Today, Mayor Ed Murray delivered the following remarks regarding the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, and police reform and accountability:
As I have said many times before, the issue of race and racism is the greatest challenge we face as a country, particularly as racism impacts the black community.
This week, within 24 hours, two black men, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were killed by police officers.
I am deeply disturbed by police action resulting in the death of any person. And today my thoughts are with the victims’ families, children, and loved ones during this extremely difficult and sad time.
I know the black community are walking with a heavy heart and a sense of outrage, injustice and fear. Had Castile or Sterling been white, I believe they would still be here with us today.
Their deaths are two in a long line of tragedies that feed mistrust between communities of color and the police, particularly the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children of black men.
As I have said on the night of the Ferguson grand jury verdict, we cannot let this gulf of mistrust divide us and continue to cause this fear and pain.
This is why we must get police reform right in Seattle.
The Department of Justice should lead the investigations into these killings.
The shooting deaths of black men at the hands of police have brought the attention of the Department of Justice to many cities across the nation, including our own.
Since I became mayor, this City has been committed to working with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and the federal courts to make dramatic reforms in the Seattle Police Department to comply with the federally mandated consent decree.
In partnership with the Department of Justice and the Federal Monitor that oversees our consent decree, we are creating a model Force Review Board that is being replicated across the country.
The Force Review Board reviews every serious use of force by a Seattle Police Officer. And present at every Force Review Board are representatives from the Department of Justice, the Monitoring Team, a civilian representative from the Office of Professional Accountability, and a citizen observer.
So unlike Minneapolis or Louisiana, the Department of Justice is already here, and we are working with them closely to create best practices in reviewing police uses of force.
Where other jurisdictions are just now contemplating where to start, we are already well down the road of reform, and other cities are coming to us to learn from our experience.
In fact, Chief O’Toole is in D.C. today at the Center of Policing Equity to speak at an event sponsored by the Department of Justice about the issues of race and policing.
In the coming months, I will send legislation to Seattle City Council that will expand and strengthen civilian oversight and independent review of the Seattle Police Department.
It is my goal to create a permanent citizen oversight commission that is the strongest in this city’s history.
It is my goal to create a more independent director of the police accountability process, on the model of the ethics and elections commission, which is completely independent of the mayor and council.
It is my goal to create a stronger auditor of the police discipline process on the model of an inspector general, with greater authority to investigate complaints.
And we will use a community process similar to the one used to hire Chief O’Toole to hire for these new roles.
As we move forward, our conversation cannot be about blaming black men, it must be about changing our institutions and systems.
As a white man, I stand as an ally in solidary with the black community.
But I cannot pretend to know their experience.
I cannot know the experience of black men and women everywhere, who live everyday with the fear that one small action of their part could make them the next victim.
I cannot know the experience of raising a black child in our society, and the daily worry that today might be the day they do not come home because they were taken by a bullet.
What I do know is that white Americans have work to do. We, the beneficiaries of hundreds of years of structural inequality, must use our privilege to construct a more just society.
This has been my commitment every single day as mayor.
Everything we have accomplished during my time in this office…
…pre-k, the minimum wage, transit, priority hire, parks and community centers, police reform, summer youth employment, our education summit…
…they are our response to addressing the issue of race and inequality.
To Seattle’s residents of color, your city cares about you. Your lives matter. The fact that we even need to state that Black Lives Matter is the result of our failure to address racism in our society.
To white residents of Seattle, let us work with our sisters and brothers of color to end structural and institutional racism.”
A full video of the Mayor’s remarks is available here.