#CharleenaLyles (Or: #DisarmPolice)
I think the title says it all.
Here's the thing - the Charleena Lyles murder was completely avoidable. What we know: the officers responding were discussing her prior interactions with police on their way to her apartment. They knew about her mental health. They knew they were going into a transitional housing complex.
Yet when they exited their vehicle, they declined to bring non-lethal "weapons." Or they did, and just didn't bother to use them. When a police officer exits his vehicle to respond to a 911 call from someone who may be having issues with their grasp on reality, and they are aware that that person is poor, black, and in transitional housing, then that officer is setting themselves up to kill someone.
Many have expressed the outrage over this completely avoidable incident. This is further proof that the delay in implementation of police reform - thanks to spineless politicians, a U.S. Attorney who said good things but was unable to get meaningful action, an overseer from a corrupt police department, and a guild that cares more about themselves than the communities that they are expected to serve - will continue to lead to people dying. Specifically - we will see more black and brown people dying, being harassed, and feeling unsafe, all thanks to a bunch of white folks who want to be allies, but for some reason can't stand up and get shit done.
There is no doubt that Council Member Gonzalez's police reform measures are a tremendous start, and I believe will reap rewards. As she has stated: this is a first step. There is more work to do. And that happens at both the state and local level.
For one, it's time to remove the option of deadly force from police officers generally. Seattle Police have shown they are incapable of de-escalation on a grand scale, regardless of training. Non-lethal devices to subdue individuals who may be posing an immediate threat to themselves, officers, or the public should be plenty. Only those who have exhibited the ability to carry a firearm, but not use it as a first line of response, should be allowed to bring firearms to a scene when called.
Next, we need to change state law that shields officers from being held accountable. There has been great work on this already, and it will take the efforts of people across the state to get it over the finish line.
Further, changing state law to allow for departments to have residency requirements for officers. Being part of the community is an important part of community policing, and we should be able to make that either a requirement, or a major bonus for officers seeking to serve in Seattle.
There are other big changes in culture we can and should make. Bringing members from the community into the department, regardless of citizenship status, and providing pay to work to build trust in both directions. Adding points for Peace Corps service commensurate with armed forces service. Community service hours requirements.
Reformation of the criminal "justice" system touches on many parts, and I'll be getting back to my incarceration series next week. But the murder of Charleena Lyles is too important to not remind us of the need for drastic reforms. And it's a statewide need - through work, I have had to review the footage of the Antonio Zambrano Montes shooting in Pasco. We need statewide reforms, and we can lead in Seattle, while supporting measures like Initiative 940 (de-escalate Washington) to take action where legislators have not. Because if we don't, there will be more Charleena Lyles, More Antonio Zambrano Montes. More John T. Williams. I like to think we can be better than that.