Seattle Mayor Ed Murray vowed Wednesday to crack down on illegal gun sales, reform the city’s troubled Police Department and create more jobs to keep kids off the streets this summer.
Addressing a standing-room-only City Council chamber, the mayor laid out a robust plan to improve public safety in the city, pledging to hold himself accountable by presenting an annual status report.
“ We have not over recent years developed a coherent and coordinated citywide approach to public safety,” said Murray. “Unless we as a city address this crisis of confidence, our challenges in public safety will only grow.”
Coming just three weeks after a shooting at Seattle Pacific University that killed one student and wounded two others, Murray called gun violence “perhaps our greatest challenge.”
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He emphasized he doesn’t intend to take guns away from responsible Seattleites but said it’s far too easy for criminals to get them. He will work with law enforcement to curb illegal gun-trafficking and make sure Washington gun buyers are subject to background checks, he said. He also plans to co-host a summit this fall with King County Executive Dow Constantine to share data and discuss strategies with local and federal law enforcement, advocates of domestic-violence prevention and health providers.
“Deaths by guns are not inevitable,” he said, eliciting applause from the audience. “Gun deaths are preventable, and we must combine the best sensible laws, smart law enforcement and public health to end this epidemic of violence.”
The mayor talked at length about the need for better policing and greater officer accountability. He recommended a new police-complaint model that will take the Office of Professional Accountability — the entity that investigates officer misconduct allegations — out of the Police Department and will add more civilian oversight.
It’s premature to say exactly how these changes will be implemented, said a spokesman from the mayor’s office, but Murray eventually will submit a formal proposal to the City Council outlining his recommendations.
In an effort to better address neighborhood crime in Seattle, Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, whose appointment was approved by the City Council this week, will develop a plan to address public-safety concerns unique to each neighborhood in the city, instead of using a one-size-fits-all approach.
Murray also highlighted Seattle’s job deficit for youth. In the past 10 years, employment for young people plummeted by 50 percent, he said. This year, through partnering with private businesses, philanthropists and others in the community, Seattle will see a 50 percent jump in youth job opportunities provided by the city, he said.
“This is progress, but this is not enough,” Murray said. “This is not acceptable. And we must do better.”
City Councilmember Bruce Harrell endorsed the mayor’s speech in a statement, listing a few of his own ideas to improve public safety in the city. Among Harrell’s suggestions is to explore the implementation of an “automated gunshot locator system,” which would triangulate the location of gunfire and help police find shooters faster.
The cost of implementing the ambitious plan for the summer will be about $500,000, according to projections from the mayor’s office. Some of that money will come from private donors and redirecting other funds within the city. The mayor could request up to $250,000 from the council, a spokesman said.
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