May 20, 2013 - 6:36 AM
Estela Ortega, Kip Tokuda and Reverend Harriet Walden shared this letter with us.
Dear Members of the 36th District Democrats Executive Board:
We have heard that police reform has been a prominent issue in your deliberations for the endorsement in the Seattle mayor’s race. We wanted to set the record straight and describe for you Mayor Mike McGinn’s leadership in reforming the Seattle Police Department.
As community leaders, we have spent decades urging local leaders to listen to the community’s concerns regarding biased policing and excessive uses of force by our police department. Sometimes we got lip service and promises of action. But we never got meaningful change.
Mike McGinn has been different. He has taken our concerns seriously and worked hard to produce effective, lasting changes to the Seattle Police Department. While there are many strong opinions on how best to achieve reform, Mayor McGinn has always emphasized the importance of bringing together the community, the police, City Hall and the federal government to do what it takes to produce real reforms.
Here are some of the most prominent examples that have convinced us of Mayor McGinn’s sincere commitment to police reform:
• After the shooting of John T. Williams by Officer Ian Birk, the Seattle Police Department worked with his family to arrange meetings between family members, Chief John Diaz and other members of the command staff in restorative circles to address concerns and help restore a sense of trust in the police by the Williams family. The department’s own Firearms Review Board found the shooting to be unjustified and the department recommended Officer Birk be terminated. Birk resigned rather than be fired, but it was the intention of Mayor McGinn and Chief Diaz that he could never work as a police officer in this state again.
• Mayor McGinn worked with the community and SPD command staff to create and implement the 20/20 reform plan, which goes far beyond the issues raised by the DOJ in their report and in the Settlement Agreement. The mayor has brought us together with SPD to implement these 20 initiatives, including measures to improve the diversity of our police force, efforts to improve police-community relations, and new standards for training and practices that reflect our commitment to race and social justice.
• Mayor McGinn flew to Washington, D.C. to meet with Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez (recently nominated by President Obama to serve as Secretary of Labor) to jump-start negotiations toward a settlement. Even though the Seattle Police Officers Guild wanted the mayor to resist the DOJ and sue, Mayor McGinn personally negotiated a strong Settlement Agreement.
• Retained well known civil rights leader, Connie Rice, formerly of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, to advise the mayor in his efforts to lead and implement police reform. Ms. Rice is well known in her field for tackling police brutality and working with the community and the Los Angeles Police Department to build accountability and trust with the community and meaningful culture change within the department.
• We urged Mayor McGinn to include community leaders, including ourselves, in a formal capacity in the process of implementing the agreement. The mayor responded by ensuring the inclusion in the agreement of a Community Police Commission. This body, on which so many great social justice and civil rights leaders serve, advise the City and the Monitor on the implementation of the Settlement Agreement and advises the City on many other issues to support the development of reforms, the establishment of police priorities, and mechanisms to promote community confidence in SPD.
There is still much work ahead to reform the Seattle Police Department. We are confident that Mayor McGinn will continue to be a partner with us and the community, the police department, other elected officials, the Department of Justice and the Monitor, to implement these reforms and make sure they are effective and lasting. We endorse Mike McGinn for a second term as mayor because of his commitment to reform and justice. We urge you to endorse him as well.
Estela Ortega, Kip Tokuda & Rev. Harriett Walden