The Seattle Police Department last week asked Seattlites to respond to revised policies. The department is calling for “community feedback.”
They apparently missed the feedback offered by months of people filling the streets in protest of unchecked police violence. From those protesting the murders of Black people by police, like Manuel Ellis, Charleena Lyles and Breonna Taylor, to name just a few.
They apparently missed the feedback from Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now, offering clear and direct avenues for change.
Maybe they couldn’t hear the feedback over the sound of their flash bangs.
This current gathering of public feedback is required under the Consent Decree. Since 2012, SPD has been under federal oversight as a response to excessive use of force and possible bias in policing. Policies under review include Use of Force, weapons, crowd control procedures and others.
SPD is accepting feedback now until Jan. 8. Just four weeks of input during the busiest time of year for many and using online forms out of reach to those without reliable technology access.
In our minds, an attempt to gather feedback would look very different. It would involve listening sessions and evaluating and redesigning policy with input from those who have experienced incarceration and arrest. But importantly, it would come from a place of good faith and willingness to cede authority — something it is clear that SPD is unwilling and unable to do.
Their request reads, “While SPD will not be able to respond individually to each comment or suggestion received, each will be shared with OPA, OIG, the CPC, the DOJ, and the Monitoring Team for consideration as revisions and discussions take place”
This summer, three of these groups, which offer police oversight, issued a joint recommendation banning the use of teargas by police officers against protestors.
We all know how well that recommendation was followed.
SPD has demonstrated that it believes itself to be above channels of oversight — and outside of the law. In fact, Mayor Jenny Durkan has just approached the City Council to lift restrictions on SPD spending related to overtime, which was likely spent squashing the civil uprising, despite the Council passing a budget that works to reduce spending there.
In June, U.S. District Judge Richard Jones issued an order calling to halt police use of tear gas, pepper spray and other force against peaceful protestors. This month, that same judge found SPD in contempt of that original order.
According to the proposed use of force policies, “An officer will use only the force objectively reasonable, necessary, and proportional to effectively bring an incident or person under control, while protecting the life and safety of all persons.”
The police have proven over and over that they don’t know the definition of “reasonable, necessary, and proportional” when it comes to force.
And the bias with which force is used, arrests are made and tickets are given is inexcusable.
In a report required by the consent decree, published last year, SPD searched people of color more frequently than white people; yet, searches of white people were more likely to find a weapon. In this same study, police officers pointed their weapons at Black people at a rate of 13.8% more than at white people.
SPD has also demonstrated a history of treating homelessness as a crime. The recent Real Change video “Unreformable” reveals officers’ bias in ticketing. And despite the disbanding of the Navigation Team back in August, police officers are still forcibly removing people from camps and taking their belongings in violent sweeps.
The recent sweep of Cal Anderson Park shows how little has changed. On a cold winter’s day, in the middle of the holidays and a global pandemic, with activists urging compassion, armed officers rushed in Friday morning, displacing residents. People lost their shelter and personal belongings. Police deployed pepper spray.
While SPD claims to be open to public feedback now, they have another message for protesters. Retaliation was swift: The next day, seven arrests were made and one individual was knocked unconscious as they gathered for a soccer game in the park.
This is what SPD does in our city while under a consent decree, subject to accountability organizations and after being found in contempt. We have tried reform. We are past that point.
Reader, if you have access to a computer and some time to share your thoughts, let SPD know what you think of their policy revisions.
And SPD, if you really want some feedback, we’d like to direct you to the demands of King County Equity Now, who has been offering that for some time.
Read more of the Dec. 30, 2020 - Jan. 5, 2021 issue.