Mayor Mike McGinn was at the vigil last night held for John T. Williams—the man shot by an SPD officer on Monday—but he wouldn't talk to the press. He also hadn't commented on demands in an open letter (which appears after the jump) issued by the Chief Seattle Club today, calling for major changes in training and protocol at the Seattle Police Department. The Stranger reached McGinn today to ask why he was at the vigil and to find out what the city should do next.
Does the mayor think Officer Ian Birk made a mistake when he shot Williams? "There are processes in place to make those determinations," McGinn said. "I’m not going to interfere with those processes by expressing an opinion."
He also wouldn't directly address whether or not he believes SPD needs better training in the areas of cultural sensitivity, de-escalation, or use of force. But this is what he did say: "This is a tragic loss and it's felt deeply within the community. I know that there are concerns about issues of racial profiling or how we treat homeless people. These are concerns that I share. I think it’s critical that our government and our police department are responsive to those concerns. It’s critical."
In their letter, Native American Leaders call on SPD to beef up police training on use of force and cultural sensitivity and awareness, apologize for dehumanizing Williams in a recent press conference, and include Natives in further investigations and discussions surrounding Williams's death.
"I spoke with Jenine last night and told her we would promptly meet with her and other representatives to talk about whatever concerns they have," said McGinn.
McGinn also defended Police Chief Diaz, saying he trusted that Diaz would conduct a thorough investigation. "When I laid out my criteria of a selection of a police chief, and held public forums, the issues that I hoped would be raised included issues of race, social justice, and disparate treatment," said McGinn. "It’s my belief that we as a society have to do better and the police department has to have a commitment to that. I believe Chief Diaz has that commitment."