Repeal the Death Penalty

Yesterday, Gov. Inslee, Attorney General Ferguson, former Attorney General McKenna, and several Democrat and Republican legislators announced they would introduce legislation repealing Washington's death penalty statute. I hope the legislature passes this measure; it's long overdue.

I wrote about this issue in January, 2015. Here are my reasons why we should stop believing in the false promise of the death penalty.

North Precinct: We Listened

We listened. Based on what we have heard from a wide variety of community members, and the Council’s review of the cost projections, we want to take another look at the component parts of the building and even redesign some of them in an effort to lower the cost. Sometimes it is important to pause and reconsider a decision. That’s what we’re doing here with this project.

A new precinct building for our police officers serving north Seattle must be constructed. The current facility is not suitable and needs to be replaced. But, by taking a closer look at the design and the various parts of the proposed building we may be able to substantially lower costs as many Seattleites have encouraged us to do. For example, maybe the training center doesn’t need to be as large. While the community space in the building is important, perhaps it too can be resized in an effort to lower costs.

This building has the potential to be more than just a new precinct station. The training center and community rooms are critically important in our work to build connections between our police officers and our communities. And, this new precinct is designed to last for as long as 50 years, an important consideration given the current and expected future growth of Seattle.

Why I Support Building a New Police Facility in North Seattle

NPrecintThe City Council will vote this afternoon on legislation advancing the proposed new police facility in north Seattle at the intersection of 130th and Aurora Avenue North and requiring additional cost analysis and community review.

Here are the reasons I support moving forward with this project.

The current police precinct for North Seattle, located across from North Seattle Community College, is grossly overcrowded and can no longer meet the needs of the police department. We have known this since 1998 when the precinct was overcrowded by a factor of 30%. Today, it is overcrowded by 65%. One of the most significant problems with

this overcrowding is that detectives and other staff are located in nearby commercial office space, a fact that interferes with effective communication, efficiency and team building. Over 40% of Seattle’s population is north of the Lake Washington Ship Canal. These residents and those who visit or work there deserve excellent police services.

The proposed new facility is more than a replacement precinct. It also includes an urgently needed new Training Center, a key component of the city’s continuing path toward compliance with the federal court consent decree. Over a third of the new building can be used for police training, including seven classrooms and simulation areas, plus offices for training staff. Some of these classrooms are multi-purpose and can be used by the public as well. Combined with the training facility in the SODO neighborhood, this new center will provide significantly more room for the five-fold increase in in-service training officers receive each year. This training is essential to the successful reform of policing in Seattle.

The new facility also includes a large community room and a smaller conference room for the public to use for community meetings, special events, or police-community relationship building. Encouraging this type of police-community interaction is important to achieve full compliance with the federal court settlement agreement.

Some have objected to this new facility, claiming it is too expensive or that we shouldn’t be building something for the police when they are under federal oversight. Let’s be clear, this is not the most expensive police precinct in the United States as inaccurately claimed by The Seattle Times and widely repeated by opponents. By comparison, San Francisco’s Public Safety Building began construction in 2011, and was more expensive in 2017 dollars. On a cost-per-square foot basis, other public safety facilities in New York and Seattle are more expensive.

Could we lower costs further? Yes, of course. For example, we could eliminate the public community spaces and the Training Center. But why would we do that when these facilities will contribute directly to better police-community relations and better policing?

The city government is investing tens of millions of dollars in police reform separate from this facility; for example, underwriting the costs of the federal court monitoring team, paying for thousands of hours of court-mandated training, adding front-line supervisors, and investing in new data collection and analysis capabilities. These investments are worth every dollar.

So is the new police facility in North Seattle. Our officers are putting their lives on the line every day and they deserve a building that is not 65% overcrowded with equipment piled up in the bathroom. They deserve the highest quality training that will help us continually improve quality policing.

We set very high standards for excellence in our police department. We hold officers accountable because we expect professional, fair, constitutional policing. The people of Seattle deserve the best from our police officers. Our police officers deserve the best from us.


This week has been difficult for me to process. On Tuesday and Wednesday, two more black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, were shot and killed by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota. As I struggle to balance my emotional reactions to these tragedies with the need to let the investigations take their course, I cannot ignore one fact: people of color in our country, particularly black men, keep getting shot by police officers. This is not a new phenomenon, but with the widespread use of video technology, all Americans can see it now with their own eyes.

Then last night we watched in horror as a targeted hate crime was carried out against Dallas police officers who were simply doing their job to protect peaceful protesters. Once again, gun violence destroyed families and ripped communities apart.

At the same time as the Dallas attack, our Seattle police officers escorted and protected peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters on our streets. It is no secret tensions exist between the police and communities of color, but that does not stop our officers from providing this fundamental protection of democracy. It does not stop them from patrolling our neighborhoods day and night to keep all of us safe. These officers deserve our respect and gratitude and, in the aftermath of last night’s terror, our encouragement and support. They also deserve to be held to a high standard of behavior. I believe strong support and robust accountability go hand in hand.

Moving forward, let us continue the hard work of restoring relationships between our police officers and all our communities, for the sake of everyone’s safety. Let’s make certain that we continue forward with our reforms of the police department, strengthen civilian control and oversight, and keep building public trust and confidence in our officers.

The Importance of Naming

Love-hateSometimes it is important to identify things, to name them, to call them out. Naming allows us to remember. It gives us a reference point, focuses our attention.

The Orlando attack very early in the morning on June 12 on Pulse, a gay nightclub, is one of those times. It was hate aimed at a specific population, our sisters and brothers in the LGBTQ and Latino communities. The man who committed this horrific hate crime killed 49 people and injured dozens more.

Hate crimes target LGBTQ people more than any other group. The New York Times reported last week that the FBI

found that of the 5,462 single-bias hate crimes reported to police in 2014 nearly a fifth were targeted at members of the LGBTQ community, surpassing the number aimed at Jewish, Muslim, Black, Asian or Hispanic individuals.

Hate—verbal expressions or physical attacks—against the LGBTQ community must be named each and every time it occurs. Failure to do so is passive acceptance.

Another important “naming” is the Black Lives Matter movement, born from the frustration of George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the 2013 shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. One may disagree with the movement’s tactics or some of their positions, but declaring Black Lives Matter is a necessary expression. It’s important because police shootings and police misconduct disproportionately affects Black people. It’s important because of the systemic marginalization and violent mistreatment of African Americans throughout United States history. Look back to slavery, Jim Crow laws, mass incarceration brought on by the “War on Drugs,” redlining, and public schools that have utterly failed Black children.

Who gets to name things is important, too. It’s usually media, those with political power. But, if we insist that marginalized groups name their struggles—as happened with Black Lives Matter—we may more quickly get to the root of the problem.

During my tenure on the City Council I’ve focused on early childhood education and services designed to give every child a strong and fair start. Tragically, too many of our children are being left behind, especially children living in poverty and children of color. There are many reasons, but the underpinnings are tied directly to racism and our inattention to the crisis of opportunity we have allowed to grow and grow over decades for our Black neighbors. That’s why naming it matters. Black lives do matter, for all of us.

Sometimes our political rhetoric needs naming as well. Look no further than Donald Trump. He has based his campaign for president on hateful, racist, misogynistic and dangerously nationalistic language and actions. It needs to be named for what it is.

Words matter. Hate spawns more hate. Left unchecked, hate leads to violence.

Here’s what journalist Alex Massie wrote after the assassination last week of Jo Cox, a member of the British parliament, gunned down and stabbed to death in her northern England district by a nationalist extremist. “Sometimes rhetoric has consequences. If you spend days, weeks, months, years telling people they are under threat, that their country has been stolen from them, that they have been betrayed and sold down the river, that their birthright has been pilfered . . . that their problem is they’re not sufficiently mad as hell, then at some point, in some place, something or someone is going to snap. And then something terrible is going to happen.”

Massie was writing about the campaign leading up to Thursday’s vote on whether Britain should remain in or leave the European Union. What he wrote applies here as well because no matter where you are hate speech is incredibly harmful.

Naming things for what they are is important because once it has a name we can begin the process of change. We can work to enact responsible gun laws. We can reform American policing. We can continue the fight against racism. We can begin to untie the albatross of oppression so many of our people have carried around their necks for generations.

Let’s keep naming things for what they are.