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Sawant vs. Orion on police accountability: ‘Public safety problems are not because we don’t have enough police, it’s because of inequality’

It was a busy 24 hours for police accountability in Seattle.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge James Robart issued a ruling clarifying that the city still needs to correct issues in its police accountability system. These problems led Robart to rule earlier this year that the Seattle Police Department had fallen partly out of compliance with a 2012 federal consent decree mandating that the city address allegations of bias in policing and the use of excessive force.

Robart also ruled Tuesday that, in finding ways to mend flaws in the SPD’s internal investigations of officer misconduct, Seattle may consult outside advisers.

And on Wednesday, an internal SPD inquiry found that an officer acted reasonably when he shot and killed a man armed with a handgun after a traffic stop last year, a shooting that has drawn deep scrutiny.

So Wednesday’s night’s police accountability forum at Centilia Cultural Center in Beacon Hill with candidates from many of the Seattle City Council races, was timely to say the least. And this time, both Kshama Sawant and Egan Orion were there.

The Seattle Police Officers Guild hosted an event last week that Sawant declined to attend. “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 on her boycott. “I stand with the Movement for Black Lives, which has called for independently elected community oversight boards with full powers over police departments.”

UPDATE: Thursday, the Seattle Police Officers Guild released its endorsements. The group chose not to make an endorsement in the District 3 race.

Wednesday night, Sawant and Orion found some shared ground — removing the statute of limitations for allegations of extreme police misconduct and on requiring consistent accountability systems for officers of all ranks.

“There’s no statute of limitations on the harm that this causes the victims, and so there shouldn’t be a statute of limitations on the perpetrator either,” Orion said.

Sawant took her calls one step further, adding there should be an explicit “whistleblower protection” for witnesses that could be intimidated in misconduct cases and that equal accountability is “a very initial, first step, but we need to go beyond that.”

The Seattle Police Management Association , the union representing higher-ranked SPD officials, is set to begin negotiations with the city in December, according to the forum’s moderator.

The incumbent also called for full subpoena power for the SPD’s Office of Police Accountability to obtain information on officers, an issue that Robart cited in his ruling that the city was out of compliance with the consent decree. She also argued that there should be an independently elected body that also has subpoena power.

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. She said Wednesday that she doesn’t think she’ll be able to serve on the Labor Relations Policy Committee, which deals with issues related to union negotiations, because of political pressures.

“I don’t think the political establishment will allow me to be on the LRPC because it’s very clear which side I am on,” Sawant said. She reiterated her support for unions, but “we have to make sure we understand that we’re talking about the police. Yes, they have the right to bargain for their wages and benefits but they are officers with guns and so there is a question of racial racism and excessive use of police force.”

Orion said he would like to serve on the LRPC and called the council’s 2017 police accountability ordinance, which implemented a three-layer oversight system, the “gold standard.”

“Negotiations are an iterative process,” he said. “You win some and you lose some and I realize that this is very dear to many people in this room because these negotiations have direct consequences on your lives, but when you’re negotiating between the city and the union, you try to get as much as possible.”

Both candidates agreed that officers working off duty in uniform but hired by outside employers need to be held to the same standards they would on duty. Orion noted that with understaffing at the SPD, he would rather they do conventional police work.

The Broadway Business Improvement Area head argued that most police officers currently want oversight to the chagrin of some attendees.

“There’s no doubt that the vast majority of cops out there serving their communities want to have accountability reform out there; they’re trying to win back the trust of the community where they’ve lost that trust,” Orion said. “I think that we should encourage there to be a movement from within the police officers to support these accountability measures.”

Sawant, meanwhile, said that public safety is not an issue because of a lack of cops — while her opponent told the Seattle Times that the city needs to “stabilize” its police force — but because of more systemic problems.

“Public safety problems are not because we don’t have enough police, it’s because of inequality,” said Sawant, who mentioned research on this issue and quoted writer James Baldwin in her answer. “We want to address public safety? Let’s make sure we tax big business and fund public schools, end racism and oppression and fund housing.”

Ballots for the general election have been mailed out and drop boxes are now open. They won’t close until the evening of November 5.

Much of the attention on the race for D3 this week turned to money after Amazon tossed another million into CASE, the political arm of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. With $241,257 already spent on his behalf by CASE (mostly on mail and canvassing), D3 candidate Orion is its largest beneficiary

You can find all CHS Election 2019 coverage here.

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59 thoughts on “Sawant vs. Orion on police accountability: ‘Public safety problems are not because we don’t have enough police, it’s because of inequality’

  1. There’s a reason software engineers aren’t out there wielding guns and committing petty theft, and trust me, it’s not because we’re morally advanced.

    • It’s funny how, no, you will not see software engineers running around with guns committing petty theft. Guess who is? The outcasts of our society. The people our society has forgotten. While white and some minorities see success other minorities are completely left behind.

      This is a systemic issue that began with long held racism and prejudice is experienced by minorities through both active and passive racism. This includes snide passive remarks from privileged to those that are of a lessor race up to outright profiling following minorities around in stores and more.

      What do we do? We inherited this problem and we are responsible to fix it if we care. If you don’t care you then you will just excuse this away as “not my responsibility”.

      But if you do care, here is what we do. We get to the youngest in the most extreme minority poverty stricken neighborhoods and give those kids a start in life that is more than they are getting now. Make sure they are in school, empowered and raised with the ideas they can do more and make more out of themselves. If everyone around them is failing they are going to see that as their future as their parents and their parents before them has seen it.

      Let’s work hard to revitalize our peoples and lift up the people left behind. If we do nothing it will get worst. We either ignore the problem (what we are doing), bandaid the problem and arrest the criminals and do nothing else, or we get to the core issues of poverty and racism and help the next generations. If we do nothing to help the kids then we don’t solve the problem. AND helping the kids will produce outcomes that will not be seen in our lifetime but will make our future generations have a more positive experience.

      • @jer’ I totally agree. I’m sorry if my point came off as implying that everyone should be a software engineer or something. I was being facetious where I shouldn’t.

        Rather I meant to say that those of us in good jobs and in privileged positioned aren’t committing crimes precisely because of the stability that wealth and privilege brings us, and Sawant is totally right for calling out inequality as the root cause of crime. Often those who call for cops assume that those commiting crimes are inherently different from them and that we just to suppress them more.

        We don’t need more cops. Cops don’t address the root causes of crime. We need to hit inequality head-on.

  2. Maybe Sawant realized she looked like a putz last time and knew she would lose more votes if she didn’t change her ways.
    CHS blog is still treating her non-attendance at the last event as if she should get full credit for phoning it in, however.
    Reading the rest of the blog post, I have to agree with all those folks who say that CHS blog is working for Sawant, no matter what she says or does or how little she really cares about Seattle.
    This site is treating Sawant as a goddess.

      • I was just commenting how CHS blogs is so unabashedly pro-Sawant, they can barely contain their excitement in anything they write about her.

        Their masthead says, “Community News for All the Hill,” where “All” only means those who think Sawant is the new Jesus on Earth.

        Also, your comment shows fallacious reasoning. I can dislike Sawant as a city council member, and not like the other candidate, as well.

  3. ACAB

    Cops only care about personal property protection and not people. I agree with Sawant. Social inequality breeds crime. Not specific groups of people etc.

    • I was the victim of a home invasion robbery about 6 months ago, the police where in the house within 5 minutes of my calling 911, the first 2 minutes was me just screaming with my phone in my hand at the intruder. I don’t think I made a coherent sentence in that time, so really were in my house in 3 minutes. No property was stolen, so am wondering what helicopter they deployed was for and why they stayed with me for an hour.
      I have a different view than you do of what cops care about.

      • I’ve had the same experience and the same prompt and professional response. It’s funny how having ‘lived experience’ of what gets clumped into “petty crime,” can influence one’s outlook.

      • If it’ll make you feel much more comfortable and superior when you discount and dismiss everything said— sure, go right ahead.

      • Just curious, how would the 911 operator determine my “class” and skin tone over the phone?

        Although come to think of it I was holding my pinky up while screaming into the phone

      • @ tom
        I also could have been killed by the home invader but I wasn’t.
        Just because I value the job that Police officers do is not to say that they are without fault.
        Just like how one person broke into my house with the intent to harm me, doesn’t mean all people have the intent to break into my house and harm me.
        Lucky for me I am able to recognize that there are good people and there are bad people in every profession.
        But I suppose it is easier for some people to only see things in black and white, think of all the beautiful colors you are missing out on that way.
        I am very happy that I don’t live in Texas and I am very happy that I don’t think like you.

      • cd resident, yeah, you should be very happy about your situation. Living in a different state, having a different skin color, income level, all that could very well make you think differently about cops. If news didn’t open your eyes then, your personal encounters with them would.

      • @Tom
        “If you were a different person, you would think differently.” No kidding. This is what is called a tautology. That is, a true fact that imparts no information.
        No person has the experiences that another person has, even twins don’t. The only way we can come to understand what others think, feel, want and need is through communication. Deciding that anyone who disagrees with you is evil ends communication, but that seems to be the normal tactic for most people on the left (and right) of politics.
        The only people who accomplish anything of value are those who choose to work towards a goal with everyone who will work with them, rather than denigrating all those who don’t meet their political purity test.

    • It could also be not specifically social inequality, but only if people lose their ability to take care of themselves through socially acceptable means. I’m not equal to in income and power to lots of people who live in Seattle, but that doesn’t make me want to be a criminal. If I felt the only way to feed my kids was to steal, then I would more likely take action that way. But now, I have many ways of taking care of my family that do not require me to be socially equal to anyone, including Candidate Sawant.
      I believe it is well within the function of governments to provide “safety nets,” “basic income,” taxpayer-funded medical care and education and effective, community-oriented crime prevention and law enforcement. I believe, with those things taken care of, homelessness and crime would decrease.

  4. Oh kshama, isn’t that just the why for everything?

    “Why does violent crime happen?”

    “Why does bread cost more this week?”

    “How do magnets work?”

    “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?”

    “Why does the sun rise?”

    “Why do I have to go to work?”

    “How do you get Broadway @ pike from here?”

    Not saying it’s not right some of the time, but betting on red isn’t a good city management strategy.

  5. Here’s the thing, I agree with Sawant on the research. But reducing crime 15 years from now doesn’t make my family safer now. We need to do both.

    There were three shootings near 23/Union earlier this year, including at the community center where my baby goes to toddler hours (thankfully later in the day). Sawant’s office didn’t even *know* about them when I called to ask what her plan was to improve neighborhood safety. We need to be on list of areas with heightened summer police presence but that won’t happen with Sawant in office.

    • I don’t like Egan much, for that matter. I agree with Sawant on a lot of issues. I just can’t get around the fact that she and her office do not want to do anything about local crime effecting families right now. I can’t be ok with that. After the shooting by Chuck’s, they pushed for speed bumps as their grand solution. Seriously. Three shootings in three weeks and they wanted speed bumps, once someone finally told them about the shootings that is.

      • Gang issues have to do with gentrification and turf. Gang issues will be in every capitalistic society. You can’t just wave a magic wand. Capitalism breeds this.

        Capitalism has to go!

      • @Jeff Where? What will replace it? Where will Socialists and socialist-style pols get the money from to fund their projects if they can’t tax the capitalists?

        This is not a rhetorical question. I would really like to see a viable social/economic model that takes into account all of people’s pluses and minuses. If there is an economic system that makes sure everyone gets what they need while not destroying the environment, that preserves wealth for future generations and does not require thought police, gulags, forced abortions, and for humans to magically transform overnight into angels, I’d be very intrigued to learn about it.

        I’ve studied many of the theoretical systems, and compared their promises to what has actually come to be in the real world. In real life, capitalism is the worst economic system, but it’s better than all the others, to misquote Churchill.

      • Spike, where to find the money? Cutting that $1 trillion a year funding to the military industrial complex is a start. It won’t be enough though without taxing those making over $250k. Do you know US tax rate for the top bracket was higher than 50% a few decades ago?

        America can learn from other developed countries in Europe and Asia about how to make health care more affordable.

      • LOL gentrification was nothing to do with gang violence. Gangs are violent whether they’re in this CD or when they’re pushed down to Kent. They’re fighting for scraps on the margins.

      • @Tom
        “Do you know US tax rate for the top bracket was higher than 50% a few decades ago?”
        All your points in this paragraph deserve response, but I want to start with this one.
        Some people on the left trot this out and seem to imply that because it was possible a few decades ago to have tax levels this high, then we should be able to do so again. I think I heard AOC say it and I think Bernie has said it. If you don’t mean to imply such by your comment, Tom, I apologize, but the implication that comes with this comment shows a total ignorance of the economic history of the USA.
        This statement is true, but other than being a historical fact, means nothing for what is possible regarding taxation today. “Decades ago,” meaning in the 1950s and 1960s, there was only one economy in the world that was making money – the USA. All the other “first world” economies had been bombed to rubble in WWII. The USA was the “last man standing.” We had learned our lesson from WWI, however, and rather than trying to punish the losers, we worked very hard to rebuild their economies. Germany and Japan, in particular, benefited from generous loans and grants from the USA. We also lent and gifted money to the other industrial nations in Western Europe. What did all those countries buy with that money we gave them? Capital goods to rebuild their factories and infrastructure. Who did they buy it from? The USA, because there was no one else.
        In the 1950s and 1960s, there was no where else to invest outside of the USA. When the government raised the tax rates, the rich couldn’t move their money overseas as easily and get the same investment returns outside of the USA, that they can nowadays. Companies can easily end their USA operations, because they operate in lots of other jurisdictions. If the tax burden in the USA becomes too onerous, they will just leave. Every company and any individual who understands finance constantly performs cost/benefit calculations for being invested, not only in various sectors, but in various national economies. Even I have investments overseas for the sake of diversity. I also have plans to move my family to a couple of safe, stable countries if things here get too bad. Any rational person would. There are quite a few countries that give people valid passports in exchange for investments.
        This is why I just shake my head when I hear what comes out of the mouths of some people on the left who are asking us to let them create economic and financial policy. They are so ignorant of reality, they don’t even know how ignorant they are. They are living examples of “The Dunning-Kruger Effect.”

      • Spike, none of the words you wrote showed it is financially impossible for those who are making millions a year to pay just 10% more taxes. The ultrarich are often the same people who pay far less than the official tax rates in the first place because of all the loopholes. The increased tax revenue and cut from military spending can help fund some form of universal health care for everyone in this country.

      • @Tom
        “Spike, none of the words you wrote showed it is financially impossible for those who are making millions a year to pay just 10% more taxes.”
        Why would they? Since you wrote nothing about that until just now, I didn’t address it. I also explained that I was not going to address the other points you made in that other post.
        Do you not even read what I write?

        Also, this is a logical fallacy known as “moving the goal posts.” When someone addresses something you write, you ignore their response and respond, “Well, you didn’t talk about THIS new topic I just now brought up!”
        It’s dishonest as hell, but not uncommon among self-congratulatory liberals.

    • Exactly. There are plenty of poor people, people of color as well as whites, who do not commit crimes. They live within their means and make do. So, why do we excuse those who do engage in criminal activity because they are “victims of inequality.”?

      • Spike, you tough talkers don’t realize you are just one bad health incident away from poverty. If that happens, I doubt you will have any backbone and not look for government assistance that you condemned.

      • @Tom
        I already answered your “you’d think differently if things were different” statement above.
        I have used taxpayer-funded programs throughout my life: I am a Veteran. I used subsidized student loans and financial aid to pay for most of my college education. I drive on roads. I buy produce, dairy and meat. I use petroleum products every day. I participate in the financial system. TARP helped me stay in my home.
        I am all in favor of having effective, government-backed system to try to keep people from falling through the cracks.
        Every way I have benefited from taxpayer-funded programs has required an important component: Taxpayers. Without them/us, the system would fall apart. How do taxpayers get money? Capitalism. They/we have to earn the money before it can be taxed. What other system can we use to create wealth to be taxed if not capitalism?
        I’m all ears.

      • You keep dreaming the evil socialists will try to get rid of capitalism entirely. There is no country that has a pure socialist, communist, or capitalist system.

      • @Tom
        “You keep dreaming the evil socialists will try to get rid of capitalism entirely. There is no country that has a pure socialist, communist, or capitalist system.”
        I’m assuming your addressing my comment, because yours is directly below mine. If not, disregard.
        This is why it is pointless discussing anything with you. You have such a chip on your shoulder about what you think I believe, you can’t bother reading what I actually write and trying to understand. You live in such a bubble of moral certitude you believe that the only way anyone would not agree with you 100% is if they are evil.
        You wrote, “You keep dreaming the evil socialists will try to get rid of capitalism entirely.” I never wrote or implied any such thing. That fact that you think so shows how willfully ignorant you are.

      • Spike, you wouldn’t have written all those wonderful words if you didn’t believe socialism would somehow destr….hurt you and your capitalism.

        We agree with something. It is pointless discussing anything. I could only hope people like you get the worst things coming because only then, you would understand why the poor are poor, why SNAP and Medicaid shouldn’t be cut, and if taxing the rich 10% or even 20% more can pay for universal health care like other developed countries have, fine.

      • @Tom
        “Spike, you wouldn’t have written all those wonderful words if you didn’t believe socialism would somehow destr….hurt you and your capitalism.”
        Now you’re just lying to make yourself feel better. You don’t have a rational response for what I wrote, so you must go for the personal attack. I can see why Sawant is your favorite.

      • Hard to have a rational response to a hypocrite who used and use all the things government funded but talks about moving to another country when things get too bad here, ie. he has to pay more taxes to fund things he doesn’t need now that he is rich.

        The funny thing is those other countries you want to move to could very well be less capitalistic than US. So basically, you can stomp your feet but you won’t be moving anywhere.

  6. She parrot’s the same tired old “tax big business” as a solution for everything. And now we are to beleive crime is due to inequality. How does inequality make someone rape or murder, or assault someone? A fit of rage because someone else has more money than them so they attack? Inequality might be partially to blame but it is not the sole reason for crime, and compared to other cities with similar population size Seattle is understaffed at it’s police department. Anyone who has been a victim of a property crime or has been threatened by someone deranged person out in the streets knows that SPD is understaffed by the time they showed up the guy who almost assaulted me after demanding to know what I had in a paper bag I was carrying. I gave him the bag to defuse the situation but he exploded in a rage and I had to flee before he hit me. But SPD didn’t show up for 20 minutes by that time he was long gone. Probably going to accost someone else till he got what he wanted.

  7. One, of my questions for Progressives and progressive-like folks is: What the heck have you been doing for the past 50 years?

    Everything they have been asking for has been the same things that were being asked for clear back in the 1960s. A the reactionaries really that strong that they have been able to stymie all the efforts of progressives for all this time?

    When I saw Dr. King and the efforts of the Black Panthers and the Detroit Riots at the Democratic National Convention, I, in my childish optimism, thought that our society was going to improve through the rest of my lifetime and by the time I was an adult, we would look back at our folly and even be able to forgive ourselves.

    It seems like the momentum of the 60’s faded away in the 70’s and didn’t come back again until about 15 years ago.

    The problem I see right now, however, is that the Sawants and the Tom Hartmanns and the other irrational “SJW” types are the most vocal, while the rational people who had been and who are still fighting for creating opportunity for everyone are shouted down.

    “Tax the rich” is never gonna happen. Who do you think writes the tax laws? Of the 207 members of Congress who have assets of $1 million or more, 97 are Democrats. Nancy Peolosi’s net worth is $16 million. ( If they really lived by their belief that the rich are too rich and should share their wealth with the poor, why don’t they lead from the front and donate most of that wealth to helping end poverty?
    As for representation, why is it that more than 25% of Democrats in Congress are millionaires, when only 6% of Americans are? Why don’t the Democrats live by their purported values and help less wealthy people get elected so that the majority of Americans have real representation?
    inquiring minds want to know.

    • When “less wealthy” Democrats get elected, what do right wingers call them? Community organizers, socialists, SJWs. At least rich Democrats don’t mind paying higher taxes and spreading the wealth. What do Republicans always want to do? Keep more to themselves.

      Our society has improved. Non-whites and gays continue to be more accepted. Progress just moves along slowly because of people like you.

      • If more people were like me, all the promises the progressives had made would be reality by now.

        Oh man, that was probably the funniest thing I’ve read all day, if not all week.

      • @Tom
        “When “less wealthy” Democrats get elected, what do right wingers call them? Community organizers, socialists, SJWs.”
        So? From what I’ve seen, AOC, at whom some of these disparaging comment have been directed, wears them as a badge of honor. If less wealthy Democrats and their supporters get butt hurt over what right-wingers call them, then what are they doing in politics? Get out of the way and let people with more intestinal fortitude do the job. I disagree with AOC on many things, but I admire her. You’ll never hear me denigrate her personally, even if I think some of her ideas are clueless.
        But I also know there are lots and lots of people who think that if someone doesn’t agree with their pet ideas, then that other person is evil.
        I try not to tie my personality to my political beliefs, my understanding of history, or what I know about science, for example, because then it makes it too hard to change when I learn something new that requires I look at things another way.
        Liberals try to tell us they have open minds, but I find many, if not most, of them to be just as hard-hearted against “the other” as conservatives are. Sawant is a local example of this, and Clinton would have won if she had kept this side of herself hidden.

      • @Fairly Obvious
        “Oh man, that was probably the funniest thing I’ve read all day, if not all week.”
        Assuming you are laughing about how things could have been so much better, so much sooner.
        *If more people believed that every human being has equal worth, like I do, progressive ideas would be more mainstream by now.
        *If more people believed, like I do, that medical insurance should be completely independent of employment, so you wouldn’t have to have a job to have it, then progressive ideas would be more mainstream by now.
        *If more people believed, like I do, that any person can call themselves whatever gender or non-gender they want, and have exactly the same legal rights as everyone else, then progressive ideas would be more mainstream by now.
        *If more people believed, like I do, in the absolute separation of church and state, then progressive ideas would be more mainstream by now.
        *If more people understood, like I do, that humans are part of nature, not separate from it, then progressive ideas would be more mainstream by now.
        *If more people believed, like I do, that most crime is the result of individual and societal mental illness, and that we should treat the causes, not the symptoms, then progressive ideas would be more mainstream by now.
        *If more people believed, like I do, that the USA has the moral obligation to take in refugees from countries where we have destroyed their economies and put in gang lords as government leaders, then progressive ideas would be more mainstream by now.
        So, yeah, America would be a much better place if my beliefs were more widespread.

      • Spike, you were the one who asked “Why don’t the Democrats live by their purported values and help less wealthy people get elected so that the majority of Americans have real representation?
        inquiring minds want to know.”

        So? So I answered your question and pointed out there are less wealthy Democrats who get elected and they try to live by their values.

        Clinton ultimately lost the election by less than 1% in 3 states that decided the whole race. When you lost by so little, many things could have been in a factor. US is the only country that doesn’t elect its top leader by popular votes. But I am sure when Texas turns blue, right wingers will find something new to gerrymander about.

        Based on your beliefs, you should never vote republican and fight against liberals.

  8. @Tom
    If I vote for liberals, I will be voting for 30% things that will benefit American people and 70% things that will harm us. Some people say that should be good enough. since voting for conservatives is 100% against American people. But that is the lesser-of-two-evils argument, a fallacy.
    What I don’t understand is why liberals can’t be 100% for the American people. Why do liberals have to hate anyone who doesn’t march in lock-step with them?
    I won’t vote for hatred, so I don’t vote for liberals (or conservatives).