Mayor-elect Harrell signals police reform commitment with new appointment

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Photo courtesy of Bruce for Seattle
Photo courtesy of Bruce for Seattle

Seattle's mayor-elect, Bruce Harrell, sent a major signal to both police and BIPOC communities by appointing DeVitta Briscoe as his new gun violence prevention liaison.

Briscoe is a sister of Che Taylor, who was fatally shot by Seattle police in 2016. Prosecutors declined to file charges against the officers involved in the shooting, saying they believed that the officers acted in good faith when they shot Taylor.

The City of Seattle later paid Taylor's family $1.5 million to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit.

The Taylor shooting and subsequent community demands for accountability were one of the factors in passing I-941, which removed the "good faith" justification for use of deadly force by police from Washington state law.

In addition to her brother, Briscoe also lost a son, Donald McCaney, to gun violence in 2010.

Since then, "Briscoe has worked toward intervention and frontline support for youth of color to reduce gun violence, ensure police accountability, and empower grieving families," according to Harrell's press statement.

It continued, "Briscoe launched the Black Women's Coalition to End Violence to address root causes of urban gun violence and center Black women's leadership, and is trained to facilitate Restorative Justice-based healing circles, and the Alive & Free´┐Ż violence prevention methodology."

Briscoe is a graduate of the Evergreen State College.

In addition to Briscoe, Harrell announced the appointment of Derrick Wheeler-Smith, currently King County's director of Zero Youth Detention, to serve as interim director of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights. Wheeler-Smith will focus on implementing the mayor-elect's equity and justice priorities, including the Race and Social Justice Initiative, expanding housing and workforce opportunities, and delivering youth support and mentorship.

Harrell has hired Kendee Yamaguchi to serve as deputy mayor of external affairs. Yamaguchi is a former City of Seattle employee and current executive director for Snohomish County. According to Harrell's statement, she will be tasked with "fostering strong and collaborative relationships between the City of Seattle and community groups, nonprofit organizations, and local businesses."

Harrell will appoint former state legislator and Port Commissioner Gael Tarleton as interim director of the Office of Intergovernmental Relations, charged with facilitating collaboration with state and federal agencies and procuring federal and state investments.

Also joining the Harrell administration will be Matt Chan, who will serve as special advisor for public engagement, Jennifer Samuels as chief of staff, and Jeremy Racca as legal counsel.