replacement strategy.
      • I also do not support suddenly and with no analysis cutting the salary of the first Black police chief in Seattle’s history and the diverse team that that she picked. Yes, we should take a hard look at excess pay through city government, but it should be more thoughtful and methodical.
    • But here we are today facing a massive deficit and we must balance the budget. We are required by law to balance our budget. Just like all appropriation bills at all levels of government, there are items in the bill that each of us might not prefer.
    • But the big picture is that we need to row together — both the executive and legislative branches — to give the general public confidence that we can function and move forward for their benefit. Let’s approve this budget package today and resolve to work collaboratively with our Mayor and Police Chief to solve problems and make progress for Seattle.  Thank you.

WEEK OF AUGUST 3, 2020 UPDATE:MARCHING WITH THE MARCHERS: I appreciate the youth leaders of the “Every Day March” being willing to converse with me recently via conference calls on Zoom. These calls enabled us to start to understand each other’s positions and perspectives and to seek common ground regarding policing in Seattle. When I learned that protesters were coming to my home again Wednesday night, I decided to meet them at their starting point on UW’s campus. I asked whether I could march in solidarity with them and was greeted with an enthusiastic Yes! While I believe it’s unproductive and inappropriate for anyone to protest at the personal residences of government employees and other public officials when other venues are available (Zoom chat, phone, e-mail, weekly public comments at Council meetings, etc.) — and I believe graffiti, profanity, threats, and trespassing are unacceptable — the right to protest peacefully is vital. It was a moving and energetic experience for me that evening. The reaction from neighbors that night was mixed and seemed to include support (some were able to join the march), concern (especially for families with children who had been sleeping), and curiosity — the range you might expect from a vocal march suddenly taking over the streets at night. Each person’s experience is unique and not all marches are the same. At the end of this particular march, we sat down together and I had answer some tough questions about police budgets and accountability. Many of the marchers bravely shared their lived experience of negative interactions with law enforcement, of being misled by government officials, and of government’s overall failure to deliver on its promises for education, healthcare, and other basics. While we may not always agree on the details (for example, I believe Mayor Durkan and Chief Best are professionals deserving respect, acting in good faith, and striving to do their best), I have been advocating for these youth leaders to have a seat at the table (along with other Black-led organizations) as our city government makes more decisions on revamping public safety in Seattle.

NAVIGATION TEAM: During the Budget Committee on August 5, we voted on several amendments to the 2020 budget for our Seattle Police Department. It’s important to note for my constituents that I did NOT support the amendment that narrowly passed with a 5-4 vote to defund our City’s Navigation Team. The Nav Team is a group of city employees from various city departments who work together to engage unauthorized homeless encampments and clean up trash/needles. While I voted for the reasonable amendment to reduce police involvement with the Nav Team, the controversial amendment to defund the Nav Team was, I believe, outside the scope of our meetings to rebalance the 2020 budget. From my colleagues who voted for this hasty move, I look forward to hearing their clear and detailed plan to make sure the functions of the Nav Team are covered and coordinated. We must insist that we have a reasonable and responsive replacement plan to make sure we are addressing the critical public health and safety responsibilities of city government, especially during the COVID pandemic. This includes connecting those experiencing homelessness to shelter and services. In the meantime, my staff is reaching out to these nonprofits and the city employees who pick up the trash/needles to determine how efforts will be coordinated going forward.

POLL SHOWS PEOPLE WANT CONCRETE PLAN PHASED IN: An independent poll of Seattle voters conducted at the end of July by the reputable firm EMC showed 53% support “a defund the police law that would permanently cut the Seattle Police Department’s budget by 50% and shift that money to social services and community-based programs.” But when drilling down, 64% wanted to either “give affected communities more time to weigh in on how we build a better police department together,” with “concrete plans” and reallocations phased-in over time (43% of voters responding) or no cuts to SPD at all (21% of voters responding). I don’t govern by polls, but the information is helpful. For more on the poll, CLICK HERE.

REVAMPING PUBLIC SAFETY: A “DOWNPAYMENT.” It’s important to preface my remarks by noting that, at the Budget Committee on August 5, I voted against cutting the salaries of Police Chief Carmen Best and her command staff. I also voted against defunding our Navigation Team. Here are my remarks at the Budget Committee:

“I have received over 35,000 e-mails, including over 2,000 from my constituents in Seattle’s District 4 about police accountability, following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the police response to protests here in Seattle, and the long history of institutional racism here and throughout our nation.  I am grateful so many engaged constituents have taken the time to contact my office with their grief, their outrage, and their tough questions about police accountability — and budgets. While the communications I receive from constituents offer a variety of views, I see common ground for re-thinking and re-vamping what effective and equitable public safety means as we strive to achieve healthy communities.

“I believe we all feel the urgency of the moment. This is an historic opportunity. We cannot go back.

“I support the Mayor and City Council establishing a participatory budgeting process; let’s bring more groups to the table: from the leaders of the “Every Day March” to the leaders of the Urban League and Community Police Commission.  Together we can make even more progress.

“As we reimagine public safety, we must simultaneously build up community organizations to prevent crime and achieve healthy communities.

“There is also another perspective on how to view these changes: The necessity of fiscal responsibility.  Our City government departments, including our police department, are spending more money than they are receiving. That’s why we are here in the Budget Committee to re-balance our 2020 budget. We will also have a large budget deficit next year.  SPD has a budget deficit. SPD has already spent their entire overtime budget. Some reductions from SPD are simply necessary both this year and next year.

“The City Council has limited tools on how to impact any department. We can reduce or increase the budget and certain high-level line items, but the City Charter and the labor contracts do not allow the Council to unilaterally make targeted personnel decisions. Instead we can only make very pointed suggestions on where to cut.

“Regarding the new recruits to the police department (Amendment #16),  I would rather reduce positions through attrition instead of letting go of new, progressive talent.

“I have confidence that our Chief Carmen Best can manage the budget reductions that we are making. After we make these reductions, I also believe it’s vital for Chief Best to provide a report to City Council to hear exactly how she will redeploy officers and what the impact will be on response times. Ideally, response times do not get worse; instead ideally police would respond to fewer types of calls. To noncriminal calls, we can send other professionals who are NOT armed. But we need to see that operations plan from the Chief; as policymakers we need to see those details and the general public deserves to see those details.  I’m bringing forward an amendment Monday to make sure we get a report on redeployment and response times.

To many residents of my district, the budget re-balancing amendments this week may seem too big — and to many others, they may seem too small.  After much consideration and listening to many from all angles, I believe these are significant downpayments toward bigger changes, as we use our Fall budget process (October + November) to craft a more thoughtful, sustainable plan for improved community safety.

“There are constraints of both labor law and the staffing requirements of the consent decree. Regarding the labor issues, I look forward to a complete re-working of the collective bargaining agreement with police officers so that we can reduce excessive costs to taxpayers and fix the disciplinary system. Even as the City Council reallocates substantial dollars, there will still be many police officers and we need to make sure their labor contract is fair and effective for the people of Seattle.

“I want the police officers who are listening today to know that I appreciate the good work that so many of you do. At the same time, you are asked to do too much. You are sent into complex situations that other professionals from our community may be better equipped to handle. You are also part of a system born out of racism and, despite progress on reforms, that institutional racism of police departments here and across the nation continues to have disproportionate negative impacts on people of color. By rethinking what public safety really means; by centering Black, Indigenous, and People of Color; and by taking a thoughtful approach — we can seize this historic opportunity to disrupt institutional racism AND achieve real community safety.

“In addition to the important budget actions today, I am introducing a Resolution for this coming Monday to support the national effort to pass “The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act,” which is H.R. 7120 introduced by Congresswoman Karen Bass, Democrat from California and supported by our own Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. This federal bill addresses many concerns raised by protesters that are authorized by federal law, such as the need to restrict qualified immunity for police officers across the nation. Today, however, we are appropriately focused on improving things here in Seattle.

“CALL FOR COOPERATION: I am hopeful that both the Mayor and City Council have been acting in good faith and with good intentions on these complex issues. We are both appropriately exercising our authority granted by the people under our City Charter. This is a classic and appropriate policy debate. Our two branches of government, for the good of our city, are simply considering and weighing different factors with limited information on the dramatic changes we are going to make.   Let us see the common ground:  we both want to reimagine public safety. We are both dedicated to public service and striving to respond to this historic, unprecedented moment. Will the City Council go further than the Mayor? Certainly. But, because we both care about the people, we want them to have confidence in their local government. The people expect us to deliberate, to debate, and yes, sometimes, to disagree. But the people do not want us to divide or demonize.  I did not return to City Hall to watch us dismantle the functional fabric of our local government. The real enemy is the person who has only 5 months left in the White House, so let’s stop the sniping at City Hall. Let us disagree respectfully, seek common ground, and solve problems for Seattle.”

WEEK OF JULY 27, 2020 UPDATE:

  • On Friday, July 31, our Budget Committee walked through 38 amendments to the 2020 Seattle Police Department (SPD) budget adopted by the previous City Council. As previously reported, the Mayor was already planning to reallocate $20 million from this year’s 2020 budget and has identified another $76 million to reallocate in 2021. A majority of the City Council (including me) plans to go further, once we dive into the 2021 budget process this Fall.
  • Notably, the Councilmembers who originally tweeted they would “defund SPD by 50%fell well short of that arbitrary percentage, due to the need to honor labor law, the federal consent decree for police reforms, and practical constraints of amending budgets midyear. However, Councilmembers Herbold and Lewis introduced a promising Resolution with a draft road map to move further in that direction. The Resolution includes principles to reallocate additional dollars from traditional law enforcement to other city government departments and to BIPOC-led organizations. I look forward to the discussion on this new Resolution next week because I continue to believe we need to demilitarize our police, go beyond the current reforms, and reallocate substantial resources to BIPOC-led organizations. For the Seattle Times article on this, CLICK HERE.
  • I joined several of my colleagues to co-sponsor the reallocation of millions of dollars as an initial downpayment toward greater reinvestments in BIPOC communities:
    • $3 million for community-led research as suggested by Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now (the Mayor had already set aside $500,000 for community engagement that she can deploy rapidly to inform her 2021 budget to be transmitted in September);
    • $4 million to our Human Service Department’s Community Safety Initiative: a partnership among four BIPOC-led programs, including Community Passageways, Urban Family, SE Safety Network Hub Boys & Girls Club, and the Alive & Free Program – YMCA; and
    • $10 million to the Human Services Department (HSD) for scaling up community-led organizations, including technical support and capacity building to increase public safety.
  • I reached out to the youth leaders of the “Every Day Protests” / “Seattle Evening March” who have led vocal protests at the personal residences of nearly all Seattle City Councilmembers. We had a ZOOM conference call to discuss their concerns, hopes, and demands — demands rooted in their lived experience and their strong desire not to let this historic moment slip by without disrupting the institutional racism in our law enforcement systems and reinvesting in Black communities. In addition to wanting to defund SPD, they cited the negative gentrification of Seattle’s Central District. When envisioning the best ways to reinvest dollars, they emphasized schools, health care, and homeownership. Discussions will continue with them and a wide array of BIPOC-led organizations.
  • As we work to reallocate these and additional dollars, I would like the Council to have open lines of communication with our Chief Carmen Best, the Community Police Commission, our other police accountability organizations, and BIPOC-led organizations — including both newly formed groups AND those who have been fighting this fight for decades including the Urban League. No matter how much the City Council “defunds” our police department, we need to make sure that the remaining officers and criminal justice systems continue with the reforms. We should also provide sufficient resources and technical assistance to community-led organizations so they can use data to track results, measure effectiveness, and implement continuous improvements to achieve the positive outcomes we all seek and so policymakers have the information needed to scale up the most successful prevention and intervention anti-carceral programs proven to work. A potential source of evidence-based programs proven to reduce crime and harm are highlighted by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy at George Mason University, and other independent, non-partisan research.

WEEK OF JULY 20, 2020 UPDATE:

  • Federal Law Enforcement in Seattle: Regarding President Trump threatening to send in federal agents to protect federal buildings, Mayor Durkan held a press conference on July 24 and Council President Gonzalez and Public Safety Chair Lisa Herbold issued a statement with a similar message: “’Seattle leaders have made it abundantly clear that federal local law enforcement intervention is unwanted and unneeded…Our offices will continue to monitor the federal agents’ presence in Seattle, and we will work with Mayor Jenny Durkan, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Governor Jay Inslee, and our congressional representatives to halt any actions by federal authorities that violate our residents’ constitutional rights.‘ On June 8, 2020, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed Resolution 31948 condemning the use of military force in jurisdictions such as Seattle that have not requested and do not intend to request federal interventions.”
  • Crowd Control Weapons: The ordinance introduced June 8 and passed unanimously June 15 by our City Council has been impacted differently by 3 different judicial rulings, with the net effect that only some prohibitions currently remain on SPD’s ability to use tear gas, flashbangs, and other crowd control weapons against peaceful protesters. Ultimately, updated policies are likely after the City’s police accountability organizations complete their analysis and federal Judge Robart determines whether the new law conflicts with the consent decree.
    • July 24: “In an emergency hearing Friday night, a federal judge blocked Seattle’s new law prohibiting police from using tear gas, blast balls and similar weapons, even as it was scheduled to go into effect Sunday and as the city awaits a potentially tumultuous weekend of protests with federal agents in the area. U.S. District Judge James Robart granted a request from the federal government to block the new law, which the Seattle City Council passed unanimously last month. The U.S. Department of Justice, citing Seattle’s longstanding police consent decree, argued that banning the use of crowd control weapons could actually lead to more police use of force, leaving them only with more deadly weapons. Robart said the issue needed more discussion between the city and the Justice Department before the change went into effect. Ruling from the bench, just before 9 p.m. Friday night, Robart said the temporary restraining order he granted would be “very temporary.” For the full Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.
    • July 23: “U.S. District Judge James Robart, in a brusque eight-page order, said he would not stop the ordinance from taking effect and was sharply critical of the city [government executive’s and City Attorney’s] efforts to convince the court to issue an injunction, saying it didn’t attempt to meet the legal burden necessary… The ordinance passed unanimously June 15 after criticism of SPD’s use of tear gas, blast balls and other nonlethal weapons against mostly peaceful protesters rallying against police racism and violence downtown and on Capitol Hill.” For the Seattle Times July 22 article, CLICK HERE.
    • June 12: U.S. District Judge Richard Jones issued a temporary restraining order that is still in effect.

WEEK OF JULY 13, 2020 UPDATE:

  • I reached out to the Co-Chair of the Community Police Commission, Reverend Harriet Walden, to discuss the various proposals for reimagining public safety and “defunding” SPD such as the “blueprint” from Decriminalize Seattle. (For some others consulted, please see other entries from this post.) As someone who has been fighting for police reform for years with organizations like Mothers for Police Accountability, there was a recognition that, even after a majority of City Councilmembers reallocate a meaningful portion of funds from SPD to community-based safety programs, there remains a vital need to continue with the reforms of our police department and adhere to the federal consent decree.
  • Councilmember Debora Juarez issued a statement on her commitment to combat racism and proceed thoughtfully when reallocating public safety dollars: “We need a plan, not a percentage.” Councilmember Juarez wrote, “We need to know:  1. What is being cut or reassigned? (2) What and where are such funds being reallocated to? (3) What is the overall allocation plan and implementation timeline? and (4) Most importantly, what are the impacts on our sworn duty to uphold public safety?” For her full statement, CLICK HERE.
  • I was sickened by the police union president saying he believes the police killing of Charleena Lyles in 2017 was “suicide by cop.” These harmful comments reinforce the need to complete the inquest of her wrongful death, which is being blocked by other King County jurisdictions challenging the reformed inquest process established by our King County Executive. One of the key demands of Lyles family members is to allow the inquest to proceed, as they reiterated at the vigil I attended for her in June. Seattle thankfully withdrew its challenge of the inquest process and I sent a demand letter to the other jurisdictions calling on them to allow the process to proceed. That tragedy also reinforces the need for trained professionals other than armed police officers to respond to those who need help in many situations — a key rationale for reimagining public safety.
  • Mayor Durkan announced her plan to remove at least $76 million from the Seattle Police Department (approximately 20% of SPD’s $400 million budget). For the Seattle Times article, which includes various reactions to the Mayor’s announcement, CLICK HERE.

JULY 10, 2020 UPDATE:

I hear from constituents with a variety of views: those who support defunding SPD by at least 50% and those who do not. Those who are loudly demanding a 50% reduction of the police budget should know that a veto-proof majority of the City Council has already pledged to defund at least 50%. Moreover, each Seattle resident has 3 Councilmembers who represent them: their district Councilmember and their two citywide (“at-large”) Councilmembers: President Lorena Gonzalez and Budget Chair Teresa Mosqueda have already both pledged to defund SPD by at least 50%. Because my single vote is not needed to achieve that specific goal, those focused on implementing that numerical goal may find it most productive and meaningful to ask the other Councilmembers to deliver the details, budgets, and legislation that enabled them to commit to their 50% pledge. I am committed to continuing to collaborate with my colleagues to implement a solid, sensible, and equitable budget plan that addresses institutional racism while reimagining public safety.

While I hear from constituents with a variety of views, I also hear a lot of common ground. I continue to agree we should reallocate substantial dollars to re-imagine public safety and achieve community wellness and — once the City Council votes on actual budget legislation — we would know the precise percentages that will be moved to other city departments or nonprofits to be reinvested in other types of emergency responses and proven prevention programs. For example, I agree we should dispatch mental health providers to those experiencing a mental health crisis. I hope that what matters most at the end of the day is not a specific percentage that’s “defunded” and reallocated, but that marginalized communities feel 100% safe and are stronger after City Hall demilitarizes our police department and delivers the services people are demanding to improve lives. I was not part of the City Council that approved the $400 million police budget less than a year ago. But our current City Council has already taken some concrete actions and there is a lot of common ground for positive next steps.

Acknowledging the long and terrible history of structural racism in American society and the wrongful killings of George Floyd, Charleena Lyles, and countless other Black, Indigenous, and People of Color at the hands of law enforcement, I have taken this pledge:

These positive principles are consistent with the 4 principles from the group Decriminalize Seattle:

Regarding elected officials who have already promised a specific percentage to defund, I am eager to review their line item budget details and the results of labor negotiations they must be using to arrive at that number. I hope my colleagues will also incorporate my suggestion to create an alternative to 911 — a community-focused 311 call center that everyone can call with confidence for whatever city services they truly need.  A 311 Call Center could be IN ADDITION TO a 911 Emergency Call Center also run by civilians. (Having 311, too, is not meant to be a complete solution, but rather one practical piece to reimagine public safety. Reforms must continue in our police department so that 911 is used properly.) I also look forward to working with the Mayor as she conducts her broad outreach throughout Seattle and crafts her budget proposals for City Council amendments and votes.

Our Police Chief Carmen Best published her concerns with the 50% figure on SPD’s website; CLICK HERE.

JULY 6, 2020 UPDATE: My City Council colleagues and I condemned the killing of protester Summer Taylor and the injury of Diaz Love.

JUNE 18 and 19, 2020 Update:

I participated in the Juneteenth Freedom March sponsored by the King County Equity Now coalition, the Africatown Community Land Trust, and other Black leaders with ties to Seattle’s Central District, which marched from Madison Street to Jimi Hendrix Park on June 19. For an article covering both this event and the “Next Steps” event organized by “Not This Time!” focused on criminal justice reform, CLICK HERE.

photo by Alex Pedersen

Attended the community vigil for Charleena Lyles at Magnuson Park, the three-year anniversary of when two Seattle police officers tragically killed her in front of her children. Councilmember Kshama Sawant spoke at the event; I did not feel it was appropriate for additional elected officials to take up space or distract from the solemn vigil. I heard the demands of Katrina Johnson. For a news article on the event, CLICK HERE.

photo by Alex Pedersen

JUNE 17, 2020 UPDATE: An alliance of Black women leaders launches a new fund to support Washington State’s Black community. From their press release:

The Black communities across Washington state have long done the work to uplift our communities without appropriate funding and resources. The Black Future Co-op Fund will ensure that we have a strong infrastructure and network for sustainable progress,” said Angela Jones, CEO of Washington STEM. Jones is one of the architects of the Fund alongside Michelle Merriweather, President and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle; Andrea Caupain, CEO of Byrd Barr Place; and T’wina Nobles, President and CEO of Tacoma Urban League. All of the Fund’s architects are women with long histories of supporting Washington’s Black community.

The Fund will invest in a range of areas including health, housing, education, youth development, art and history, economic and land development, and advocacy and civic engagement. According to Andrea Caupain of Byrd Barr Place, the Fund is an acknowledgement of the harm that systemic racism has done to the Black community in Washington state. “The world has leveraged Black people for profit for centuries. This fund begins to turn that tide,” said Caupain. For more info, CLICK HERE.

JUNE 16, 2020 (newsletter excerpt):

Friends and Neighbors,

While this month’s newsletter discusses the COVID-19 public health crisis, the resulting economic downturn, our sudden $300 million budget deficit, and the need to fix the West Seattle Bridge impacting 100,000 residents, the priority I’ve heard from constituents is about justice. Justice after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and countless other people of color who have been victims of police misconduct, justice after the excessive use of force by police officers against protesters here in Seattle, and justice by accelerating dramatic, systemic improvements to eliminate racism from these institutions. Please read on and check my blog for more updates.

PROTESTS LEAD WAY TO RE-IMAGINING PUBLIC SAFETY AND COMMUNITY WELLNESS

LISTENING:

I reached out to Nikkita Oliver, social justice leader and former mayoral candidate. She emphasized the need to re-imagine public safety and community wellness and she highlighted the King County Equity Now Coalition. For her June 2020 interview in Vanity Fair, CLICK HERE.

I reached out to another newly elected official, Girmay Zahilay, the King County Councilmember whose district overlaps with our City Council District 4. He emphasized the Elected Officials Pledge and walked me through each of the 5 items. With that additional understanding and information, I committed to the pledge. (The pledge was urged by several organizations including Fuse Washington.)

I reached out to my former opponent at the ballot box Shaun Scott and he emphasized accountability of the police during the protests, such as officers who were allowed to cover up the identification on their badges. I supported the Mayor’s directive to fix that and I supported Public Safety Chair Lisa Herbold’s legislation to make that permanent.

I observed and participated in several demonstrations and marches, some in our District 4 as well as the Silent March from Judkins Park to Jefferson Park organized by Black Lives Matter on June 12, 2020. There are more to come. I also visited the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” to better understand it.

Ron Sims, who administered the oath of office to me in January, wrote about his life experiences and work on racial justice in a June Op Ed in the Seattle Times. “When hope is elusive, only anger and despair remain. The pent-up anger in the Black community is no longer restrained, particularly when hopelessness prevails. What we are witnessing in these times is the product of profound distrust.” Mr. Sims is lifelong public servant, including a former King County Executive and Deputy Secretary of HUD under President Obama. For his story, CLICK HERE.

I went through over 23,000 e-mails including 1,000 from District 4 residents thus far.  As someone who sorted the incoming e-mails for Councilmembers I used to work for (Burgess in Seattle and De La Fuente in Oakland), the e-mails to this new City Council about police accountability and Black Lives Matter during the past three weeks have been different. The passionate surge has been sustained and their demands have been specific and consistent.

I continue to acknowledge my white privilege and my commitment to using it to listen and collaborate with colleagues and community leaders across the spectrum to implement sustainable changes for true public safety that emphasizes community wellness. Below I attempt to explain concepts like “defunding the police” to those who might not be as familiar, but who want to make things better for everyone.

I will make mistakes along the way and I will not make everyone happy as many constituents may argue that my efforts are too slow or too fast or just plain wrong. But this is not about me or any single politician or organization.  It’s about George Floyd, it’s about Breonna Taylor, it’s about the countless black and brown lives who have been victims of law enforcement systems and institutions built with racism — a racism that became painfully more clear for millions of Americans in a horrible, shameful 8 minutes and 46 seconds. We cannot and should not retreat from this moment; they must not have died in vain.

The world is watching,” Ebony Miranda, chair of the organizing group, Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County, told marchers on Friday, June 12, “We are on the precipice of a major shift in the fight for Black liberation,” Miranda said. “This is a marathon, not a sprint. … I ask you: What will you do to make sure we sustain this movement?
I observed and participated in several demonstrations and marches, including the Silent March from Judkins Park to Jefferson Park organized by Black Lives Matter on June 12, 2020.
(photo by Alex Pedersen)

ACTION: The new policies proposed and implemented by the Mayor and/or City Council are numerous and increasing each week. By the time you read this newsletter, new policies are likely being considered and implemented, based on community input and/or completed research or investigations.  For up-to-date information going forward, please see my blog by CLICKING HERE or by using this url: https://pedersen.seattle.gov/

Actions Taken Thus Far (consistent with “The Pledge” shown above):

  • Banning Chokeholds.
  • Banning Chemical Weapons.
  • Uncovering Badges (police may still use tape to mourn fallen officers, but can no longer cover identifying information).
  • Keeping on Body Cameras for accountability purposes.
  • Withdrawing Motion on Police Consent Decree (City Attorney).
  • Withdrawing Challenge to Reformed Inquest Process (City Attorney).
  • Restricting Relationship Between School District and SPD.
  • Transforming Fire Station 6 into Central District community center (CLICK HERE)
  • Declaring Racism as a Public Health Crisis in King County (CLICK HERE).
  • Repealing Loitering Laws that Disproportionately Impacted People of Color (see below).

This Monday, I introduced Council Bill 119808 with Councilmembers Andrew Lewis and Tammy Morales to repeal a law that has had racist outcomes (Section 12A.10.010 of the Seattle Municipal Code). I believe it is vital to support the recommendation of the Seattle Reentry Workgroup to repeal the Prostitution Loitering law, so we eliminate a source of disproportionate harm or jeopardy to people of color from our policing and carceral system. After engagement with community stakeholders, co-sponsoring the repeal of this problematic law is just another initial step I’m taking with my colleagues to help right what has been wrong for too long.

Future Actions:

  • Fix the Police Officer Contract: I will not support a new collective bargaining agreement with our Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) unless it fully implements remaining accountability measures, such as fixing the disciplinary review system in accordance with the 2017 accountability ordinance. While most of our police officers strive to do good work and serve our communities well, they operate within a tainted system that requires unprecedented and systemic change.  Officers are also asked to do the impossible when sent into situations that require not a gun, but a social worker, therapist, or educator (see “defunding” concept below).
  • Restructure Public Safety Budgets to:
    • Demilitarize and De-Escalate
    • Reimagine Public Safety
    • Reinvestment in Marginalized Communities

The City Council has several more meetings to dive into our Police Budget. The first was a breakdown of the budget on June 10. For graphs and data, CLICK HERE. To listen to that first discussion, CLICK HERE (and fast-forward to 2 hours and 22 minutes). This includes not only de-militarizing (which does not generate much financial savings because it’s mostly capital grants already received from the federal government), but also reallocating substantial dollars to community wellness efforts that benefit marginalized communities.

What does “De-Funding” really mean?  There are many articles de-mystifying this term and I provide a few examples below. I encourage those readers who might resist this concept at first to explore it with an open mind as I do over the coming weeks:

(1) For the recently published column in the Washington Post by attorney Christy Lopez, a Georgetown University professor and co-director of the school’s Innovative Policing: CLICK HERE. She writes, “For activists, this conversation is long overdue. But for casual observers, this new direction may seem a bit disorienting — or even alarming. Be not afraid. ‘Defunding the police’ is not as scary (or even as radical) as it sounds, and engaging on this topic is necessary if we are going to achieve the kind of public safety we need.

(2) Ali H. Mokdad, a health specialist at the University of Washington is quoted in a recent New York Times column by Nicholas Kristof:  “Defund the police for certain services and move them to social work” (such as domestic violence, youth offenders, alcoholism, addiction, mental illness, and homelessness). “Having an armed person intervene causes harm sometimes for the person who needs help.” CLICK HERE.

(3) For recent Seattle Times articles exploring the “de-funding” concept, CLICK HERE and HERE.

For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly, destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay.”   — Robert F. Kennedy

You may remember that, during my campaign, I called for more community policing officers. The goal was to improve safety and reduce harm. I understand the goal of true safety — for everyone — can be achieved, however, in different ways. This is part of the “re-imagining” process: to explore how it may be more effective for everyone (including police officers) if professionals other than traditional officers are often called to prevent or respond to certain urgent situations, such as a mental health crisis.

Some colleagues have made passionate statements to defund 50% of the $400 million budget, but I believe we need a more detailed plan before we commit to any specific number.

I agree we need to reallocate dollars in a way that makes a meaningful impact. It’s important to recognize that approximately 80% of the budget is for personnel. Rather than laying off highly trained officers, many of whom joined to serve Seattle, a reallocation could involve re-training of some officers as well as dramatically expanding the recently revived program of un-armed “Community Service Officers.” This would be in addition to finding more dollars for effective community-based programs proven to de-escalate or prevent criminal activity, to keep marginalized people out of the harmful incarceration system, and to treat underlying causes.

LET’S WORK TOGETHER:  I look forward to working in a more collaborative fashion with my fellow elected officials — from our Mayor Jenny Durkan to Councilmembers who have bolder ideas of where to go from here. This is an appropriate time to point out that a big city mayor is one of the toughest jobs in the nation. She manages 40 city departments run by 12,000 employees with a budget of $6.5 billion for over 700,000 people and is juggling several crises at once (including COVID and the failure of the West Seattle Bridge which serves 100,000 people). She was elected to serve for at least four years and her steady presence at the helm is important, despite criticisms along the away. I don’t think it will serve the city well to have our mayor resign in the middle of her term and such request are unproductive and distracting; the election is next year, after all. Interestingly, a King 5 poll published June 16 showed Mayor Durkan with a significantly higher public approval rating than that of the City Council. Regardless, this is not about a single person or a single organization.

[UPDATE: To offer some additional perspective, Councilmember Jeremiah Ellison of Minneapolis, where police brutally and wrongfully killed George Floyd, was a guest at our Budget Committee on June 17 and he was asked about his Mayor. He has had big disagreements with the mayor over policing and budgets, but he disagrees with calls for the mayor to resign there.

Minneapolis Councilmember Jeremiah Ellison told us “I’ve had my disagreements with the Mayor; I’ve been public about them. I’ve had conversations with the mayor about those disagreements, but the truth is that we cannot undercut democracy, and the people of Minneapolis did vote for the mayor.  And so I’m not going to sort of make an executive decision to cut out the people of Minneapolis and their electoral power, their democratic power,  just because I have disagreements with a certain elected official.” 

Certainly, my colleagues who have disagreed with me for many years have never sort of cut me out, knowing full well that my constituents elected me. And so it’s not so much about who I like or whether or not I like their decisions; I could vehemently disagree with their decisions. At the end of the day, this is representative democracy and I cannot disrespect the people of Minneapolis by cutting out an elected [official] that they voted for and selected democratically.  And so we can have those fights, if the mayor wants to disagree on how we move forward, I’m happy to sort of ‘duke it out’ with them, but I won’t cut them out entirely because the people of Minneapolis elected them.

 André Taylor, with his wife, Dove, at left, speaks to community members at the Next Steps rally in Judkins Park in Seattle on Friday. The rally was led by Taylor’s organization Not This Time, formed after his brother Che Taylor was killed by Seattle police in 2016. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

Andre Taylor at “Next Steps” event June 19, 2020. Photo by Seattle Times.

At the “Next Steps” rally on June 19, Andre Taylor, the founder of the criminal justice reform organization Not This Time!, “urged the crowd to support Mayor Jenny Durkan…” (per the Seattle Times). Mr. Taylor said of Mayor Durkan, “This powerful woman beside me, we don’t agree all the time. I don’t have to agree 100% of the time to build with you.”

We need more unity, not division.  I believe Seattle will benefit most when people who may start in different places with different ideas choose to work together toward a common goal: a city that feels truly safe for everyone.

JUNE 15, 2020 UPDATE:

ACTIONS I supported at full City Council today:

  • Banning Chokeholds (CB 119804)
  • Banning Chemical and Other Weapons Against Protesters (CB 119805)
  • Uncovering Badges for Clear Identification of Police Officers (CB 119803)

INTRODUCED REPEAL OF PROBLEMATIC LOITERING LAW: In addition, we introduced legislation I am co-sponsoring with Councilmembers Lewis and Morales (Council Bill 119808) to cancel a problematic law that has had racist outcomes. (Section 12A.10.010 of the Seattle Municipal Code). I believe it is vital to support the recommendation of the Seattle Reentry Workgroup to repeal the Prostitution Loitering law, so we eliminate a source of disproportionate harm or jeopardy to people of color from our policing and carceral system. This is just another initial step I’m taking with my colleagues to help right what has been wrong for far too long. For a link to the press release on the repeals proposed for both loitering laws, CLICK HERE.

JUNE 11 AND 12, 2020 Update:

JOINED MARCH OF SILENCE LED BY BLM: I joined 60,000 other Seattleites in the March of Silence organized by Black Lives Matter (Seattle-King County) during the afternoon on Friday, June 12. For more info from BLM, CLICK HERE. For King 5 news coverage, CLICK HERE.

The world is watching,” Ebony Miranda, chair of the organizing group, Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County, told marchers, “let our silence speak volumes.” “We are on the precipice of a major shift in the fight for Black liberation,” Miranda said. “This is a marathon, not a sprint. … I ask you: What will you do to make sure we sustain this movement? What can you do in your jobs, in your schools?”

JUDGE CONFIRMS EXCESSIVE FORCE BY SPD OFFICERS: Per the Seattle Times on June 12, “A federal judge in Seattle has found evidence that the Seattle Police Department [SPD] used excessive force and violated the free-speech rights of thousands of demonstrators, and has issued a temporary restraining order preventing officers from using pepper spray, tear gas, foam-tipped projectiles or any other force against peaceful protesters.”

MAYOR INITIATES TRANSFER OF FIRE STATION 6 TO CENTRAL DISTRICT FOR COMMUNITY CENTER: This was one of the key requests from the King County Equity Now Coalition. For the news story, CLICK HERE.

RACISM DECLARED PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS: One of the demands of the local Black Lives Matter organization was to declare racism as a public health crisis. King County Executive Dow Constantine and Public Health Director Patty Hayes followed through on June 11 saying they “are committed to working in stronger and better resourced partnerships with community organizations and leaders to disrupt and dismantle racism and protect the health and well-being of Black, Indigenous People and People of Color.” For their declaration, CLICK HERE.

CHAZ / CHOP: I visited the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” (CHAZ) Thursday evening, June 11 after several constituents contacted me with questions and concerns about it. (Recently renamed CHOP which stands for Capitol Hill Organized Protest.) Here’s what I observed: peaceful crowds, mourning, community, and passionate demands for re-imagining public safety. The blossoming street mural on Pine Street is beautiful and powerful. I believe we can craft a sustainable path to create more long-term community space in the area and ensure there is true safety for everyone. For initial articles on CHAZ/CHOP by the first Seattle Times, CLICK HERE and HERE. For the discussions between organizers and our Fire Department and Seattle Department of Transportation, CLICK HERE.

photo by Alex Pedersen

JUNE 10, 2020 Update:

POLICE BUDGET: Today we started to examine the budget of our police department at the Budget Committee chaired by Teresa Mosqueda with questions led by Public Safety & Human Services Committee chair Lisa Herbold. For a link to the informative presentation by our City Council analysts, CLICK HERE. I made it clear that I heard from my constituents that we must de-militarize our police force. In addition, we’re overdue to re-imagine public safety. We have nine more budget committee meetings to close the COVID-caused budget deficit of over $300 million for this calendar year.

What does the term “de-funding” mean?  There are many articles de-mystifying this term and here are a few examples:

(1) For the recently published column in the Washington Post by attorney Christy Lopez, a Georgetown University professor and co-director of the school’s Innovative Policing: CLICK HERE. She writes, “For activists, this conversation is long overdue. But for casual observers, this new direction may seem a bit disorienting — or even alarming. Be not afraid. ‘Defunding the police’ is not as scary (or even as radical) as it sounds, and engaging on this topic is necessary if we are going to achieve the kind of public safety we need.

(2) Ali H. Mokdad, a health specialist at the University of Washington is quoted in a recent New York Times column by Nicholas Kristof:  “Defund the police for certain services and move them to social work” (such as domestic violence, youth offenders, alcoholism, addiction, mental illness, and homelessness). “Having an armed person intervene causes harm sometimes for the person who needs help.” CLICK HERE.

(3) For recent Seattle Times articles exploring the “de-funding” concept, CLICK HERE and HERE.

SCHOOL DISTRICT RE-EXAMINES OFFICERS AT SCHOOLS: “The Seattle School Board advanced a proposal Wednesday calling for a one-year moratorium on a partnership between Seattle Public Schools (SPS) and the Seattle Police Department, an arrangement that provides five armed police officers across five city schools.” For the Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.

WALLINGFORD RESIDENTS SUPPORTING BLACK LIVES MATTER: I joined Wallingford residents Wednesday night at their peaceful demonstration on the sidewalks at Stone Way and N. 45th Street to support Black Lives Matter. Good conversations with the organizers. Lots of support from cars and cyclists. Will be participating in the citywide march this Friday, too.

JUNE 8 and June 9, 2020 Update:

I JOINED THE PLEDGE: After consulting with County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay (whose district overlaps District 4) who crafted this pledge from community input and — after listening to hundreds of my constituents who contacted me over the past several days — I have signed this pledge:

While I typically do not sign pledges (in order to give more time and flexibility to conduct research, listen to more constituents, consult other stakeholders, and allow for deliberations among my elected colleagues), these are extraordinary times. I also signed the related letter to Mayor Durkan circulated today by Public Safety Chair Lisa Herbold at the City Council meeting.

IMMEDIATE LEGISLATIVE FIXES: There will be legislation for our City Council to vote on within the next week that I plan to support:

  • Ban chokeholds.
  • Ban chemical agents.
  • Fix how mourning badges are used, so that the identification information remains visible.

But that is just a start on the legislative front. There will be in-depth discussions on the budget, for example, and how best to allocate resources to benefit our communities. For my remarks at the City Council Briefing (June 8), CLICK HERE.

DE-ESCALATING CAPITOL HILL: Mayor Durkan ordered removal of street barricades near the East Precinct police station on Capitol Hill in an attempt to de-escalate. For the Mayor’s announcement, CLICK HERE.

BODY CAMS: Mayor Durkan issued an Executive Order requiring police officers to keep on their body cameras during demonstrations. (Issued June 8 and signed June 10). For a long-term solution that balances this important accountability tool with individual privacy rights, the Mayor has asked “the City of Seattle’s Police oversight entities – the Community Police Commission, Office of Police Accountability, and Office of Inspector General…to immediately work with City Council and convene a stakeholder engagement process that invites: Black Lives Matter of Seattle-King County, ACLU of Washington, the King County Department of Public Defense, and any other organizations interested in participating in a civic engagement process to develop a recommendation on policy to submit to City Council regarding the use of body-worn cameras during demonstrations, and particularly the privacy and First Amendment concerns and Public Records Act.” For the Mayor’s entire order, CLICK HERE.

CITY ATTORNEY WITHDRAWS INQUEST CHALLENGE: As explained in the Seattle Times, “…Seattle would withdraw a legal challenge against King County’s revamped rules for inquests into police killings. The rules would bar officers from testifying about their state of mind and would allow inquests to delve into their disciplinary histories. The city’s challenge, which has come under added scrutiny in the past week, opposed those changes and others.” Pete Holmes announced, “After hearing from community voices and our Seattle City Councilmembers, and after conferring with our police chief, I intend to withdraw the City of Seattle from the lawsuit challenging the revised King County inquest process.” For the City Attorney’s press release, CLICK HERE.

JUNE 7, 2020 Update:

With reports of the Seattle Police Department using tear gas on protesters in Capitol Hill last night (Saturday, June 6) — despite the Mayor’s earlier directive not to use tear gas — I believe legislative fixes are warranted sooner rather than later. I look forward to working with my City Council colleagues to take stronger action this week.

JUNE 5, 2020 Update:

TEAR GAS: Mayor Durkan says tear gas should no longer be used at these public protests, as recommended by police accountability officials: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/watchdog-groups-to-seattles-mayor-and-police-chief-spd-should-stop-using-tear-gas-on-demonstrators/ [See update where some police officers fail to follow this directive.]

CROWD CONTROL: Mayor Durkan requested accountability organizations to produce additional recommendations to update crowd control techniques previously approved by consent decree monitor and federal judge. For the Mayor’s letter, CLICK HERE.

DEMONSTRATIONS: Meanwhile, I joined District 4 neighbors who poured onto Ravenna sidewalks and into Maple Leaf Reservoir Park this afternoon to show support for Black Lives Matter.

JUNE 4, 2020 Update:

WITHDRAWING MOTION ON CONSENT DECREE; ENDING CURFEWS: In response to requests from peaceful protesters, community leaders, your City Council, and their own assessments of quickly evolving events, the City Attorney withdrew the City’s controversial motion to the federal judge on the police consent decree and Mayor Durkan ended the controversial curfews.

CITY COUNCIL STARTS TO WEIGH IN: For my comments about the need for police accountability at the June 3 Public Safety & Human Services Committee, CLICK HERE. Go to 3:34:43 (3 hours, 34 minutes, and 43 seconds into the listening session with community members, the Mayor’s Office/Police Chief, and police accountability officials). I’m glad I was able to deliver these same remarks to the Wallingford Community Council in District 4 where I was a guest at their virtual meeting the same evening.

This past weekend, I joined neighbors in the peaceful march in Northeast Seattle, organized by passionate students of Nathan Hale High School, to show Black Lives Matter and to decry the wrongful killing of George Floyd and the history of institutional racism.  Monday night, after our City Council meeting, I observed for several hours the restraint and professionalism exercised by several Seattle police officers from the North Precinct who communicated with protesters to keep events as peaceful as possible in Northeast Seattle.  I would also like to commend our city’s firefighters and other first responders who helped to extinguish fires started by a small subset of protesters.

However, I also watched several deeply disturbing videos of how some police officers reacted to protesters in downtown during the past few evenings. These disturbing events are why I supported efforts by our City Council President and Public Safety Committee Chair to have the Mayor’s Office and Police Chief come before the City Council this week, even as new protests were underway.

The relatively new, civilian-led Office of Police Accountability has already acknowledged in a formal statement posted on their website that they are investigating the facts to get to the bottom of many questions, including the manner in which police officer badges were covered, why officer body cameras were kept off, how police rifles were stolen, why crowds of Seattle residents were engaged and dispersed by some police officers using disturbing tactics that made things worse, and whether any peaceful protesters arrested or charged can be released/have their records cleared. 

I believe immediate improvements can be made. For example, the police chief could require officers, who respectfully use dark tape to mourn officers who died in the line of duty, to affix the tape in a manner that does not cover up their name or badge number. (UPDATE: SPD listened and updated their policy on mourning badges, which can be viewed by CLICKING HERE. )

Many constituents – ranging from those who highly value our professional police officers to those who have had  negative experiences with police departments — want to know whether Seattle’s evolving system of accountability – which now includes the Community Police Commission, the Office of Inspector General, and the Office of Police Accountability — can make sure any police officers who engaged in misconduct (including excessive force) face justice. Many constituents want to know whether the federal consent decree can remain in place for longer, whether the new labor contract with our 1,300 police officers will incorporate additional police reforms, and whether City leaders will thoroughly re-examine how we allocate our city budget dollars to ensure we do no further harm.

Many people wrote to say they would like their city government to “defund” our Police Department by sharply redirecting their annual tax dollars toward human services programs. I definitely believe we should reconsider the dollars previous City Councils approved to obtain and maintain military-style weapons in our city. We should also look hard at reallocating what we can toward effective community-based programs. At the same, I believe we need to retain funding sufficient to recruit and retain properly trained police officers from diverse backgrounds, to reduce response times for neighborhoods, to expand community policing, to reduce overtime expenses (so that police officers are not overworked), and to support reviving the Community Service Officer program of unarmed officers. The City Council’s Budget Committee will be reviewing, debating, and adopting the City budget in the Fall.

I have a strong track record of supporting effective programs for marginalized communities including tens of thousands of units of low-income housing for people who had been experiencing homelessness and culturally competent preschool and childcare programs, including the nationally acclaimed Seattle Preschool Program and Nurse Family Partnership. 

There is much work to do.  The systemic and institutional racism that prompted these protests needs to be addressed and the way some police officers reacted to protesters needs to be addressed. This is going to take sustained effort and I am prepared to support additional reforms and improvements based on the results of investigations into these troubling incidents. At the same time, I believe in a wonderful future for Seattle and our nation and I am hopeful we can come together as a compassionate and committed community; advance and solidify public safety reform and accountability; and secure peace, equity, and justice here in Seattle.

MAY 31, 2020 (original post):

Black Lives Matter. The call to action from Martin Luther King, Jr. decades ago — that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” — sadly rang true once again as we protested the wrongful killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers. The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis follows the long history of police accountability problems and institutional racism throughout our nation.

On Saturday, May 30, community members across Seattle came together to grieve, protest, and commit themselves to the cause of justice. Coming together is a constitutional right our nation has honored and cherished for centuries.

From the morning to the afternoon, individuals marched and gathered peacefully. They pledged that George Floyd will not have died in vain. They called upon police officers and policymakers to do more to advance police reforms and accountability here and throughout our fragile nation.

I participated on foot in the peaceful march and caravan in Northeast Seattle, organized that morning by students of Nathan Hale High School. As with the afternoon protesters downtown, we were building community with our collective concern and action, which is so necessary during these terrible times.

However, late Saturday afternoon, some demonstrations downtown swiftly turned violent with rogue protesters setting multiple fires and throwing objects not only harming our first responders and local businesses already stretched and struggling during the pandemic, but also endangering peaceful protesters. The disturbing events also generated many questions and concerns about whether some police officers reacted with unnecessary or excessive force.

MAYOR’S EMERGENCY ORDERS AND REPORT TO COUNCIL:

Due to the dangerous circumstances downtown Saturday evening — including fires — I understand the rationale for our Mayor Jenny Durkan to institute a temporary curfew for public safety (for evenings of Saturday, May 29 and Sunday, May 30). Any future use of curfews should be carefully scrutinized and with sufficient advanced warning.

This weekend I also supported the call by our City Council President Lorena Gonzalez and Public Safety Committee Chair Lisa Herbold for City Council to receive a full report from the Mayor’s Office during a public Council meeting that we are scheduling for Wednesday, June 3. The Council must get answers to several concerns raised by the general public. In addition, the relatively new, civilian-run Office of Police Accountability has received thousands of complaints that it will be investigating.

Here is a link to the Mayor’s press releases, including details about the temporary curfew: http://www.seattle.gov/mayor/newsroom

Here’s a link to the Mayor’s temporary weekend curfewhttps://durkan.seattle.gov/…/u…/sites/9/2020/05/0899_001.pdf

Here is a link to the Mayor’s Proclamation of Civil Emergencyhttps://durkan.seattle.gov/…/u…/sites/9/2020/05/0897_001.pdf

OTHER RESOURCES FOR INFO AND ACTION:

  • For a timeline from the Seattle Police Department, CLICK HERE.
  • To sign up for alerts from your city government, CLICK HERE.

I believe in a wonderful future for Seattle and our nation and I am hopeful we can come together again as a compassionate and committed community, so we can advance the gains we have made for police reform and accountability here in Seattle. There is much work to do.

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