It was a messy day in Seattle politics, with a heated meeting of the Community Police Commission (CPC), a nearly five-hour City Council meeting, a march to City Hall, and various protest leaders jockeying to speak with the Mayor and police chief. Here are my take-aways.
- The CPC meeting involved commissioners and invited community members sharing their reactions to the police response to protests over the last several nights. Mayor Durkan and SPD Chief Best joined for some of the meeting; Best was received coolly, while Durkan was met with open hostility — some of which she returned in kind as long-simmering animosity between the Mayor and the CPC boiled over.
- The City Council’s five-hour meeting of the public safety committee included two public comment sessions, a panel of community members testifying on their experiences with the police during the protests, a panel of city officials including Chief Best, and a panel of police-accountability officials including OPA Director Andrew Myerberg, Inspector General Lisa Judge, and CPC Co-Chair Prachi Dave. The Council members grilled Best over the details of the police response and SPD policies and practices. They also spent time asking detailed questions of Judge, Myerberg and Dave on the investigation and accountability processes.
- Several City Council members expressed interest in introducing legislation to begin the process of de-militarizing SPD by prohibiting the use of tear gas, blast balls, and rubber bullets. It was noted several times that tear gas has been banned in international warfare by the Geneva Convention, but for some reason is still legal for use in civilian law enforcement. One public commenter today noted that he needed to evacuate his family from their apartment after SPD deployed tear gas on the street below.
- Inspector General Judge said that she is planning to launch a review of systemic issues in police response to protest events.
- Council President Gonzalez, who also chairs the Council’s labor relations committee, said that as the next round of negotiations with SPOG, the police officers’ union, launch shortly, she will be looking to create an opportunity to improve the way the city approaches labor negotiations with the two police unions. She hopes to incorporate more of the 2017 police-accountability legislation’s provisions into the next contract, and she said that she wants to center community concerns while not backing away from the city’s commitment to being a labor-friendly city — a difficult challenge. Gonzalez also said that she wants the CPC to have a greater role, and to take advantage of the subject-matter expertise of Myerberg and Judge.
- This evening, Mayor Durkan tweeted that based upon requests from community leaders this morning and after consulting with Chief Best, the nightly curfews through the end of the week are being cancelled.
- Late this afternoon, City Attorney Pete Holmes announced that he is withdrawing the city’s pending motion to terminate much of the 2012 consent decree related to SPD policing practices.
- There seemed to be confusion today as to who represents the community of protesters in Seattle. Yesterday afternoon two relatively unknown individuals led a march of thousands to the location where Mayor Durkan was holding a press conference, and convinced her to speak to the crowd and schedule a follow-up meeting for this afternoon. However, some of the more recognizable leaders of protest movements and advocacy groups, including Nikkita Oliver, Andre Taylor, and the CPC leaders, re-asserted their presence today, joining this afternoon’s meeting with the Mayor and police chief and addressing the crowd of demonstrators outside City Hall. Erica Barnett tweeted out coverage from the after-meeting addresses to the crowd by Durkan, Oliver, and Taylor.
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