Reforming the Seattle Police Department (SPD)
In December 2010, 35 organizations requested a formal investigation of the Seattle Police Department by the Department of Justice. In response, the Department of Justice conducted a 9 month investigation of the SPD, and found that the SPD engaged in pattern or practice of excessive force that violates the U.S. Constitution and federal law.
The result of this finding was that the City of Seattle entered into a "Consent Decree" with the Department of Justice to eliminate unconstitutional policing. The agreement requires the SPD to adopt a set of reforms that will restore constitutional policing through substantial and far-reaching reform of the SPD’s use of force policies and practices, adoption of policies and training to eliminate discriminatory policing, and the development of improved relations, trust, and support among and from all of Seattle’s many and varied communities. The proposed reforms must be approved by a federal judge. (An overview of the process can be found here).
The road to reform, however, is a long one. It took six years for a comprehensive reform package to be developed, and the proposed package was passed unanimously by Seattle City Council on May 23, 2017. This is still not the end of the process. The proposed reforms must still be approved by the federal judge, and survive the process of collective bargaining with the City's Police Unions.
Since its inception, Not This Time has been actively involved in this process, and in particular, providing strong support to the Community Police Commission (CPC). The CPC has the potential to serve as an effective mechanism for ensuring that the community has a voice in setting the expectations for police training, use of force policies, and independent oversight. During the consent decree period, they have contributed reform recommendations and served as effective advocates for community interests and perspectives.
There is still much to be done to ensure that the CPC can fulfill this promise. Adequate resources are critical to ensure CPC can fulfill its responsibilities, and its budget should be determined in a way that best insulates it from the possibility of political retaliation.
Modernize the Washington State Law
In 1986, the Washington State Legislature passed a law that police officers could not be prosecuted for killing someone in the line of duty as long as they acted in good faith and without malice. No other state in the country has such a restrictive law. But we are not the only state with a police violence problem. The many graphic video images of unarmed civilians being shot by police have transformed the national conversation around police violence, and jurisdictions everywhere are implementing new policies to reduce the use of deadly force.
Not This Time is working to pass a citizen led initiative in Washington State to reduce the number of people killed by police. Initiative 940 De-escalate Washington! takes a comprehensive approach to the problem, from improving training in de-escalation and first aid, to clarifying the standards for good faith use of deadly force. It also establishes a requirement that there be an independent investigation of encounters that lead to the loss of life. I-940 is based on respect for the sanctity of human life, and the principle that better training will lead to safer communities.
Initiative 940 is supported by a diverse coalition of community and professional organizations. This includes African American churches, Native American tribes, and Latino organizations that advocate for those who have lost loved ones to police, like Not This Time, the Latino Civic Alliance, the John T. Williams Organizing Committee, Justice for Jackie and the Puyallup Tribe. We also have support from One America, Washington CAN, Disability Rights Washington, 1199SEIU, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and the Public Defenders Association.