Critics of new police precinct plan get tour

SEATTLE — Friday's tour was remarkable because police commanders invited some of their fiercest critics behind the scenes at Seattle’s North Precinct.

And they got to see things that left the department open to criticism.

We were invited along as the commanders of the current North Precinct gave Councilmember Kshama Sawant and skeptical community members a tour.

They pointed to the cramped space inside.

“They have to find another desk to work until their counterpart who's on an earlier shift leaves,” said Acting Capt. Greg Sackman.

And outside in the parking lot they pointed to safety issues.

“They've been followed home, they've been followed walking from here to their cars,” said Acting Lt. Christi Robbin.

And because the current precinct is built on a wetland, powerful pumps are needed to keep it from flooding.

That's why the department is proposing to spend $150 million on a new North Precinct.

There will be space to improve officer training, as required by the federal court, for community meetings.

“We have to start somewhere. The only thing that we get by not having a community space is nowhere to engage,” said Seattle Police Chief Operating Officer Brian Maxey

The city already owns the land for the new precinct at North 130th and Aurora Avenue.

But the plan to build a new police station here has also highlighted the chasm of mistrust between some in the community and the police.

For example reporter Ansel Hertz from “The Stranger” newspaper spotted stickers disparaging President Obama in a locker room where no cameras were allowed.

“That, itself, feeds an environment that puts people of color at harm's risk. How is the money that you are asking for a building going to fix that?” said Seattle writer Ijeoma Oluo

“I'm not going to say you give us a new building and all these problems are solved. That's simply unreasonable. But it can certainly support the efforts by being transparent being inclusive and offering supervisor visibility to make sure that happens,” said Maxey.

“It will be good for the public, members of the public to get some clarity on how exactly the need for this extra training required by the department of justice is necessarily correlated with the need for newer buildings and newer equipment,” concluded Councilmember Sawant.

COO Brian Maxey said he didn't condone the locker room stickers disparaging President Obama. But he says officers may have the right to free expression on their personal lockers.

He promised to look into the issue.