Everyone in Seattle deserves to feel safe, but for too many of our Black and brown residents who disproportionately bear the brunt of policing and police violence, that’s simply not the case. Last year’s protests demanding racial justice showed that it’s far past time to finally transform policing in our city.
But our system of public safety is broken because our leaders have failed us — and this isn’t the first time they’ve done so.
Advocates for police reform were successful four years ago in getting our City Council to strengthen accountability measures, only to have the same City Council approve a contract with the Seattle Police Officers Guild that dramatically undermined those reforms a year later.
Then, in response to last summer’s protests, city leadership teetered incompetently between two extreme options: allowing unacceptable escalation of police violence, and abandoning a police station and the people it served. Following the continued pressure to finally reform the policing practices that allowed the use of tear gas during a peaceful protest, the City Council pledged to defund SPD by 50% — only to again reverse course a year later after failing to do the work to stand up effective alternatives to deploying armed officers.
We cannot afford to repeat this cycle of failure yet again after the state legislature passed significant police reform and another SPOG contract looms on the horizon. The next Mayor’s most important job will be overseeing those negotiations, and anyone seeking that office should be unmistakably clear about refusing to negotiate away accountability for officers who abuse their authority.
Two of my opponents, former City Council President Bruce Harrell and current City Council President Lorena González, were in a position to hold the line on accountability back in 2018 and protect the gains advocates fought for. They did not, nor have they laid out their priorities for those negotiations on either of their campaigns’ websites.
For those who have actively listened to the calls for reform over the last several years, identifying what the City’s priorities must be for the next SPOG contract is not complicated. In my plan to transform public safety in Seattle, I’m extremely clear about where Seattle cannot afford to compromise accountability: we cannot allow the next SPOG contract to hamstring the Office of Police Accountability by unacceptably limiting staffing levels for investigators, improperly preventing community stakeholders from collecting or providing evidence during investigations, removing transparency for families, the public or tribal representatives, or imposing unreasonable time limits on investigations.
We must return to the preponderance of evidence standard for evaluating officer misconduct that was undermined in the last contract, negotiate reasonable constraints to officer overtime hours, and prevent officers from avoiding discipline and decertification through early retirement.
We simply cannot compromise on the demand that SPD be held responsible for ensuring its officers do their jobs while respecting the humanity and constitutional rights of everyone in our city. Period.
Transforming our system of public safety will take time, significant investments into alternatives to traditional policing, and — most importantly — the trust of the community that leaders in City Hall will finally deliver on their promises.
If we unite behind the common goal of actually ensuring that everyone in our city can go about their daily lives feeling safe, we can create thriving communities by making strategic investments to address the root causes of the issues that spread fear, anger, and hopelessness in our city.
We can build safety into our transportation systems instead of solely relying on armed police officers to enforce traffic laws. We can dramatically scale up the work of community-based organizations like Community Passageways that’s already effectively reducing violence in our city. We can modernize our criminal code to stop treating minor offenses as crimes that require enforcement by an armed police officer, especially when enforcement of those laws disproportionately affects people of color.
My opponents in this race who have led the City Council have had their chance at delivering the transformational change we need to our system of public safety. They have failed, plain and simple. We need a fresh start, and leadership we can trust to follow through on their promises. We cannot afford yet another round of backsliding that undermines faith in our civic institutions and cedes power to those who have proven they can’t be trusted with it.