Mayor Ed Murray: I believe that the SPD can once again be a national model for fair, just, and compassionate policing.
  • E.S.
  • Mayor Ed Murray: "I believe that the SPD can once again be a national model for fair, just, and compassionate policing."

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When I was sworn in as mayor of Seattle, I pledged to build a fairer and more just city by working to bridge the disparities that divide us—disparities in income, housing, education, and economic opportunity that too often fall along the fault lines of race and gender.

I also vowed to address the disparity in policing and public safety in Seattle. Fairness and justice are built on the principle that we are all equal under the law. But that principle is just empty words unless we feel safe and protected in our communities. This is fundamentally a matter of trust between the citizens of Seattle and the men and women of the Seattle Police Department (SPD) who are sworn to protect us.

There was a time when that trust was much stronger than it is today. In 1992, the National Institute of Justice, an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ), hailed the pioneering work of the SPD to create closer ties with citizens and build trust in the community:

“The Seattle experience can provide useful guidance and serve as a model for other communities that are interested in developing meaningful partnerships involving citizens and the police… The partnership has provided benefits for both parties that sustain and reinforce the relationship between the police and the community.”

Twenty years later, the Department of Justice placed the SPD under a federal court order following an investigation that found “reasonable cause to believe that SPD engages in a pattern or practice of excessive force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”

During my inaugural address, I made achieving the mandate of the federal court order my top priority. But my goals for police reform go beyond mere compliance. I believe that the SPD can once again be a national model for fair, just, and compassionate policing. To get there we’ll need to weave the spirit of the court’s recommendations into the very fabric of our police force. We need to revitalize the lines of communication between the SPD and the citizens they are sworn to serve. We need to ensure that the constitutional rights of every individual and the safety of every community is protected, without exception.

Lasting reform will require a new leader for the SPD who is committed to justice in the broadest sense of the word. I will appoint a leader who values social justice, community engagement, and public accountability, and who will work to create a police force that is as diverse as the community it serves. The next chief will have my full support to make any changes he or she deems necessary to achieve long-term cultural change within the department. Nothing will be protected as sacred in our pursuit of reform, except this city’s commitment to fairness and justice.

But we can’t wait for a new chief to arrive to move forward with reform.