The Community Police Commission just won a huge victory. On Monday, August 15, Federal judge James Robart cleared the way for the City Council to consider legislation that will create a permanent civilian oversight structure for the Seattle Police Department. This decision is the culmination of a 5-year struggle during which the Commission has fought with the judge, the Mayor, and the powerful police union.
Immediately following the judge’s decision, the Commissioners spoke to the public via “Facebook Live” from the steps of the courthouse. (This is an innovative and powerful use of this new service!)
Enrique Gonzalez, one of the 15 commissioners, said:
“I’m very encouraged. The Federal judge has given us a path where we can start working with our Seattle City Council to begin making recommendations – as we’ve been doing – to bring about reform, to bring about actual legislation that will change the process.”
The Commission’s proposed framework is in competition with proposals from the Mayor and from a special police monitor appointed by the judge. The police union – the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) – has rejected the reform proposals.
You can read about the “cornerstone” provisions of the Commission’s recommendations in this letter to the judge, sent August 2. They include:
- Political and budgetary independence for civilian accountability oversight leaders and officers
- A permanent community-based police oversight structure, to engage in community outreach and to monitor the implementation of reforms
- Open and transparent collective bargaining with the police officer’s union.
The Commission is asking for public participation and support as the reform proposals move toward consideration by the City Council. We, the public, will need to engage deliberately to ensure that the Council enacts a strong and effective civilian oversight ordinance.
At the live news conference Monday, Lisa Daugaard – co-chair of the Commission and a public defense lawyer – said:
“It is really important at this moment to remember that it’s community leadership that has moved change on this issue. … I think it is important that we not feed into a narrative that change happens from above. That is not, on this issue, how it works in America. Change is led by, and needs to be informed by, the people who are actually affected. … Our recommendations have been the product of a lot of shared wisdom. We’re going to hold the next step of this process accountable to community leadership.”
Commissioner Gonzalez had the final word:
“As the City Council begins to pick up the legislation, as they start to talk about the types of reform and looking at recommendations that we’re making, your voice is also going to become very important. So we’re looking to have you continuing to engage with what we’re doing. Ultimately, it really comes down to how are people being protected, respected, and honored. This is a long-standing work that continues, and we want you to be a part of it.”
The story of police reform in Seattle is a story of the community.
Posted by Seattle Community Police Commission on Monday, August 15, 2016