Central District speaks up in search for a new Seattle Police Chief

In her first public discussion about Seattle’s search for a new chief of police, Mayor Jenny Durkan came to a Central District community group representing some of the rawest, most challenging relationships to law enforcement in the city.

“We respect the office because we believe that engagement and communication and respect can get us a long way,” Andre Taylor said Wednesday night at a meeting of Not This Time, the Central District community group focused on reducing fatal police shootings. Taylor’s group is fresh off victory after Governor Jay Inslee signed into law new regulations changing the state’s standard for malice in police shootings and providing improved resources for law enforcement de-escalation, first aid and mental health training.

Many in the crowd Wednesday night had lost family to police shootings.

“This is the first public hearing that we’ve had when we talk about the search for the new police chief. It was very important for me to be here,” Durkan said in front of a crowd of around 50 people including the mothers of Daniel Covarrubias, gunned down by Lakewood Police in 2015, and Eugene Nelson, killed by Kent Police last summer. Taylor’s brother Che Taylor was killed by Seattle Police in 2016 — last spring, an inquest jury found the shooting justified.

While police shootings were at the forefront for many, the opportunity to truly help select Seattle’s next police chief and make sure the new department leader reflects the community was a paramount concern. “How do we replace negative culture with positive culture,” K. Wyking Garrett of Africatown asked the mayor, “not just within our community but within the law enforcement community as well?” Garrett suggested the candidates for chief should read material like The New Jim Crow and “take on the content” and explain how they would apply it to leading SPD.

The South Seattle Emerald also covered Wednesday night’s meeting.

In addition to meeting with community groups, Durkan is touting an online survey in her search for a permanent police chief as an opportunity for a more inclusive process.

After three years on the job, Ed Murray-selected Kathleen O’Toole stepped down from her post as Seattle’s police chief as Durkan took office. Durkan was gracious Wednesday night in crediting O’Toole with helping to guide SPD reform following the Justice Department consent decree that came out of an eight-month DOJ investigation of Seattle policing released in winter 2011 that revealed troubling findings about the department’s use of force. SPD’s overhaul included a DOJ-approved use of force policy.

The crowd was less enthusiastic about the previous chief with speakers saying they believe O’Toole had been too disconnected from Black Seattle and had gone back on promises of a more inclusive approach to policing.

Interim Chief Carmen Best, the first Black woman to lead the department, was not in attendance but was a strong presence. A speaker from Mothers for Police Accountability said Best has a strong base in the community and continues to listen. The speaker was also concerned about how Best might fare in the mayor’s survey with what she said is a bias toward candidates who have previously served as a police chief. Lisa Daugaard of the Public Defender Association, meanwhile, told the story of Best’s work to bring true justice in the William Wingate arrest. Daugaard said Wednesday night that it was Best who heard from the community about the situation surrounding the arrest of the 69-year-old retired veteran, setting the wheels in motion for SPD brass to get involved and exonerate Wingate.

25-member Police Search Committee has also been formed to “assist in a national search process to find the best candidates for Seattle’s next police chief.”

No public timeframe for hiring a permanent chief has been announced.

Durkan will be back in the CD Thursday night for a “community workshop” on the police chief search. “The workshops, including one for Seattle’s young people, are open to all Seattle residents and are an opportunity to share their thoughts about what characteristics and experience is needed in the City’s next police chief,” the city’s announcement reads.

Community Workshops for Chief of Police Search
Thursday, March 15th 5:30pm-7:30pm
East – Garfield Community Center 2323 E Cherry St


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2 thoughts on “Central District speaks up in search for a new Seattle Police Chief

  1. I can’t say I’ve ever been impressed with any of the Seattle police chiefs I’ve seen since I came here in the mid 80’s. They’ve all seemed so remote from the people. It’s like they don’t have the time to rub elbow’s with the civilians.

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