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Published: 
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
This is not an isolated incident. The Seattle Police Department has a long history of allowing jaywalking citations to escalate into use of force situations. The pattern is very predictable:  The officer sees a jaywalker, orders the person to come to him, gets angry when the jaywalker either doesn’t respond or argues, and ends up either in a physical confrontation or an arrest for an obstruction charge or both. Read more
Published: 
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
There has been a lot of media buzz lately about gang violence, and from our perspective, that’s both a good and a bad thing. For example, when I read this article about a gang crackdown in the Tri-Cities, I felt both sympathy and frustration: http://www.tri-cityherald.com/2010/06/07/1043904/gang-crackdown-helps-keep-tri.html Sympathy, because of course, we all want safe families, safe neighborhoods, and safe cities. The violence described in the article should be addressed, and to the extent that articles like this highlight the problem and suggest that more resources are needed to do the work of community policing, we’re all for it. But the article’s reference to “known gang members” begs the question—how do they “know” who the gang members are? Is it because they are actually being accused of committing crimes? Or is it based on other factors—the individuals’ appearance, clothing, or associations? These are critical questions to ask because we have seen similar gang crackdowns in other states skew disproportionately towards people of color. We have seen also repeated attempts to use the “gang member” label to short-circuit due process rights. For example, in Olympia this session, a number of bills were introduced that would punish suspected gang members—with enforcement happening on the basis of mere suspicion of gang membership, rather than actual proof that an individual had committed any crime. This approach to enforcement has it backwards. The focus should be on actual criminal activity, not on whether an individual “belongs to” a gang—the label is a distraction rather than a useful tool. Allocating our scarce law enforcement resources on the basis of whether someone looks like a gang member, rather than whether we think someone has committed a crime, virtually guarantees that we will get no closer to solving the issue of gang violence. And don’t get me started on the other non-sequitur in the article—the looming presence of the war on drugs, a phenomenon that feeds into making gang activity profitable. The authors do a great job of condemning the violence that the drug war has spawned—but don’t take the logical next step of questioning whether the problem might be the drug war itself. My guess is that as long we keep drug possession illegal and make drug trafficking such a profitable activity, we’ll be fighting the same losing battle against drug trafficking and criminal activity. It’s time to consider whether there might be better uses for our resources than pouring them into this bottomless rathole.
Published: 
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Yesterday, we got word that Seattle’s aggressive panhandling ordinance has officially died—the city council was unable to overturn Mayor McGinn’s veto. The action came after pressure from the ACLU of Washington, Real Change News, and various other community organizations. The groups opposed the proposed law as an unnecessary measure – Seattle already has a law against “aggressive panhandling” – that scapegoated homeless people rather than addressing real problems of public.  If enforced, the measure likely would lead to more poor people being thrown into the criminal justice system after they are unable to pay fines.
Published: 
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
We’re deeply disturbed by a video showing Seattle Police Officers kicking and yelling racial slurs at an individual of color who appeared to be offering no resistance. We recognize that the video is the subject of ongoing investigations, and it is, of course, important to protect the due process rights of the officers involved. But let’s be perfectly clear—using racial slurs or threatening to harm someone because of his race or ethnicity is never acceptable under any circumstances. Police officers have great power to be the enforcement mechanism of our laws. But let’s not forget—it is we as citizens and residents who delegate that power to them. Which is why it is extremely disturbing to see that power being abused by those in whom so much trust is placed.
News Release, Published: 
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
City leaders must make clear that police use of racial epithets is unacceptable, period. In addition, officials investigating the incident should examine the role of other officers on the scene and the need for de-escalation training for police.
News Release, Published: 
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
An American Civil Liberties Union of Washington report calling for the creation of an independent office for police accountability in Seattle.
News Release, Published: 
Friday, November 20, 2009
Recommendations to our City Leaders for Contract Negotiations with Seattle Police Officers Guild
News Release, Published: 
Friday, November 20, 2009
Although the Seattle City Council has adopted reforms to strengthen citizen oversight of police misconduct investigations, a move is already underway to weaken them by eliminating one component – the citizen audit panel.
News Release, Published: 
Friday, November 20, 2009
The recent settlement of a case in which a police chase resulted in an innocent motorist’s death and an injury to his passenger again points to the need for a statewide law governing high-speed police chases.

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