Seattle vigil follows police shootings as city attempts at SPD reform continue — UPDATE

UPDATE 9:53 PM: Around 2,000 people rallied and marched through downtown Seattle Thursday night with a handful of skirmishes with police reported.

Meanwhile, Chief O’Toole has “directed officers to work in pairs as much as possible,” according to the Seattle Times, after Dallas officers were killed and injured in an ambush style attack during an anti-police violence march in that city.

UPDATE 7/8/2016 1:55 PM: Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole has issued a statement on the Dallas shootings and confirmed that SPD officers will work in pairs. The chief also touched on the department’s use of force reform efforts in her statement. “The Seattle Police Department will continue to work with all of our city’s communities to ensure that police officers do not use unnecessary force, that children are safe on their streets and in their schools, and the brave men and women of the SPD all go home to their loved ones at the end of the day,” O’Toole said.

Original report: Black Lives Matter activists have called for a vigil and rally in Seattle’s Westlake Park Thursday night to mark the latest in a continuing string of police killings of black men across the nation:

#BlackLivesMatter Stand with Andre Taylor and Not This Time against the rash of police shootings against Americans who are detained or in custody; the most recent death: Alton Sterling. Demonstrate to Seattle and WA State Government that the citizens of this city and State, will no longer tolerate country-wide the continued homicides by police officers without independent investigation and with indeterminate accountability. The Community speaks!

Seattle Police officials and Seattle City Hall have so far been silent on the two latest deadly shootings that have sparked a wave of protest after being caught on video and widely shared around the world. UPDATE: The mayor’s office has scheduled a 3:30 PM media conference to “deliver remarks on the recent officer involved shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota.”

UPDATE 3:50 PM: Flanked by members of his cabinet, Mayor Ed Murray spoke on the pain and sadness of the deadly police shootings and defended his office’s dedication to reforming the Seattle Police Department and deploying body cameras across the entire force.

“I know that the black community is walking with a heavy heart, and with a sense of outrage, a sense of injustice, and fear. Had (Philando) Castillo and Sterling been white, I believe that they would be alive today,” Murray said. Coming days are “not going to be easy as a result of these shootings,” Murray said before turning his attention to the problems of race and policing in his own city.

These are challenging times for setting the future of policing in Seattle. With SPD praised last year for its progress while under a federal consent decree because of the department’s excessive use of force, hopes for further progress in a new contract for the rank and file have faded with leaked details of the nearly completed negotiations. The bargaining position of Murray — and his fed-friendly choice to lead SPD in Chief Kathleen O’Toole through reform — appears to be weaker than hoped. Last week on the Friday of the long 4th of July holiday weekend, he quietly announced the city’s police misconduct investigator Pierce Murphy and independent auditor Anne Levinson were being cut loose, a move which the police union greeted as “very good news” via Twitter.

Thursday, Murray defended the changes around misconduct investigations and said his goal was not to damage the reform process but to create a new independent organization to review SPD use of force. The proposed force review board would examine every serious use of force and would include representatives from the DOJ, the federal monitoring team, an SPD accountability rep, and a community representative. Meanwhile, Murray repeated his desire to shape an independent community commission to oversee all aspects of SPD.

O’Toole did not attend the Thursday conference. The chief is in Washington D.C. speaking on race and policing at the Center for Police Equity.

The mayor admitted Thursday that proposals like an independent commission and review board are still subject to the ongoing negotiations with the police union.

Seattle estimates consent decree reforms have cost the department $40 million,“including $6 million or more per year to hire more sergeants to improve the ratio of supervisors to cops on the street.” Meanwhile, other federal policing solutions appear to be making swifter progress. SPD worked with the ATF and FBI to install surveillance cameras in areas around the city including the Central District in 2015. Gunshot detection tech powered by federal funding is likely next.

Other elements of reform may come at the state level. I-873 could “change the state law on deadly force and make it easier to prosecute police officers who kill” by striking “state of mind language” from the statute governing prosecution of deadly police shootings in Washington.

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3 thoughts on “Seattle vigil follows police shootings as city attempts at SPD reform continue — UPDATE

  1. I noticed your article recently about Business Tax increases going toward the SPD. I think now might be the time to call your Seattle representative and ensure that any additional money going to the SPD is contingent on them following the DOJ recommendation after their numerous Civil Rights violations against the citizens of Seattle.

    • The DOJ isn’t simply “recommending” changes. There is a court ordered consent decree and the court maintains jurisdiction over the case to ensure that the settlement is followed.

      There is also a independent court appointed police monitor who oversees consent decree implementation and compliance – http://www.seattlemonitor.com/

      By no means is SPD off the hook.

    • When is DOJ (or anyone) going to look at the King County Jail (which is not part of SPD)? Horrible abuses go on there every day and cameras only cover what goes on in open areas, not what goes on in cells. Use of force is not monitored by anyone and officers involved in use of force sit down and write their reports together vs. giving individual statements. If you can drag someone in to an isolation cell and THEN use of force occurs where there is no camera, what good are the cameras? Why are people left in booking on metal benches for 18 hours at a time when DOJ rules say 4 hours max? Why are mentally ill people who are not aware of their surroundings AT ALL marked as “refused court” day after day after day while held in isolation with no representation?