On Tuesday January 26th, 2020, the Community Police Commission (CPC) and Converge Media hosted a town hall to discuss the proposed changes to SPD’s policies. Activist Nikkita Oliver alongside activists from SGPA, Black Action Coalition (BAC), and Colorful Communities sat on the panel and provided feedback regarding the policies. Representing SPD was the Executive Director of Legal Affairs Becca Boatright, Assistant Chief Lesly Cordner, and Chief of Patrol Tom Mahaffy.
Each year, starting in the summer, the SPD conducts a review of their policies and CPC recommendations to better align SPD with the Consent Decree. On December 2nd, 2020, SPD informed the CPC of the new policies and made them open to the public on December 16th, 2020. Originally, the SPD was asking for public feedback by January 8th - this deadline has been extended to January 31st.
This Town Hall - five days before the policy review deadline - was the first chance for public comment on the policy from the community at large. Five days is certainly not enough time to seriously consider and implement the recommendations laid out in the Town Hall. As Black Action Coalition’s representative, Travonna, pointed out, the community, especially the BIPOC community, is “always put out of the conversation of any type of change because we are always given opportunities last minute”.
Furthermore, this Town Hall is to review the policies that dictate officers' use of force, yet there were no victims of police brutality on the panel. As Braxton Baker (founder of SGPA) said, “we need to still hear from the victims who are affected by these policies before we can approve them”. You cannot address police brutality without listening to the actual people who have been brutalized by the police.
As mentioned, these policies are under review to better align the SPD with the Consent Decree. Seattle entered this agreement in 2013 and it requires SPD to review and update their use of force policies every year. At this point, there have been seven opportunities for SPD to change their policies and stop brutalizing the community and they are still falling short. Here we are, another year, and the changes to the policies are extremely minor. Nikkita Oliver references the years of these reviews and says, “just shifting the policies of the SPD [is not] going to make the police force better”.
Despite the limited time, all activists came ready with specific concerns and strong arguments, while the SPD on the panel gave anything but substantial responses. The activists were provided an opportunity to voice their concerns and the SPD representatives responded with unsubstantial excuses and fluff. SPD representatives were only able to stay for two hours, which limited the topics that could be addressed - with the bulk of time devoted to new policies on crowd control and the weapons SPD would be allowed to use on protesters.
If you would like to learn more about what happened at this event, please watch the Town Hall recording by Converge Media for yourself.
Becca Boatright – SPD Executive Director of Legal Affairs
Lesly Cordner – SPD Assistant Chief
Tom Mahaffy – SPD Chief of Patrol
Nikkita Oliver – Seattle-based activist, Creative Justice
Braxton Baker – Seattle-based activist, SGPA
Lejayah Washington – Colorful Communities
Travonna Thompson-Wiley – Black Action Coalition
Joseph Seia – CPC, host
Alina Santillian – CPC, host
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