At public safety candidates forum, Orion makes call to ‘stabilize’ force, Sawant makes statement by passing on Seattle Police Officer Guild event

(Image: @brandikruse)

In mid-May, just six weeks after announcing his bid for the Seattle City Council, Egan Orion moderated a panel on summer safety for the now-defunct Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce. A big topic of discussion that day was the understaffing of the Seattle Police Department.

SPD East Precinct commander Capt. Bryan Grenon noted at the meeting that the department was down several officers on all watches and that in his 28 years on the force, they’ve never had officers to spare.

So Orion came into Wednesday’s candidate forum hosted by the Seattle Police Officers Guild to prove his mettle on one of the biggest issues plaguing the city and the district. And what was the first issue he brought up in his opening statement?

“We’re losing police officers faster than we can hire them on the SPD,” Orion said. “Public safety is an essential part of our every day lives, of course.”

Kshama Sawant, Orion’s competitor and the most vocal Seattle Police critic on the current council, chose to make her statement by not attending Wednesday’s forum that included at least one candidate from all seven council seats up for election next month.

“Far too often, the conversation on police accountability has had to start at the grassroots level in the wake of tragic events, with the political establishment rushing to catch up, and the SPOG standing in opposition,” Sawant said in a statement. “I stand with the Movement for Black Lives, which has called for independently elected community oversight boards with full powers over police departments.”

Orion, who lives in the Central District, said Wednesday night that his neighborhood this year has dealt with a spate of shootings, including the death of 19-year-old Royale Lexing in May. After these shootings, the council in June hosted a hearing in the CD with members of several city departments and SPD on gun violence attended by Sawant.

Sawant cast the only vote against the city’s proposed contract with the SPOG, which has over 1,300 members, almost a year ago, arguing that it would roll back necessary provisions in the city’s new police accountability law.

U.S. District Judge James Robart found the city out of compliance with a federal consent decree on police reform. He specifically cited concerns about weaknesses in Seattle’s officer accountability system, which were largely due to the contract between the city and the SPOG.

Orion spoke on this Wednesday, saying “we do need accountable, constitutional policing and we also need to stabilize our force and celebrate the great work that officers are doing everyday out in our streets.” He called for rebuilding trust between the police and the neighborhoods they serve, especially communities of color and the LGBTQ+ community.

UPDATE: We have updated our headline on this post after being contacted by Orion about our characterization that he called for “more cops” at the forum. “I’m saying we need to be able to hire as many officers as we are losing so that the size of our force is constant,” Orion wrote. “‘More cops’ makes it sound like I want a much larger police force. That’s not what I said.” CHS has updated the headline.

He said SPD’s East Precinct, located on Capitol Hill, is doing a “great job with outreach, but we can always do more.”

With Sawant not in attendance, the forum moderators asked Orion about the lawsuit filed against the council member last year by two officers alleging she defamed them when she publicly called the officer-involved shooting of Che Taylor a “brutal murder” motivated by race. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit.

“We’ve set up these systems to hold folks accountable and get to the truth,” Orion said. “I want to respect the process; I think that it’s robust. Is there more that we can do? Absolutely and I think that when’s there a chance to renegotiate the SPOG contract, we could do that, but let’s respect the contract.”

Orion told independent journalist Erica C. Barnett last month that, “You can force the contract to be reopened, but I think that’s my final potential way forward. That will make the police very angry. So I’m standing with the unions on this one for now.”

Sawant still got her positions on policing in Seattle and SPOG on the record, meanwhile, arguing in her statement that both the political establishment and the union bear responsibility for the issues the city is facing.

“It is unfortunate that the rest of the City Council ratified a police contract last year that rolled back the hard-fought accountability, despite opposition from more than two-dozen community groups​, and a joint statement from 40 from union members and leaders​,” she wrote. “As a public-sector union member myself, I strongly believe w​ age and benefit increases cannot be pitted against the need for workers to also stand united against racism​, and the best moments of the labor movement have seen workers of all races and genders fight together for workplace rights and against oppression.”

“SPOG has opposed any genuine discussion about accountability on numerous occasions,” the incumbent said.

Ballots for the general election will be mailed out October 16 and drop boxes will open the next day. They won’t close until the evening of November 5. Voters will have a chance to listen to the candidates in several more forums before the race is decided, including another debate on police accountability in Beacon Hill on the day ballots go out. Sawant’s statement said she would take part in that forum.


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20 thoughts on “At public safety candidates forum, Orion makes call to ‘stabilize’ force, Sawant makes statement by passing on Seattle Police Officer Guild event

  1. Hmm.

    As an elected official you have to work with constructively with the police, so I really dislike that Sawant didn’t even show up to discuss.

    But I also think the contract should be reopened, so I disagree with Orion here. I think Council members (and other electeds – hello Mayor Durkan) have a big role to play in not negotiating away basic rights for citizens. If police want a pay raise and more officers, that’s one thing. We’ve already gone way too far with bargaining on accountability and need to dial that back.

  2. While waiting for the City Council to start serving the people of the City of Seattle, Seattle residents can start recording the actions of every single cop, every single day. Seattle residents can profile the cops, keeping track of those who honor the uniform and those who don’t.
    This is the 21st Century, most of us have tools in our pockets to collect and compare information and use it to take back control of our lives from the “powers that be.” We don’t have to be passive victims any more.

  3. Civil discourse is the first step to making a compromise.
    Evan is willing to listen and compromise.
    Kshama does not listen and spouts her party’s agenda.
    There is a clear choice here.

  4. OF COURSE COPS WANT MORE COPS. WHAT WR NEED IS FEWER COPS. I swear to God it’s so funny watching the masses sleepwalking through life: birth, do as told, childhood. Do as told. Teen. Do as told. Adulthood. Give 45 years to employers then retire on a quiet street, hopefully without those pesky homeless and rot with your white wine for the last 10 years of your miserable uninspired and robotic life. As a Buddhist I think you’ll all be back again and again u Tim you get it. Being born is not an automatic obligation to support corporate America and to have to pay pay pay….my life is worth more than all the money in the world co.bined. so is yours. Act like it.

    • Griefies…. what are you so angry about…. someone put sour milk on your oatmeal this morning?

      Sorry, but I wasn’t raised by people who advised me to ‘do as told’, nor have I lived my life in a particularly traditional manner, but that never stopped me from personally wanting to achieve certain goals and it certainly doesn’t stop me from desiring some measure of civility and security in my surroundings.

      I am not so naive as to believe that there aren’t people out there who have zero morals or empathy and will do bad things without thinking twice nor do I believe that I deserve to have bad things done to me simply because there people who want things that they don’t have and feel they have the right to take them.

      Nor do I believe in Darwinism – wherein I would only get to keep what I can personally fight off all others for… so we ask other people that we call police to see to it for us. When we stress them by keeping them undermanned and/or under resourced it shouldn’t be a surprise when they have difficulty doing their job well or react disproportionately to certain situations…..

      Give them what they need to do their jobs properly – enough staffing that they don’t have to ignore anything less than a high priority call, that they aren’t always fearing that they could possibly be facing a dangerous situation alone, give them time to get to know the people they are serving, give them professionals who know how to deal with someone having an mental health crisis, so that they aren’t being expected to be protector and counselor all at once.

      Oh and BTW, I’m not particularly into white wine, but I’m guessing I enjoy my life a whole heck of lot more than you appear to… You sound miserable.

  5. So Sawant loves all unions and their right to fight for the benefit of their members above all else… except for police unions.

    The reason there are bad cops is that it is near impossible to get rid of one because that is exactly how the contract is designed… which is exactly the same for other city employees, teachers, parks employees, etc. Unions look out for their members above all else in a similar fashion as corporations only look out for their shareholders above all else (although with unions is a legal contract and for corporations it’s ingrained culture and annual shareholder votes).

    FYI, Sawant has voted no on every single vote that has come up affecting SPD, whether it is a benefit for the police or a needed reform because, and I’m not kidding, she is 100% against the police, wants them disbanded, and replaced with some sort of people socialist security force. Don’t need to believe me, believe the SA internal documents and follow up statements that she 100% supports them https://sccinsight.com/2019/01/07/sa-sawant/

    Well, the one thing Sawant/SA voted yes on was Carmen Best appointment to chief. Out of unwavering revolutionary principal they wanted to no but decided in this case to vote yes for political gain https://sccinsight.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Understanding-our-Vote-on-Carmen-Best-EC-Leter-to-NC-and-BC.pdf

    You want police reform? Sawant is not going to give it to you. Want to block all police reform until the time that police can be disbanded and replaced? Well, I guess she’s your only hope.

  6. If sawant refuses to attend, why do you feel it is okay to publish a statement by her on this issue?
    She gave up that right by not attending.
    Was really hoping that all the comments about chs being biased in favor of sawant was not true, but getting harder and harder to believe that.

  7. Typical of Sawant to not show up for a forum sponsored by a group she vehemently opposes, and where she would face some tough questions. Cowardly….and arrogant….of her.

    Something tells me she would (in private) also use the word “pig” to describe all police officers.

  8. I have come across some bad cops in my lifetime, but I also have come across some good ones too. I can guarantee you that if needed, Sawant would be the first one to call 911 for help if someone was mugging her, robbing her house, or physically violating her. It seems so many hate the police until they need one. Make it easier to get rid of bad cops, but don’t paint all of them with the same paintbrush. AND no, I am NOT a white straight male who doesn’t know how it feels to be harassed by SOME police officers.

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