SEATTLE — Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said several policy changes are being made to hold police accountable and protect peaceful protesters after more than a week of confrontations in the city.
Citing an "incredibly painful week" of protests in Seattle and across the country over police brutality and racial justice after the death of George Floyd, Durkan outlined recommendations and changes to improve how the city handles protests.
"I do not pretend to have all the answers, but I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn, and grow, and be held accountable," Durkan wrote.
Immediate and long-term changes are being made following conversations city leaders have had with, according to Durkan, Black Lives Matter, Seattle - King County, Seattle Urban League, protest organizers, the Seattle Community Police Commission, faith leaders, and other community organizations.
The changes include:
- An emergency order to the City Council that would require officers turn on body cameras during protests.
- A directive to all Seattle officers requiring their badge number is visible to the public.
- An agreement with the city attorney to withdraw the city's filing to end the two-year sustainment period of police reform connected to the federal consent decree and re-examine use of force and crowd control policies.
- Request independent committees and Department of Justice to examine the city's current crowd control policies, including tactics, use of chemicals, and de-escalation techniques.
- Have Seattle police update policies based on concerns raised by the community and the 2016 Campaign Zero National policy survey in the coming week to reflect best practices for use of force.
- Asking an independent prosecutor at the state level to investigate and prosecute officers' use of deadly force.
- Scaling back the presence of the National Guard during protests.
- Ensure no peaceful protester will be charged.
- Redirect at least $100 million to further invest in community-based programs focused on black youth and adults, including employment programs, businesses, and programs that provide alternatives to arrest and incarcerate.
Durkan's recommendations follow criticism from the community and city council over how police have handled the protests.
"We really want to meet peace with peace," said Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said over de-escalation techniques.
The department is trying to decrease the visibility of officers. Best previously said protesters feel as if it's militarized having officers out in full force and in uniform, and that having them less visible could minimize risks for both officers and protesters.
Best said it's their policy to make sure the response is "reasonable, necessary and proportionate" to the incident. She said Saturday's response will be under review.
Sawant introduces bill to ban use of chemicals
As city leaders work to make policy changes, Councilmember Kshama Sawant is working to end use of chemicals and other crowd control measures, including banning police from using chokeholds.
The legislation would band Seattle officers and other law enforcement agencies working with police from using any chemicals, including tear gas, mace, and peppery spray. It would also ban things such as rubber bullets, bean bags, blast balls, water cannons, and more.
Sawant's legislation will be introduced during the city council meeting on Monday, according to her office.