In 2015, the Washington State Supreme Court started fining the state government $100,000 a day for continuing to underfund K-12 public education. In 2011, after a 9 month investigation, the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice sued the Seattle Police Department for a "pattern of excessive force” that violates the US Constitution and federal law.
This year, Washington has a second chance to address police brutality and in compliance with international human rights laws.
In fact, according to an analysis done by the SeattleTimes, from 2005 to 2014, 213 and thirteen people were killed by police officers in Washington and only 1 has been prosecuted.
Earlier this year, House Bill 2907 was considered which would have struck the “malice” clause from the state law, but it wasn’t even voted on. Frustrated with the lack of action from politicians, an activist group called Washington for Good Policing have proposed Initiative-873, which if passed, will strike the “without malice and with a good faith belief” from state law. The initiative will need over 250,000 signatures to get placed on the ballot for general voting.
Ironically, the legislation uses the term “peace officers” to denote law enforcement officers.
While the Black Lives Matter movement has drawn attention to the racism that continues to lead the murdering of innocent black citizens in this country and the destructive American system of mass incarceration of Black Americans, it’s worthwhile to note that the Washington police officers have targeted more than Black Americans. In 2015, Antoni Zambrano-Montes, an unarmed, Mexican man was shot at 17 times by police officers while running away with his arms raised in the air. He was dead at the scene.
No charges have been filed against any police officers in any of those cases.
Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington, has remained silent on the initiative. Ed Murray, the current mayor of Seattle, recently tentatively endorsed the initiative. While Murray’s endorsement is hopeful, he has long been criticized for not taking enough action to reform the Seattle Police Department (SPD). In fact, just before the July 4th holiday, he announced that he would not be reappointing either Director Pierce Murphy or Auditor Anne Levinson to their positions in the Office of Professional Accountability (OPA). Though the OPA is a government run organization, both the position of director and auditor are civilian positions. The purpose of the OPA is to oversee SPD Internal Investigations. Anne Levinson has been a long time vocal critic of not only the use of force in the SPD but also Mayor Murray’s refusal to adopt any of her suggested reforms.
With the introduction of Initiative-873 and the change in leadership in the OPA, the direction that Seattle and Washington will take is unclear. Seattle is the largest city in Washington. With an estimated almost 700,000 people, it is three times larger then the next largest city, Spokane. As in every other election, the citizens of Seattle have the power to really influence elections. It’s clear that 2016 is a chance for Washington to take a small step in the right direction. It’s unclear if so-called Seattle liberals, a group largely dominated by white folks, will actually step up to the plate.