As the City of Seattle proceeds with contract negotiations with the City’s police unions, the Community Police Commission (CPC) would like to make its expectations clear: The City should negotiate the full implementation of the 2017 Accountability Ordinance.[Read more…]
In the course of this election the Community Police Commission (CPC) urges the Seattle Police Department (SPD) leadership to ensure that their officers respect people’s First Amendment rights while protesting and employ only tactics that are vetted to respect and preserve those liberties. SPD must implement best practices around de-escalation and peaceful engagements – even when that means reducing police presence.
This is our community and our democracy. This election will undoubtedly change many of the institutions in this country. Regardless of the outcome, however, the CPC remains committed to working with our community and those in communities most impacted by policing to create a safer, more equitable, and just city. We are in this together.
The findings by the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) demonstrate what our community has known for a long time – the Seattle Police Department (SPD) used excessive force against protesters.
Despite the sustained findings released today, there are continuing and important concerns that weaknesses in our police disciplinary system caused by Seattle’s police contracts could stand in the way of accountability. The contracts undermine the landmark 2017 Accountability Ordinance, in several ways, but specifically in the following manners:
- It is more challenging to fire officers accused of misconduct that is “stigmatizing” that makes it “difficult for the employee to get other law enforcement employment.”
- Officers found guilty of misconduct are able to appeal their discipline through a flawed and backlogged arbitration system that will likely take years. There are currently unresolved arbitration cases involving alleged misconduct that happened all the way back in 2015.
- When an officer does appeal their discipline through arbitration, those proceedings will not be open to the media or the public, which impacts the degree of public trust in SPD.
It is critical that the Mayor, City Council, and the Seattle Police Monitoring Team work with the Community Police Commission (CPC) and others to ensure the City makes clear commitments to fixing these flaws, as was ordered by the Federal Court in May 2019.
It is also clear that SPD policies must be thoroughly reviewed and dramatically strengthened. As a community, we must be able to ensure that what we have seen during the last several months of protests never happens again. We are committed to working with those most affected by policing in our city, our accountability system partners at OPA and the Office of Inspector General, and others to strengthen SPD policies to ensure officers are held accountable when they violate civil liberties, public trust, and fall short of community expectations.
While the CPC is barred from commenting on pending OPA investigations, we are monitoring the investigations closely and will do all we can to ensure that Seattle has and develops strong policies as well as a strong police disciplinary system moving forward.”
The events in Seattle and around the country this summer have put a spotlight on the need to rethink policing. The Community Police Commission and many community groups in our area have been fighting for police accountability for years, but we need your help. Right now, we’re accepting applications to become a CPC commissioner. Help us spread the word!
How to apply?
Please submit the following to be considered for an appointment:
- A resume or bio
- A cover letter describing your interest and relevant experience.
- A statement of commitment to attendance and full participation in the work of the commission.
For consideration of appointments by all appointing bodies, please submit your application to OCPC@seattle.gov.
How many seats on the CPC are open for new commissioners?
The CPC has 21 commissioners each appointed to three-year terms. 7 are appointed by the City Council, 7 appointed by the Mayor, and 7 appointed by the CPC itself. Right now, there are five seats open total – 2 for City Council to appoint, 2 for the CPC to appoint, and 1 for the Mayor to appoint.
What do commissioners do?
The CPC was created in 2013 as a part of the Consent Decree to help ensure community voice was part of the police accountability process. Our 21 community volunteer Commissioners have a diverse array of backgrounds and they are supported by a team of full-time staff members.
Commissioner responsibilities include:
- Advocating for communities most impacted by policing
- Utilizing an anti-racist lens to create change in public safety
- Bridging communication between your Community and the full Commission
- Creating opportunities for Communities impacted by policing to speak to their priorities
- Crafting the priorities of the CPC
- Attending regularly scheduled meetings (currently Wednesdays from 9am-10:30am)
- Dedicating at least 10 hours per month to CPC-related work
- Attending and participating in community meetings, forums, and other events across the city
- Reviewing materials in preparation for meetings
What are the qualifications needed to become a commissioner?
The collective action taken by tens of thousands of Seattleites this summer has made it clear that there is no shortage of community members looking to create change in policing. In order to make sure the CPC remains Community-focused and Community-driven, we prioritize candidates that represent those communities that have historically been the most impacted by policing. That includes those who:
- Represent one or more of the following communities:
- Indigenous, First Nation, or Alaskan Native
- Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
- South East Asian
- Immigrant or refugee
- Youth and young people
- Faith-based Communities
- Small business and Entrepreneurs
- Reflect the demographics of Seattle residents
- Represent or have dedicating time serving the needs of the limited-English speaking Communities, people living with mental illness or behavioral health diagnosis, and people with substance use disorders
- Have experienced housing instability or have dedicated time working with people experiencing homelessness
- Have a solid understanding of one of more of the following:
- Law enforcement practices and impacts,
- Law enforcement oversight or police accountability;
- Community engagement and/or organizing;
- Anti-racist organizational change;
- Constitution, criminal or labor law;
- Social justice movements
Are commissioners paid?
CPC Commissioners are volunteers. But we know that those impacted by systems, are frequently asked to correct that impact without compensation. To address this inequitable practice, there is a stipend available for those whom unpaid time off from work presents a significant barrier.
A message from CPC Interim Executive Director Brandy Grant:
I heard my grandmother’s voice today as clear as ever from her home in Louisville, and she reminded me that a bruised reed will not break, and a dimly burning wick will not extinguish. She told me there are times I will feel weak and broken by this world and today was a reminder of that. When I think of Louisville, the birthplace of my father, and my family there I think of how easily that could have been my cousins, my aunts, or any of my family that was ripped from this earth too soon.
I have so many childhood memories of Louisville from places like the Waterfront, Church Hill Downs, Shawnee Park, and the Kentucky Kingdom. But, like most places in America, there was a darker side melded into the daily life, looming, like the former slave quarters still standing in the middle of businesses there.
My heart is with the family of Breonna Taylor’s loved ones tonight and with all people putting their lives and livelihoods on the line to demand a more just country. To the community of Louisville do not let your wick be extinguished by the injustice of our so-called justice system. We must stand together and fight for change in a system that would allow the unlawful murder of a woman by police in her own home; a system that judges people who protest police violence against Black, Indigenous and People of Color more harshly than those perpetrating the violence.
The Community Police Commission itself was birthed out of this violence. It is a body that carries the collective trauma of generations of oppression and is tasked with changing systems that, at times, seem immovable. Believe me when I say, if you are tired, know I am tired with you. If you are angry, know that I feel rage. If your heart is breaking, know that mine is too. We are in this fight together. We will not give up.
As a black woman, I know far too well that our names frequently only become important after our deaths. That the tragedy thrust upon our families are then used as opportunities for some. So, I want to be clear, the only opportunity I see is to stand with the family of Breonna Taylor and the community of Louisville tonight.
- Brandy Grant
Seattle Community Police Commission
Interim Executive Director
The Community Police Commission is currently reviewing the Office of Police Accountability’s (OPA’s) findings following their investigation of police conduct during recent protests. It is important to note that even though an OPA investigation may find an officer’s actions did not violate any current policies, that does not make the officer’s decision just. OPA can only investigate violations of Seattle Police Department policies, and it has been shown again and again over the past few months that many of those policies are inadequate.[Read more…]
UPDATE: On September 21, 2020 the City of Seattle withdrew the subpoena mentioned below. Read their statement here.
The following letter was sent to Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes by the Seattle Community Police Commission on August 17, 2020:
City Attorney Pete Holmes,
The CPC asks that your office drop its subpoena of unpublished photos and videos taken by journalists working for the Seattle Times, KOMO 4, KING 5, KIRO 7, and KCPQ 13.
This is a harrowing time for journalism. It is under threat from the Trump Administration, a devastating economic situation, and a growing belief fanned by elected officials that journalists lack independence. That would only be made worse if your office continues to fight for this subpoena.
Attempting to force journalists to hand over their unpublished work product would exacerbate this mistrust, making it harder for journalists to do their jobs. Even if the City got everything it was asking for, the benefit would likely be modest compared to the harm done to community faith in both the city and journalists would be large. This action could very well make our city less physically safe for journalists.
The CPC understands your office must walk a delicate line between enforcing the law and ensuring civil liberties are protected. However, when it comes to something so fundamental to the healthy functioning of our democracy as a free and independent press — if issuing this subpoena falls anywhere near that line, it has come too close. Damage, however incidental, to the First Amendment protections of the press should not be considered acceptable collateral damage.
The CPC is also concerned with the precedent this action could set. As you are aware, the City of Seattle has a problematic history when it comes to gathering information on protesters. In 1975, it was revealed the Seattle Police Department (SPD) had spied on hundreds of political activists, community members, and church leaders. Police complied extensive files on individuals, including photographs. Because of community advocacy, the Seattle City Council adopted the Police Intelligence Ordinance in 1979. It was the first local ordinance in the country that limited the types of information Seattle Police could gather on people exercising their First Amendment rights.
This subpoena touches on many of those same concerns. The broad nature of the subpoena would mean the police receiving protected information on many people peacefully exercising their First Amendment Rights. That’s made more problematic by the fact these protesters were protesting the police department itself. From protests to immigration and beyond, the City of Seattle has a rich history of strongly protecting information that, if left unprotected, could have a chilling effect on civil liberties. The CPC believes the pursuit of this subpoena does not align with this value.
In this once-in-a-generation economic catastrophe, the CPC does not believe the City should continue to spend tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars in this way. We’ve heard calls from the protesters in the street and within our City Hall that we need to reimagine policing. The CPC urges you to heed those calls and reflect on whether this allocation of resources best serves the city; whether this truly presents the best outcome for Community.
CPC Co-Chairs Rev. Harriett Walden, Prachi Dave, Rev. Aaron Williams.
The Seattle CPC sent the following letter to City Councilmembers, Mayor Jenny Durkan, Chief Carmen Best, and other city leaders today.
The Community Police Commission (CPC) writes to express its strong support for Council Bill 119840 – the Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens Youth Rights Ordinance.
Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens was a poet, student, and son. He was just 17 years old when he was killed during the investigation of a crime he did not commit. As Seattle confronts the impacts of policing and reimagines justice, among our first tasks is ensuring the constitutional rights of our young people are protected.
The CPC stands in solidarity with the many community organizations, along with the youth they uplift, who have led this movement and expressed their support for the legislation. They are uniquely qualified to know how best to protect our young people, especially BIPOC youth who face an outsized impact in our criminal justice system.
The King County Council is working to pass its own ordinance with strong support from Community leaders, young people, and youth advocates. We urge you to act alongside them to ensure all young people in Seattle are protected. Our youth do not live, play, or learn within a single municipal boundary. Therefore, their right to legal counsel must not vary between those boundaries. The CPC thanks Choose 180, Community Passageways, and Creative Justice for bringing the statement of support to the CPC.
Instead of focusing on using “batons and riots shields,” the Seattle Police Department should be focusing on ways to de-escalate and ensure protesters are safe. The recent comments by SPD do not promote community trust, particularly in the face of potential unconstitutional and violent intervention by federal troops.
We love our community. We support the right to protest. We want to see our relatives protected. To that end, the Community Police Commission challenges Chief Carmen Best and the Seattle Police Department to keep the best interest of the Community in mind – their safety. We implore them to implement best practices around de-escalation and peaceful engagements. As you ask Community to trust in you, we ask you to extend that trust to Community. We ask SPD leadership and officers to support the Community’s right to protest and to be protected.
Focusing on the degree of force SPD intends to use on protesters, rather than the ways in which SPD can protect First Amendment rights and public safety does not promote community trust. Attempting to undermine laws implemented to address SPD’s own officers’ unprecedented use of force against protesters does not promote community trust. This response demonstrates that even seven years after the consent decree went into effect, there is still much work remaining to dismantle the warrior mentality of police officers.
Bessie Marie Scott will be stepping down as interim executive director of the Community Police Commission on July 15. Bessie made the decision to step down last month. While the Commission is sad to see her go, we are proud of her and the legacy she leaves behind.[Read more…]