Last year in the wake of George Floyd and other tragic injustices at the hands of police, I raised the issue of comprehensive policing reform to the Port Commission. That effort led to the creation of the Commission Task Force on Policing and Civil Rights. The Port of Seattle must take the responsibility during this critical moment in history to ensure that our Port Police Department, with over 110 sworn officers, is held to the highest nationwide standards to protect civil rights, maintain public safety, ensure equity and accountability, and enforce oversight. Because there are always opportunities for improvement, the Port needs to ensure that our policies and practices are not disproportionately impacting our Black community and are protecting the civil rights of all people.
It was clear to me that we needed a comprehensive look at everything we do, including policies, practices, training, and hiring. Instead of only responding to the calls to “defund the police” (which I oppose), I wanted us to go deeper and enact more meaningful reform and change. I asked that the Port do the difficult work of imagining what we wanted from our police force and how our expectations may have changed over time.
How can we improve our equity practices and treat marginalized communities better?
The department has already begun implementing the 52 changes called for by the report. I firmly believe the work of the Task Force will broadly benefit the Port, the Port Police, the communities we serve, and the users of Port facilities. The Port is leading by example by acting swiftly and meaningfully to identify and implement Task Force recommendations.
I am encouraged by the collaborative efforts and the cooperation between Port Police, Labor, the Port staff, and community members. They have all been willing to take risks, articulate their needs, speak to areas of improvement in policing policies and practice, and chart a path forward to a more just and equitable police department.