Seattle passes historic police reform

By: Essex Porter

Updated:

The council chambers at Seattle City Hall erupted in cheers when police reform legislation passed by unanimous vote.

A civil rights attorney before being elected to the council, Lorena Gonzalez shepherded the legislation through the council.

“We now have before us a system, being watched by the right people who will always struggle to correct the wrongs and always strive to improve our system,” she said at a news conference after the vote.

“It took tragedy in Seattle’s minority communities,” Mayor Ed Murray remembered.

Federal attorneys filed a lawsuit after Native American woodcarver John T. Williams was shot to death by a Seattle police officer.

“As we gather here I ask that we think of those who have died. We have the opportunity to offer trust and safety for people in our community we cannot let people's deaths be in vain,” said Miguel Maestas of El Centro de la Raza.

The new ordinance makes three major oversight bodies co-equal agencies overseeing police.

A new Inspector General will audit and monitor all functions of the department with a focus on civil rights.

The Office of Professional Accountability will be revamped with more civilian staff so citizens will be more likely to report police abuse.

The Community Police Commission will be enlarged and made permanent.

The president of the Seattle Police Guild was generally supportive-- but reminded that much of the legislation will have to go through collective bargaining.

“I'm just here to say let's play by the rules, long as we play by the rules of the state law, I'm in. Like I've always been,” Kevin Stuckey said.

The legislation now goes to the federal judge overseeing the federal consent decree.

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