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 It cannot be overlooked that the current Department of Justice under the Trump Administration has significantly withdrawn support for consent decrees nationally.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.