Earlier today, my office asked the Seattle Police Department (SPD) questions about the horrific killing of Charleena Lyles.
Charleena was killed by police in her home, in front of her children. This horrific killing happened just two days after the officers who killed Philando Castile were found ‘not guilty’ in Minnesota.
Let’s stand in solidarity with Charleena’s family and activists, and discuss how we can build a movement to fight against racially-biased policing, and to win democratically elected community oversight boards with full powers over the police, including department policies, procedures, budgets, and conducting investigations.
In our view, the question is not simply, did the officers follow department policies?
The questions that need to be asked are: What department policies and training led officers to shoot to death a 100-pound pregnant woman, allegedly holding a knife, in her own home and in front of her children? How should officer training and the use-of-force policy be changed to allow situations like this to be resolved without the loss of life?
Therefore, my office has asked SPD the following questions:
- Please list the last 10 fatal officer-involved shootings in Seattle, with the following information:
- Date of the shooting
- Name, race, and demographic information of the person killed
- Name and precinct of the officers who fired shots, and the officers’ records, including all Type I, Type II, and Type III uses of force, any OPA complaints, and any findings of excessive use of force
- Are Seattle officers required to use less lethal force whenever possible? What is the penalty for using lethal force when non-lethal force is clearly an option?
- Are Seattle officers trained to retreat from a dangerous situation rather than engaging, if engaging could harm someone and/or result in a possible fatality?
- Are officers trained to disarm a person holding a knife without resorting to firearms. With Tasers? With batons? With mace? With hand-to-hand combat?
- Are Seattle officers trained to shoot to kill, or are officers ever trained to shoot to wound, such as a shot to the leg?
- How would officers have resolved the situation if they were not carrying guns?
- In Crosscut, Norm Stamper was quoted saying, “Officers have been trained that if somebody approaches within 21-feet of you, you must fire.” Is this an accurate description of SPD’s policy?
- The same article quotes Deputy Joe Winters as follows: “We have to go one step higher” … “If the perpetrator has a stick, we use a taser; if [he or she] has a knife, we use a gun.” Is that an accurate description of SPD use-of-force policy?
- How would SPD recommend changing the use-of-force policy so that situations in the future can be resolved without the loss of life?