There is no question major reform of the Seattle Police Department is needed, both for the sake of people who have not always been justly treated by the police and for the police who have been expected to keep the lid on too many roiling social problems.
It is a process of unwinding old habits, analyzing a host of racial, institutional and societal complexities, finding new people to forge change and imagining a more intelligent, modern way to protect the citizens of our city. In the past, Seattle’s police department had meandered into militarization, which only heightened conflicts with communities of color that had long existed. In recent years, under a court order, significant progress has been made to get our city’s cops on the right track.
Now, responding to a summer of protests against police violence, the Seattle City Council has careened into the process. So far, most council members have not inspired confidence that they have thought very far beyond appeasing the loudest voices on the street. They’ve hacked away at the police budget and rushed into changes without getting input from a wide range of citizens or from criminal-justice experts. And, most disturbingly, they treated the city’s Black, female police chief, Carmen Best, with such disregard and disdain that she announced her sudden retirement, setting off alarms all over town, including in the Black community where Best was highly regarded.
Yes, it is time to move forward on changing how police do their job and how we deal with the disaffected, disturbed and criminally inclined among us, but please, folks, let’s use our brains, not just our bullhorns.
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