This afternoon, the Council will vote on enacting a “bias-free policing” ordinance into law, with one last-minute amendment to settle an argument from last week.
At last week’s committee hearing Council President Harrell, the bill’s sponsor, and Council member Burgess disagreed over this sentence:
Not later than three years from the occurrence of the alleged biased policing, a person who believes they are a victim of biased policing based on any interaction with a Seattle police officer, including but not limited to a social contact, a Terry stop, or a traffic stop, may file a civil complain against the City of Seattle in a court of competent jurisdiction under Section 14.11.050.
In particular, Burgess took issue with calling out “social contact.” Burgess was concerned that this would discourage police officers from making casual social contacts with community members for fear that they would be creating context for lawsuits, when in fact they want to encourage more positive social interaction between officers and the community. Harrell defended the inclusion of “social contact,” as did Council member Gonzalez who noted that she wants to discourage officers from “sniffing around” for reasons to arrest someone. Harrell and Burgess agreed to work on the issue offline, with the hope of bringing an amendment forward today that would resolve their disagreement.
And indeed, Harrell is offering an amendment today. It now reads:
Not later than three years from the occurrence of the alleged biased policing, persons who believe they are a victim of biased policing based on any interaction with a Seattle police officer may file a civil complaint against the City of Seattle in a court of competent jurisdiction under Section 14.11.050.
The new version removes the specific references to social contacts, Terry stops, and traffic stops. Arguably they are redundant, since the bill already refers to “any interaction” with a Seattle police officer.
This change should be sufficient to gain Burgess’s vote in favor of the ordinance this afternoon (he abstained last week), making it likely it will pass unanimously.
UPDATE: the amended bill passed by an 8-0 vote (Sawant was absent today).