The lives and safety of our residents are not negotiable

In the wake of a horrific tragedy, we need to have a serious, meaningful conversation about police brutality and accountability. My heart goes out to Charleena Lyle’s family. I think about what Wanda, her cousin, said, “Every time she called, it cost her something. This time it cost her her life.” This is not how policing should work. If you call the police for help, you should get help, not fear for your own safety. 

This is a problem in policing that Seattleites, in particular communities of color, are too familiar. What we’re also too familiar with: a complete and total lack of accountability. In many cases, disciplinary measures suggested by the Office of Police Accountability were overturned by police leadership, as in the case of Jesse Hagopian. Without meaningful reform, I have no confidence in our police department to hold these two officers accountable. 

Elected officials need to take a strong stance on police accountability. Recent legislation passed by City Council is insufficient to address concerns about discipline and accountability. Here are policy changes that would begin the process of police accountability reform.

  • Civil rights, and the lives and safety of citizens, should not be bargaining chips. All police union negotiations around discipline should be opened to the public. The city should not support contracts that don’t include accountability measures for officers who brutalize people.

  • We need true civilian oversight of our police department. The Community Police Commission should be empowered to set department policy on discipline, trigger investigations into excessive force, and have the authority to fire the Police Chief.

  • We must support the work of community members organizing for Initiative 940. Washington law, as it pertains to prosecution of police brutality, is among the most regressive in the country. We need to support changing the law to create a system for independent investigations of police shootings. In the meantime, we must demand an independent investigation into Charleena’s death.

Our next City Councilmember must be accountable to our community members, not to a police union that only protects and serves some, but not all, of our neighbors. I invite all Position 8 candidates to join me in demanding these necessary accountability measures.