Seattle City Council to consider bias-free policing law

In a time of turmoil over police shootings of African-American men, and the murders of police officers, former King County Executive Ron Sims disclosed Seattle police stopped him eight times for no reason.

"Because I was black, that's why they stopped me," Sims told KIRO 7 last week.

Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell wants to know how often that happens.

"Let's look at the data, let's look at it to see what's trending, let's have the officer explain why they stopped (someone)," Harrell said.

SPD is under a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice, which includes practices to monitor and prevent racial bias.

That consent decree will end after the city fully complies for a year so Harrell wants to put bias-free policing standards into city code so that practices continue after the expiration.

He also wants to expand on anti-bias practice by collecting and analyzing demographic data on police stops, and creating a system for people to easily file legal claims against the city if they've been racially profiled.

In some cases, officers might be called before a hearing examiner to explain why they made a stop.

Payouts for cases before a hearing examiner would be capped at $5,000.

"Most people aren't looking for money in this situation. They're looking for a rational and plausible explanation for why they were stopped," Harrell said.

Harrell addressed a question from KIRO 7 about whether his proposal would contribute to what's known as "de-policing," a hesitation to pull people over.

"That's always a concern. If a police officer isn't willing to do their job and do their job effectively, perhaps this isn't a good line of work for them," Harrell said, adding that he expected officers would embrace the idea.

KIRO 7 reached out to the Seattle Police Officers Guild but received no response.

Harrell said he would wait to formally introduce legislation until after an August meeting about SPD's compliance with the consent decree, and until after the outcome of a police guild contract vote is known.