Saying the city had reached a “crisis of confidence in public safety,” Mayor Ed Murray called for a litany of public safety initiatives and reforms on Wednesday, promising to create citizen oversight of the police department, create 500 new summer jobs for teens, and to work with state officials to require background checks for all gun sales in Washington.
In one of his most impassioned speeches since taking office, Murray announced his “Compact for a Safe Seattle” before a special session of the Seattle City Council. The announcements come in the wake of several high profile shootings, and some that received less attention.
“It’s tough sitting down with a mother whose son was gunned down just blocks from her house,” Murray said Wednesday.
Earlier this month two gay men were gunned down at 29th and King. The motives behind the shooting are still unclear but police have yet to rule out a possible hate crime. Police have identified suspects but the crime remains unsolved.
Monday, Murray swore in his choice to lead his police force, new SPD Chief Kathleen O’Toole.
After years of calls for increased police accountability, Murray said he would separate the Office of Professional Accountability from SPD and provide the office with citizen oversight. Murray didn’t detail how the oversight would work or how those citizens would obtain to their positions.
One of the mayor’s first actions will be hitting the streets at 23rd and Jackson for his first of many promised “find-it-fix-it community walks,” where he and other officials will walk troubled areas to identify and address graffiti, street lighting, and litter. There are no walks planned for Capitol Hill this summer — unless you count Murray taking a stroll for coffee in his home neighborhood.
The strongest moments of the speech came when Murray lambasted Seattle for allowing an astonishing 54% of black children live in poverty compared to 6% of white children.
“No one is hurt more by crime than the poorest,” Murray said. “And in this city, as in most cities, we cannot talk about poverty without talking about race.”
Murray also said the city would work with existing community partnerships to create 500 more summer jobs for teens and continue to expand the program next year. “It is often said nothing stops a bullet like a job,” he said.
To further address teen violence, the mayor’s Summer of Safety initiative would:
- Extend hours at our community centers and parks to provide more programming geared at both youth and young adults during the day and in the evening hours
- Expand out-of-school time social hours for teens at local libraries
- Close neighborhood streets for a day of activities and games
And as some on Capitol Hill prepare this week for the revival of a Q-Patrol-style citizen safety group, Murray appeared to support such efforts by calling for more citizens to get involved with neighborhood watch and patrol groups.
The mayor’s full plan is outlined below: