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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 28, 2019 - Volume 47 Issue 26
Community organizations urge Seattle to live up to its promises on police accountability
Section One
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Community organizations urge Seattle to live up to its promises on police accountability

SEATTLE (June 21, 2019) - Today a broad coalition of more than two dozen community organizations delivered a letter to the mayor and city councilmembers urging the City of Seattle to live up to promises made over many years to have a stronger police accountability and disciplinary system the community can trust, and to come into full compliance with a federal consent decree entered more than seven years ago.

Judge James L. Robart found on May 21 that the City had partially fallen out of compliance with the consent decree due to the elimination of police accountability reforms unanimously adopted by the City Council in 2017, caused by implementation of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiated with the Seattle Police Officers Guild in 2018. The accountability reforms had long been advocated by community leaders, the Community Police Commission (CPC), and its experts. Last December, the court requested a briefing on changes made by the CBA to the accountability ordinance and other Seattle Police Department policies and procedures, and whether those changes undermined or threatened to undermine the purposes of the consent decree to deliver to the people of Seattle constitutional policing, and policing in which the community can have trust and confidence.

The CPC and its nationally recognized expert, retired judge and former Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) auditor Anne Levinson, submitted to the court her detailed analysis and assessment of how the CBA deviated from and weakened accountability measures that had been legally adopted and publicly committed to in the accountability ordinance and other policies and practices. Judge Robart found this assessment sufficiently compelling to rule that the City was not in compliance with the consent decree with regard to accountability when misconduct occurs, and to order the City and US Department of Justice, with the help of the Independent Monitor and the CPC, to submit a plan by July 15 for how the City proposes to achieve compliance.

Advocates are now demanding that city leaders follow through on commitments made to the community over many years, respect the work done by the community and the Community Police Commission, and get into full compliance. The CPC's detailed assessment that served as the basis for the court's ruling identified the significant problems created by the CBA and the City's failure to implement other promised accountability reforms. Community leaders are concerned that city leaders once again are delaying promised reforms rather than acting swiftly and comprehensively as repeatedly promised to the public.

In their letter, advocates called for the City to follow through on its commitments and show results. 'The cycle of bargaining away accountability and continued promises put on the shelf must end now,' said Rev. Harriett Walden, founder of Mothers for Police Accountability. 'The City must respect the work of the CPC and its experts, as reflected in their earlier filings to the court, and use it to move the City into full compliance. The City should not start all over again, ignoring local expertise and experience, and once again promising things will change in the future.'

'Police must be accountable to the communities that they serve. The City Council agreed when [it] unanimously passed Seattle's accountability ordinance two years ago, but the proposed contract [it] approved betrayed that commitment,' said Michele Storms, executive director of the ACLU of Washington. 'The City must act now and without delay to propose a lasting solution to end its cycle of broken promises on accountability.'

'The Memorandum of Understanding between the City and the Department of Justice seven years ago created and tasked the CPC with assessing the police accountability system and making recommendations on how to improve it. The CPC has done so over a course of years, using local and national expertise and the experience of the community,' said Diane Narasaki, co-chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition of King County. 'It is long past time for the City to listen to and respect the community, its assessment and recommendations, and use that as the framework to respond to Judge Robart's order. It's time for the City to follow through on its promises to the community.'

Signees include the following:

ACLU of Washington

Asian Bar Association of Washington

Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS)

Asian Pacific Directors Coalition

Asian Pacific Islander Coalition (APIC) of King County

Byrd Barr Place

Casa Latina

Chinese Information and Service Center

Church Council of Seattle

Coalition Ending Gender-Based Violence

El Centro de la Raza

Faith Action Network

Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality

John T. Williams Organizing Coalition

Latino Civic Alliance

Legacy of Equality, Leadership and Organizing (LELO)

Loren Miller Bar Association

Mothers For Police Accountability

Northwest Immigrant Rights Project

Not This Time

OneAmerica

Public Defender Association

QLaw Association of Washington

Seattle Women's Commission

Seattle/King County NAACP

The Defender Initiative, Seattle University School of Law

Vietnamese Community Leadership Institute

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