Socialist Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant is demanding an independent, community-based investigation into the police shooting that killed Charleena Lyles.
Lyles called police Sunday morning, reporting a burglary that included the theft of an X-box. An audio recording indicates two officers spent about three minutes calmly speaking with Lyles, who later armed herself with two kitchen knives. Lyles had been ordered by a Seattle Mental Health Court judge to not possess weapons just weeks before the shooting.
Family members and Seattle activists question why police didn't use non-lethal options when they knew Lyles, a pregnant mother of four, had been struggling with mental health issues.
As far as reviews into the police shooting now, the SPD Force Investigation Team (FIT) is conducting an investigation required by protocols put into place under the Department of Justice's Settlement Agreement with the City of Seattle.
“These policies and protocols require SPD to fully investigate and critically analyze every officer-involved shooting before determining whether or not to refer it to OPA for potential disciplinary recommendations,” Pierce Murphy, director of the Office of Professional Accountability said in a statement.
The Seattle Police Department is separate from the OPA Review Board, which has seven members appointed by the Seattle City Council.
“The FIT investigation can take anywhere from 60-90 days or longer (if extensions are granted due to the complexity of the event). The results of FIT's investigation are then reviewed by the Force Review Board (FRB) to determine compliance with SPD training and policy - including biased policing, use-of-force and de-escalation polices. Any conduct the FRB concludes may have been in violation of SPD policy is automatically referred to OPA.”
Sawant wrote in a blog post Thursday that she has no confidence in an internal police investigation.
Despite the OPA Review Board, the councilwoman is still urging people to sign a petition that asks for the city council to appoint an independent and community-based committee to look at Lyles’ case.
She wants the committee to have full access to evidence, witnesses, and department polices. The OPA Review Board, which is appointed by Sawant and her City Council colleagues, has access to evidence, witnesses and department policies.
At a rally at Westlake Park on Thursday night, Sawant approached protesters, asking them to sign the petition.
“The impunity in which police killing people it’s a nationwide phenomenon. Nationwide, just last year alone, more than 1,100 people killed by the hands of police, only 13 police officers [who were] involved were charged, but none convicted,” Sawant told KIRO 7 News during the rally.
“The police department has not been held accountable … by the end of the day, I feel, and the community feels that what we need is a democratically elected, independent community-led oversight body that has subpoena powers from the police department and full powers to review and rule on policy and producers of the police department,” she said.
Sawant is known for speaking at protests and leading progressive movements in Seattle, and she has called for “civil disobedience" since the results of the 2016 election.
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