Kelly O

A crowd spitting nails in response to the death of John T. Williams—fatally shot by a Seattle police officer last summer—and other victims of police violence dominated the Stranger-sponsored police-accountability forum held on February 3 at City Hall. Amid the interruptions and displays of theater, eight panelists attempted to answer an overarching question: How can the Seattle Police Department (SPD) rebuild trust? Here are some of their ideas:

Revamp Training for Use of Force: Current protocols for officers using force need immediate revision said Jennifer Shaw, deputy director of the ACLU of Washington, and Anne Levinson, auditor at the SPD Office of Professional Accountability. Currently, officers are trained in cases when they are legally allowed to use force on a suspect, not when it's actually appropriate. This stems from police academy training and the department's own policies. One solution is to rewrite guidelines to discourage force unless it's absolutely necessary—not just whenever it's allowable.

Make SPD Records More Accessible: These days, discipline files on officers accused of misconduct are difficult to locate on the department's website and lack important information (like the officer's name). Nicole Gaines, president of the Loren Miller Bar Association, called for the SPD to include the names of the officers mentioned in the complaints.

Equip All Officers with Body Cameras: Of the many recent high-profile SPD use-of-force cases, all were caught on video—which demands the question: How many more incidents go undocumented? Seattle City Council member Bruce Harrell is calling for all SPD officers to be equipped with body cameras. "This could provide a reliable source of evidence and encourage respectful treatment of all individuals," said Pamela Masterman-Stearns, head of the city's Native American employees' group. But the ACLU disagrees, insisting that body cameras won't stop incidents and that cameras may infringe on privacy.

Listen to Angry People: Many of the SPD's 20-odd cultural advisory boards are poorly organized and their meetings are sparsely attended. Shaw argues that's because officers lectured more than listened at the meetings. Rather than allow anger to build (and explode at a forum sponsored by a newspaper run by drunks), SPD should let these forums serve as a place for the community to air grievances and recommend changes.

Fire the Chief—or the Mayor: The underlying problem, some say, is a tainted culture at SPD that starts with Chief John Diaz and his boss Mayor Mike McGinn. During the forum, protesters unfurled an eight-foot-long banner that read "DIAZ RESIGN FOR FAILURE TO STOP POLICE VIOLENCE." When pressed to shit-can the chief, McGinn, who appointed Diaz, said, "I'm directly accountable to the voters for this."

How does the SPD respond? Police spokesman Sergeant Sean Whitcomb says a body-camera pilot project and a review of all training programs are under way. But releasing officer names from complaint reports will require negotiating with the police union. The city is currently in the midst of contract negotiations, so it's "certainly possible," says Whitcomb. recommended