How I Will Implement Police Reform, Accountability and Restorative Justice As Mayor

Every person in our city deserves to feel safe around the police regardless of race, gender identity, economic condition, or documentation status — across all neighborhoods.

I will prioritize making our justice system more equitable if I am elected Mayor. The work of implementing lasting change in our justice system must happen through collaboration with community, and must be accountable to all communities of Seattle.

As Mayor, I will push as much as I can, as quickly as we can, to implement these solutions with the City, County and State government. Working with community leaders, my administration will tackle these immediate priorities.

Comprehensive Police Reform & Accountability

Various community groups worked in coalition for decades to analyze Seattle’s biased policing, bring this problem into focus, and call for systemic reform.

Since the death of John T. Williams, and the subsequent launch of the Consent Decree process, the City has been working with the Department of Justice to bring policing into compliance. The process of institutional change has been long and confusing, but our communities have clearly identified what to fix and how. We now stand on the edge of implementing a civilian led, community-informed oversight system that, if supported, can lead the nation.

In May, the city passed sweeping police reform legislation that will enhance community oversight. It is now time to shift into implementing self-regulation and leading change inside the Seattle Police Department.

As Mayor, I will work with the departments and entities focused on this work, instead of issuing top-down decrees that leave the community out of the process. Lasting change requires firm and consistent leadership from the Mayor, full transparency, effective accountability systems, and authentic commitment at all levels of the police department. Success will depend on all four entities doing their part: the Seattle Police Department, the Community Police Commission, the Office of Inspector General, and the Office of Police Accountability.

As Mayor, I will:

  • Support funding and resources for the Community Police Commission, Office of Inspector General and the Office of Police Accountability so they are able to fulfill the system laid out in this year’s oversight ordinance.
  • Find a way forward in negotiations with SPOG and SPMA without sacrificing constitutional policing and community trust, and deliver a collective bargaining agreement that respects our first responders as workers. We must balance the confidentiality of negotiations and accountability by having the city clearly define its priorities and positions on key reform issues. In addition, we should explore having technical advisors with deep historical knowledge who can represent different communities as part of these negotiations to get the details right.
  • Include the policy goals of I-940 in our city’s legislative agenda in Olympia and create a stakeholder group to develop recommendations on investigations of serious or lethal uses of force.
  • Increase training in understanding bias, undoing racism, alternatives to use of force, assisting people in crisis, and de-escalation strategies for police officers and supervisors at all levels.
  • Examine how to adjust staffing levels so patrol officers can spend more time in community, establishing relationships, building trust, and pursuing solutions together.
  • Improve communication amongst city departments focused on public safety by convening the Mayor’s office, the Seattle Municipal Court, the City Attorney, the Seattle Police Department and the Community Police Commission to ensure that all agencies involved in the criminal justice system are working towards the same goals.
  • Continue to pursue pre-filing diversion efforts, expand the LEAD program to more neighborhoods and support Council’s efforts to reintroduce Community Service Officers.
  • Establish a path to build a more inclusive and culturally diverse corps of police officers by reducing barriers and creating a more welcoming workplace for candidates who come from the communities they serve. We should follow the recommendations made by the Community Police Commission after they conducted an extensive community engagement process.

Imagine the outcome: all residents of Seattle can feel safe knowing they are protected by the most skillful, least violent police force in the country.

Breaking the School to Prison Pipeline

Every young person deserves pathways to opportunities — even if they make a mistake. Our society often gives second chances to young white men who come from “good families,” even when they are caught committing heinous crimes, as we saw with the the Stanford rape case.

There is a wide disconnect between the system we have created and the outcomes we say we seek. We know the justice system disproportionately incarcerates youth of color at at four times the rate of their white peers. This racial disparity is unacceptable, yet we are still investing public resources in a system that focuses on incarceration instead of rehabilitation. This approach is deeply damaging to young people and their families and communities, and is ineffective and costly.

We spend an estimated $95,805 for every year that a youth is incarcerated[1]. Community groups like EPIC, Youth Undoing Institutional Racism, TeamChild and Black Prisoners’ Caucus (BPC) have advocated for pursuing justice through a holistic, restorative lens.

We must reprioritize our funding if we are serious about achieving zero youth detention and helping young people transition to adulthood. The City has made a commitment to eliminate the need to detain or incarcerate youth through the creation of a Criminal Justice Equity Team, through Resolution 31614 in 2015. This process was delayed and is only starting now, but let’s ensure this team identifies a path to eliminating racial inequities in arrest rates, detention, and sentencing.

Government agencies alone are not the answer. We need to listen to and build solutions with community organizations that share the goal of zero youth detention if we are to transform our criminal justice system.

As Mayor, I will:

  • Fulfill the promise of Resolution 31614 by ensuring the Criminal Justice Equity Team (CJET) develops recommendations for strategies and programs to implement restorative justice and reduce arrest, sentencing and incarceration rates. I will incorporate these recommendations in my future budget, and guide the implementation in our practices.
  • Collaborate, via the Office for Civil Rights, with the the County, the Seattle City Attorney, and City Council to implement the pre-filing diversion program. The goal of this program is to prevent youth from being unnecessarily tagged with criminal records by providing them with services and alternatives to incarceration.
  • Work with the County to resolve the conflict around the proposed youth jail. When voters agreed to fund this project, it was described as a solution to directly help youth and serve families. This was a misrepresentation. Is it possible to rescope the project, reorient the funding, and go back to the voters with a project more in line with our values?
  • Redirect resources to place community-based restorative justice leaders in schools, instead of uniformed police officers, to focus on de-escalation and peace-making.
  • Explore how best to support and direct resources to community based organizations that are doing mentoring, diversion and restorative justice programs.

Stop Criminalizing Poverty

No one should be jailed, or go back to jail, because of poverty. Yet that is what is happening. 90% of people booked into custody are indigent[2] — meaning these are the people who lack basic resources like food or shelter.

We must prioritize efforts to provide services and pursue alternatives to reduce our incarceration rate. If someone does enter the system, we still need to ensure that they are still receiving the services they need so their situation is not worsened — especially if those decisions are merely a result of limited resources.

Our bail system preys on people with limited means. Bail is not meant to be a tool to keep people in custody, rather it is one of many tools to ensure defendants appear in court. Yet, 75–86% of defendants who remain in custody before sentencing are only there because they can’t afford to make bail — even though bail is less than $5k for most of these defendants.[3] This has huge ramifications on a person awaiting trial — from loss of income and housing to incapacity to fulfill parenting obligations to higher risk of sentencing[4]. It doesn’t have to be this way; there are effective and less harmful tools to get people to appear for their court date.

If someone is unable to find work and unable to find housing due to a felony record, many will just go back to the crimes that put them into prison in the first place, leading to an endless cycle of recidivism. Let us compassionately consider the harmful impacts of incarceration on individuals, families and communities, and pursue the least damaging alternatives.

As Mayor, I will:

  • Develop robust pre-trial services that successfully get people to show up for their court date. Our current system heavily relies on sending written letters which are likely being missed by young adults with unstable housing. Creating something as simple as a text notifications of upcoming court dates can make a huge difference in ensuring better outcomes.
  • Utilize our Racial Equity Toolkit to explore options of support services for those entering the court system, during incarceration and upon release. An example of a basic program would be a providing free transit pass and access to transitional housing for people who are leaving prison with no money and no other transportation options.
  • Work with the Seattle Municipal Court to move from a cash-bail system to an appearance bond model that would ensure individuals with limited means aren’t incarcerated due to their inability to raise funds for bail.
  • Support systems in which those with legal financial obligations have an opportunity to work off their debts through volunteering at local non-profits or other public service.

Expanding Services to Victims of Crimes

As Mayor, I will collaborate with community and government actors to break the cycle of our prison industrial complex. Part of that vision must also include addressing the far reaching impacts of sexual and gender based violence.

Taking the steps to leave an abuser or seek support can be harrowing. Not only is escaping violence complicated, it is often difficult to navigate the courts and legal system. Seeking support can seem insurmountable, especially for populations like undocumented immigrants and LGBTQ people who face additional barriers.

Though there are great organizations in Seattle and King County, these resources are relatively decentralized and are often burdened with providing support to survivors coming across the county and state for help.

I applaud the recent executive order taken by Mayor Burgess to enhance cross agency collaboration and provide support to underserved groups. We must continue to monitor this work and ask the question of who we can help assist with resources to provide services for survivors.

As Mayor, I will:

  • Deliver on the commitment to expand person-centered intervention services for adult and child survivors of sexual abuse.
  • Build on the leading work done through the LGBTQ Access Project, a project that mobilized over 20 organizations to support innovative, community driven approaches for LGBTQ survivors and their families in King County and Seattle.
  • Establish culturally sensitive outreach trainings for first-responders to better reach populations reluctant to come forward to report crimes. For example, undocumented populations are going into hiding out of fear of interacting with immigration authorities. City departments must be firm in our commitment to not sharing data with ICE, and have clear approaches to better serve these populations.
  • Ensure we are fulfilling our commitment to test all sexual assault evidence kits and monitor any new developments from the acquired grant funding provided to achieve this statewide goal.

Strong communities depend on trust, and the ability to walk through life freely and without fear. We can only create these strong, healthy communities by doing the hard work of changing the culture in every facet of the criminal justice system. We must establish second chances for young people who have made bad choices. We must stop criminalizing poverty in this time of extreme wealth inequality, and increase real opportunities for low income neighbors. We must keep at police reform until we all feel safe, respected, and secure in our rights. In our country there are centuries of racial injustice baked into our criminal justice system, and it will take everyone’s work to dismantle and rebuild a truly just alternative.

SOURCES:

  1. Justice Policy Institute, Sticker Shock: Calculating the Full Price Tag for Youth Incarceration, December 2014, http://www.justicepolicy.org/uploads/justicepolicy/documents/sticker_shock_final_v2.pdf (accessed March 24, 2015).
  2. SMC, RPEG Bail Study, 2015
  3. KCDPD Bail Briefing Memo, 2017, Analysis of SMC’s Pretrial Outcomes Summary by office of Councilmember Tim Burgess
  4. No Money, No Freedom: The Need for Bail Reform https://www.aclu-wa.org/bail# (Published: Friday, September 16, 2016)