On Wednesday, Council President Bruce Harrell brought to the Council an early draft of an ordinance to prohibit biased policing and put remedies in place when it happens. If you’ve spent any time with lawyer — especially groups of lawyers — you know how much they love to nerd out over the fine points of the law. That was on full display Wednesday morning.
Wednesday morning, the City Council had its first committee hearing on the proposed police accountability legislation. It gave a good preview of some important debates we’ll get to see in the weeks to come.
“… perhaps the most important piece of legislation during my time in office.”
That’s how Mayor Ed Murray summed it up when he and two Council members held a press conference today to mark the official submission of police accountability legislation to the City Council.
What happens when a police force exhausts the resources it can deploy to handle a crisis situation such as a riot, a larger-than-expected mass action event, or a natural disaster? Most police departments use “mutual aid” agreements to call on neighboring police departments as needed to supplement their own resources. These agreements benefit small towns and large cities alike, not to mention special public-safety organizations such as the Port of Seattle Police. But they can also create issues when the two departments work under different policies. This has come up twice for the Seattle Police Department, and by extension the City Council, in the last three days.
Surveillance cameras on city-owned street poles tops the news this morning.
The Council had its first briefing on the draft legislation on police accountability that is headed its way. Plus, this afternoon I had a chance to talk with Council member M. Lorena Gonzalez, who chairs the committee where the bill will be deliberated.
Earlier this month, Judge Robart approved (with some conditions) draft legislation to address police accountability in Seattle. Now it’s the City Council’s turn to take up that bill and move it through its legislative process to make it law. And last week, Council member Lorena Gonzalez issued a press release outlining the timeline for that work.
Today U.S. District Court Judge James Robart ruled on the draft legislation that the City of Seattle submitted in October for his review, which would create a new accountability structure over the Seattle Police Department. His concerns were few, and should be easily addressed.
Council member Kshama Sawant has been stumping non-stop for her plan to kill off the last vestiges of the North Precinct police station plan, and to divert the funds to build 1000 units of affordable housing. Her proposal came up for discussion in the Council’s budget discussions yesterday, and it didn’t fare well.