Nov 25 2014
Statement issued 11/25/2014:
SEATTLE – Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Council’s Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee, issued the following statement regarding the Ferguson grand jury decision:
“As a society and nation, we have gone through turbulent times between law enforcement and communities of color. After certain incidents of police violence against African Americans, we make incremental changes, but fail to adopt longstanding systematic changes that might prevent future violence in this country. The changes occur independently in each community impacted. Remember, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ The Rodney King incident resulted in violent riots, but the LAPD is steadily changing for the better. Our City, two decades later, is under a Department of Justice Settlement Agreement to ensure constitutional, bias-free policing. I am hopeful the aftermath of this grand jury decision will lead to a meaningful dialogue between law enforcement and communities of color. The result should lead to positive changes in all cities and police departments. It would be easy to close our ears and not listen; we must demonstrate a capacity and willingness to listen and learn.
“Martin Luther King, Jr. also stated, ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.’ When we roll up our sleeves to turn our reaction into action, I see the bend towards justice as a greater commitment and investment in our black youth through education, jobs, and mentoring. A recent report says Seattle now has the ninth lowest income for African American households. This speaks to the affordability issue in Seattle where many African Americans are having to relocate to the suburbs. As a lifelong resident of Seattle, this is unacceptable. We must do a better job of creating a pathway to success. The two biggest economic drivers in the Seattle region since the recession have been the aerospace industry and companies like Amazon. We need to make a relentless commitment to help our young black males graduate from high school, attend college, and enter fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. Council just added $175,000 in this year’s budget for youth outreach programs like Project M.I.S.T.E.R., which is operated by Southeast Youth and Family Services. Project M.I.S.T.E.R. is a school-based program that provides mentoring and guidance to African American youth. When we demonstrate a laser focus on helping our youth, we have seen results. Cleveland High School just graduated 89 percent of its senior class, rivaling Roosevelt’s 90.3 percent rate and surpassing Ballard’s 87.9 percent rate. When community members, parents, and elected leaders focus on the problem, work together, and take action, we can see results and justice.
“The Ferguson decision is a sobering reminder that we need to equip all police offers with cameras. The family of Michael Brown released a statement after the decision calling on people to join them in their push to, “…ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera.” The public deserves to have clear video evidence of police and civilian interactions, so we can more accurately examine incidents of police misconduct and produce video and audio evidence when shootings occur. The grand jurors in the case heard 70 hours of testimony from roughly 60 witnesses with differing accounts. One answer to prevent the incident at Ferguson from occurring again is to deploy body cameras on all police officers.”