AN OPEN LETTER TO OUR COMMUNITY, and addressed to our Superior Court and Supreme Court Judges of Washington State:
The Seattle King County NAACP is aware and concerned of the Washington State Supreme Court’s Order regarding the modification of jury trial proceedings issued on June 18, 2020. The order can be found here: http://www.courts.wa.gov/content/publicUpload/Supreme%20Court%20Orders/Jury%20Resumption% 20Order%20061820.pdf. This order will allow Washington State trial courts to begin using video technology as part of Voir Dire, i.e. the jury selection process. The order states in part:
The use of remote technology in jury selection, including use of video for voir dire in criminal and civil trials, is encouraged to reduce the risk of coronavirus exposure. Any video or telephonic proceedings must be conducted consistent with the constitutional rights of the parties and preserve constitutional public access. Authorization for video- conference proceedings under CrR 3.4(d)(1) and CrR 3.4(d)(1) is expanded to include jury selection, though the requirement that all participants be able to simultaneously see, hear and speak to one another does not require that all potential jurors be able to simultaneously see one another.
This means the Washington State Supreme Court will allow trial courts to implement procedures that require potential jurors to participate in the jury selection process through the use of video technology. Potential jurors will presumably be able to participate through Zoom or some other similar technology.
The Supreme Court’s order is a perfect example of the systemic racism in the criminal justice system. People of color, especially those in lower income groups, will be unable to participate as potential jurors if they do not have access to broadband internet access and the hardware capable of utilizing the technology selected by the trial courts.
There are many articles written about the “digital divide” in America. This is to say, articles about the different technology available to different socioeconomic groups in the United States. For example, the Pew Research Center published an article on May 7, 2019, detailing the digital divide. You can find the article here: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/05/07/digital-divide-persists- even-as-lower-income-americans-make-gains-in-tech-adoption/. It states, “Thirty years after the debut of the World Wide Web, internet use, broadband adoption and smartphone ownership have grown rapidly for all Americans – including those who are less well-off financially. But even as many aspects of the digital divide have narrowed over time, the digital lives of lower- and higher-income Americans remain markedly different.” The article goes on to say, “With fewer options for online access at their disposal, many lower-income Americans are relying more on smartphones. As of early 2019, 26% of adults living in households earning less than $30,000 a year are “smartphone-dependent” internet users – meaning they own a smartphone but do not have broadband internet at home. This represents a substantial increase from 12% in 2013. In contrast, only 5% of those living in households earning $100,000 or more fall into this category in 2019.”
The effect of the Supreme Court’s order will be to decrease the number of potential jurors from communities of color. I do not believe the Supreme Court is intentionally engaging in racism. However, I think their order is an example of the systemic racism inherent in the criminal justice system. They have enacted a policy without any input from the communities it will affect the most and the result of this change will be to decrease the number of minorities included in the pool of potential jurors.
This order was issued without any input from stakeholders in the criminal jury trial process right after the Washington State Supreme Court issued an open letter that states, “The devaluation and degradation of black lives is not a recent event. It is a persistent and systemic injustice that predates this nation’s founding. But recent events have brought to the forefront of our collective consciousness a painful fact that is, for too many of our citizens, common knowledge: the injustices faced by black Americans are not relics of the past. We continue to see racialized policing and the overrepresentation of black Americans in every stage of our criminal and juvenile justice systems. Our institutions remain affected by the vestiges of slavery: Jim Crow laws that were never dismantled and racist court decisions that were never disavowed.”
The procedure authorized by the Washington State Supreme Court is similar to the Jim Crow laws of the past. This procedure allows those who can afford the technology to participate in the criminal justice system as a potential juror to the exclusion of those who cannot.
This procedure is wrong because the effect will be to decrease the participation of an already underrepresented community in the jury trial process as potential jurors. This process decreases the chances of Black and Brown people ever having a jury of their peers. Part of the jury experience is interacting and discussing with each other and watching body language, this will be almost impossible.
President of Seattle King County NAACP
Last year, the Seattle King County NAACP made history! Not only was I voted in as the LGBTQ Chair (the first in the organization's 112-year history), but the chapter also participated in Seattle Pride for the very first time.
This year, however, our community has been in chaos. Not only are we battling the COVID-19 pandemic, there have also been three recent shootings, including the tragic loss of Lorenzo Anderson. These trying times have me asking the question: What does Pride mean to me when our brothers and sisters keep getting killed in these streets?
With that said, myself and the Seattle King County NAACP have made the conscious decision not to participate in any Pride events this weekend. Our safety as Black individuals is constantly being challenged, and I implore this community to stand in solidarity with the Anderson family and all those who have so unjustly lost their lives.
We must have Integrity over Pride and pray that everybody stay blessed and stay safe.
DeAunte' Damper, NAACP LGBTQ Chair
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, you continue to not know your City, you continue to not understand the Black community, you continue to disrespect the African American Community. The NAACP, the oldest civil rights organization in Seattle, must continue to be at the City's table, as we effect real change for our Black and Brown brothers and sisters.
The NAACP Seattle King County supports the demands of Black Lives Matter and will walk with them on Friday June 12th for: all law enforcement at demonstrations to turn on their body cams for the entirely of their shift, divestment of $100 million from the police force and put towards community needs, and that community oversight be part of the police contract bargaining process. Please join in this national strike and silent march starting at Judkins Park in Seattle at 1pm.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 5, 2020
CONTACT: Carolyn Riley-Payne, President, Seattle/King County NAACP
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
The NAACP Seattle King County, under the leadership of President Carolyn Riley-Payne, invites you to our NAACP Prayer Vigil to honor the men and women who've been killed due to police lethal force. The following is an ask from our NAACP Religion Chair, Ezra T. Maize:
In light of recent events, crises and devastation that we have experienced in our City, the Seattle King County NAACP and clergy of Seattle have organized an 8-hour Preach-A-Thon and Prayer Vigil in honor of men and women who were murdered due to police brutality.
Our mission has always been to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination. This event will take place on Saturday, June 6, 2020, beginning at 12:00 p.m, and end at 8:00 p.m. at Cal Anderson Park, 1635 11th Ave. Seattle, WA 98122.
As the Religious Chair of the Seattle King County NAACP, under the leadership of President Carolyn Riley-Payne, I will be preaching and praying for 8 hours in memory of victims who have lost their lives due to police lethal force. We solicit the support of not only pastors, City officials, community leaders, organizations, but especially you as we pray for healing.
As leading pastors within our great City, we are asking pastors, after every hour of preaching, to volunteer in lighting a candle and praying for the victims' families that will be memorialized during that hour. We solicit your time, support, but most assuredly, your presence to help make this a success. If you are able to join us in lifting your voice in prayer during this event, you may contact Ezra at 646-860-8750.
We do apologize for such short notice, as we well know situations such as these are unpredictable.
Yours in Christ,
Ezra T. Maize Religious Chair, NAACP
Saturday, June 6, 2020
12:00 p.m, through 8:00 p.m.
Cal Anderson Park, 1635 11th Ave. Seattle, WA 98122
The Seattle King County NAACP is relieved the City of Seattle did as we requested in making the right decision to withdraw its motion to terminate the Consent Decree. The NAACP agrees with the City Attorney that the City's best approach is to address those concerns that Judge Robart cited. Until the City meets its obligations to address the deficiencies in Police Accountability, it should not be released from Federal oversight. We will continue our demands and will be watching, working and listening to ensure the City of Seattle's and Seattle Police Department's full accountability.
The Seattle King County NAACP opposes the City of Seattle and Justice Department’s motion to release the Seattle Police Department from remaining Consent Decree oversight. We join with other community organizations and the office of Councilmember Kshama Sawant and ask that the Court DENY the motion.
In May 2019 the Court sharply criticized the city’s “longstanding inability to address officer accountability”. The Court ordered that before the City could be released from federal oversight, it had to respond to those deficiencies, including the closed-door appeal process for officers who have been fired or disciplined.
The Police Department Chief asserts, “We’ve come a long way from where we’ve started with the federal Consent Decree,” touting the Department’s body-worn cameras, “full and unfettered access to all records”, a review board that reviews use of force; and remarking use of force is down to less than 2 percent of overall calls. Even if what the Chief says is true, there have been no significant strides made to engage community—especially those communities most negatively impacted by police accountability issues. It should be noted, the City did not engage members of the community in making its’ assessment, or even to develop the promised framework.
Instead of engaging members of the community to develop the framework, the City has engaged with the Department of Justice in a motion to be released from the Decree. It cannot be overlooked that the current Department of Justice under the Trump Administration has significantly withdrawn support for consent decrees nationally. In this regard, the role of the Court, as a part of the checks and balance of our government, is essential in ensuring that all accountability measures are effectively put in place regardless of who is in the Executive Office.
Additionally, the City makes the motion during the Covid-19 global pandemic health crisis, when most of the City and Washington state are closed, our communities are under the Governor’s Order to stay at home, and our most vulnerable communities, if not all communities, are struggling through devastating economic, mental, and physical health stresses caused by the crisis—with communities of color impacted by disproportionate infection and death rates. The City’s motion is truly an insult to the Community and flouts the Court’s order to address the deficiencies in officer accountability. Upon this premise, the City expects the Court and Community to trust it will make “top priority” reform in the area of disciplinary appeals and public transparency in the next round of collective bargaining negotiations without having federal oversight.
And, while the City’s use of force might be down, the NAACP overwhelmingly agrees with other community organizations that communities of color—most affected by the health crisis, are still experiencing police abuses including excessive use of force. For us, things have not changed. In June 2017 Charleena Lyles, pregnant, was shot by the Seattle Police while inside of her home, in front of her three young children. In December 2018 Iosia Faletogo was shot in the head by Seattle Police after a traffic stop. In May 2020, Shaun Fuhr was shot in the head running away from Seattle Police while he was holding his toddler.
The NAACP condemns the premature motion to end the Consent Decree and its’ police accountability oversight. The City’s motion fails to address the specific concerns of the Court to ensure that police accountability provisions are secured; its motion neglects its’ duty of transparency and respect to the residents it represents and is obligated to protect from unconstitutional policing. Until the City meets its obligations to address the deficiencies in police accountability it should not be released from federal oversight.
What happened to George Floyd will not be in vain. His death by the hands of the Minneapolis Police is a reflection of what’s happening all across the country. We are done dying!
A blind eye was turned to George Floyd as he gasped for breath last week. The police stood by and did nothing. The NAACP cannot allow Seattle to ignore the shooting deaths of black people happening throughout King County. We are done dying!
The NAACP will not stop fighting for true reform in Seattle until the officer-involved shooting deaths of unarmed black people cease. Our phones ring from loved ones every time a black person dies at the hands of a police officer. We wipe the tears and pray with the families. The Consent Decree must remain in place until excessive force and biased policing are a thing of the past. We are done dying!
The work continues. The NAACP will not stop until our phones stop ringing. We will keep fighting, we will keep marching as we call you to Action as I did yesterday at the Press Conference. You can make sure you:
1. Are registered to vote. Click here if you aren't.
Our WA State NAACP Chapters are rising to the occasion in the Power of 5 Challenge, asking people to tap into the concept of relational organizing. Each unit is giving each member a goal in registering 5 people to vote each week, volunteer for 5 days between now and the election, and text 5 mail-in ballot reminders to 5 voters each week.
2. Are involved. Ask questions of your elected representatives that help write policies that can make change for the greater good. Work for change. If unsure of who your representatives are, click here to find out and contact them.
3. Are being kind. Even in the midst of hatred and clashes with police.
4. Are a member of the NAACP to fight for your community. It's only $30 per year. Click here to be a part of the change.
- Carolyn Riley-Payne
President, NAACP Seattle King County
Photo by Jason Fields
The NAACP Seattle King County President, Carolyn Riley-Payne, read the below Statement on Motion to End Consent Decree to the Seattle City Council today, May 11, 2020
The Seattle King County NAACP opposes the City of Seattle and Department of Justice motion to release the police from remaining Consent Decree oversight. The NAACP-SKC will work in collaboration with the office of Councilmember Kshama Sawant and other community organizations to respond in opposition to the City of Seattle and Mayor Jenny Durkan’s collaboration with the Trump Justice Department. The SPD should not be released from oversight while its police union contract rejects accountability measures.
Accountability failings in the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) contract mean court mandated oversight is still necessary. The SPOG contract appeals’ process evidenced by the case of SPD Officer Adley Shepherd, highlight the accountability failings that are still on-going. Recall that in 2014, while the SPD was under the oversight of the Consent Decree, Officer Shepherd punched a handcuffed and defenseless woman in the back seat of his patrol car. He was rightfully terminated for use of excessive force, but his job was later reinstated through a convoluted arbitration appeal process. The City has yet to address mechanisms in the police union contract that allow for officers like Shepherd to have seemingly more rights than the citizens they are sworn to protect.
The NAACP-SKC condemns the premature motion to end the Consent Decree and its police accountability oversight.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 6, 2020
CONTACT: Carolyn Riley-Payne, President, NAACP Seattle King County via
NAACP Executive Committee members KL Shannon and Police Accountability Chair Teri Rogers Kemp
PHONE: Teri Rogers Kemp 206-518-7088
KL Shannon 206-890-4422
The NAACP Seattle King County sends its sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Shaun Fuhr, the victim of the homicide death by the Seattle Police Department, committed on April 29, 2020. The NAACP-SKC demands a thorough independent criminal homicide investigation of Mr. Fuhr’s death.
Homicide is defined in Title 9A, Washington Criminal Code, of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW), at 9A.32.010; as “the killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or omission of another, death occurring at any time, and is either (1) murder, (2) homicide by abuse, (3) manslaughter, (4) excusable homicide, or (5) justifiable homicide.” Each of those types of homicides are defined in the RCW. Homicide is a crime.
From the video the Seattle Police Department (SPD) provided, it appears Mr. Fuhr was being chased by police officers running after him down a narrow resident’s walkway in between the side of a building and a six-foot or taller fence, while carrying his one-year old toddler girl, when suddenly he drops, apparently shot in the head.
“Homicide or the use of deadly force is justifiable …when necessarily used by a police officer meeting the good faith standard of this section …to arrest or apprehend a person who the police officer reasonably believes has committed or is attempting to commit a felony.” In considering whether to use deadly force under such circumstances, “the officer must have probable cause to believe that if the person is not apprehended, he poses a threat of serious physical harm to the officer… or to others.” See RCW 9A.16.040.
Among the circumstances that may be considered by police officers as a “threat of serious physical harm” are the following: “the person threatens a police officer with a weapon or displays a weapon, in a manner that could reasonably be construed as threatening, or, there is probable cause to believe that the suspect has committed any crime involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical harm. Under these circumstances, deadly force may also be used if necessary to prevent escape from the officer, where, if feasible, some warning is given, provided the officer meets the good faith standard of this section.”
From the SPD video it does not appear that the deadly force used by the officer was necessary. From the video it appears that at no time did Mr. Fuhr display a weapon at the police or any other person as he was being chased and no talk of a weapon by the officers is heard on the video audio while they are chasing him down. SPD Chief Carmen Best has stated that the officers “engaged” Mr. Fuhr; however, the video shows that the police chased the victim and shot him, without apparent warning. From the video it is apparent that Mr. Fuhr did not see or hear the shot coming.
The NAACP-SKC decries the shooting and killing of this young man while his baby was in his arms. According to the Chief the child’s safety was the priority: “they were very concerned about the welfare of the baby”. That shot by the police officer belies those statements. The officer who killed Mr. Fuhr shot at him while he was holding his little girl, and while he was running. It is absolutely unacceptable that the officer demonstrated such utter disregard for the life and safety of the child.
Some homicide crimes may be excused or justified: “A police officer shall not be held criminally liable for using deadly force in good faith, where ‘good faith’ is an objective standard which shall consider all the facts, circumstances, and information known to the officer at the time to determine whether a similarly situated reasonable officer would have believed that the use of deadly force was necessary to prevent death or serious physical harm to the officer or another individual.” RCW 9A.16.040.
The NAACP recognizes that SPD officers were responding to a 911 call where information was given by an apparently distraught caller who thought that the victim had a firearm, that he had taken their child and left, and that the caller was concerned for the child’s well-being. Nevertheless, it appears that the officer who fired the shot unnecessarily used deadly force in an extreme, reckless manner that posed a threat of serious physical harm to the child in the victim’s arms and that besides his life; the victim’s civil rights too, may have been violated.
Shaun Fuhr was a 24-year-old man who was a son, a brother, a father, and a friend. No doubt, his family and friends will dearly miss him. His death is a tragedy. The NAACP-SKC demands a thorough, professional, complete, independent criminal investigation of the homicide death of Shaun Fuhr, whether or not ultimately the crime is determined to be justified or excused.
President, NAACP Seattle King County