Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell

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Archive for February, 2011

Feb 27 2011

Students at Washington’s Evans School of Public Affairs ask tough questions

On Tuesday, February 22, I had the pleasure of sitting down with students from the University of Washington’s, Evans School of Public Affairs to lead a discussion of the City’s Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI) and Seattle Police accountability.

Recent events across the world have demonstrated the power of youth and students; they can change the world and world order. That is why I embraced the opportunity to talk with these intelligent students who only want to see accountability, fairness and progress in our City.

We fully examined the Police shooting of John T. Williams. They shared with me that they believed I was the only elected official who seemed to take responsibility for the action; who gave straight, clear answers; and who worked hard to find solutions to help address future issues through my proposal that Police wear body-mounted cameras. While I appreciated the comments, I shared with them the results of the Firearms Review Board which, in my opinion, demonstrated a process that worked; clearly this process, run primarily by the Police Department, conducted a forensic examination of the shooting and boldly and accurately concluded the shooting was not justified and violated established policies for the use of reasonable force.

The students discussed the difference between individual acts of discrimination and institutional discrimination which could be inadvertent or not traced to individual intent. We talked about the need for every human being to examine how and why they react to people who are different than they are and then, with that understanding, recognize the need to always improve their human effectiveness. I was privileged to be in their company.

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Feb 20 2011

2011 Safe Streetlights Initiative

Published by under Seattle City Light

Inspection process helps ensure our streetlight system is safe

This past Thanksgiving Sammy the German Shorthair Pointer was killed by contact voltage from faulty wiring in a metal poled streetlight on Queen Anne Hill. The streetlight was installed by a private contractor and inspected by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), pursuant to established policy.

I, like many others were appalled by this death. A close pet is like a family member and my heart goes out to Sammy’s family.

To decrease the possibility of this happening again, Seattle City Light took control by inspecting more than 37,000 pieces of equipment, including nearly 16,000 metal streetlight poles. Our streetlight system has approximately 80,000 streetlight poles. One reason for using metal poles is that they last longer and uphold their appearance longer. When contact voltage was discovered, crews immediately cut power to the units and inspected them further to determine and fix the problem.

On February 16, 2010, City Light reported to the Energy, Technology and Civil Rights Committee to discuss the inspection results. Industry standards allow a testing level of 50 volts. As an extra precaution City Light decreased the testing level to 30 volts. Crews found 56 pieces of equipment with readings above 30 volts. These were de-energized and are being repaired. Crews found 102 pieces of equipment with readings less than 30 volts. All will be repaired within the next 3 months.

Our new pole inspection policy will produce results that exceed national standards. This will help ensure greater safety to our streetlight system. I commend the leadership at City Light for taking ownership to inspect and identify all of the problem poles. Moreover, our policy changes are smart changes.

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Feb 16 2011

Statement of Councilmember Bruce Harrell on Prosecuting Attorney’s decision not to file charges against Officer Ian Birk

Councilmember Statement issued: 2/16/2011

SEATTLE – “I am very disappointed in the King County Prosecutor’s decision not to file criminal charges regarding the death of Mr. John T. Williams. This matter demonstrates that changes to state law regarding the Public Inquest proceedings should be made. The public must have a restored confidence that the inquest process is fair, impartial and thorough. This result erodes public confidence in that process.

“Officer Birk should be disciplined to the fullest extent provided under the internal process used by the City of Seattle. Our recruitment and training of police officers must prevent this type of tragedy from occurring again. We must adopt a zero tolerance culture relative to the unlawful use of force.

“My proposal that officers be required to wear body-mounted cameras when they are dispatched to potentially violent situations, as opposed to relying on their stationary dashboard cameras to provide evidence, remains a feasible solution to restore public confidence in any process that examines police accountability and possible misconduct.”

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Feb 13 2011

Seattle Times Opinion Column: What did Officer Ian Birk really see?

By Bruce Harrell and Peter Steinbrueck
Special to The Times

The dramatic video of Seattle Police Officer Ian Birk approaching John T. Williams shows Williams walking across the street directly in front of Birk’s car. The video, captured by equipment known as digital in-car video, also shows the officer leaving the car and commanding Williams to drop a knife.

But then, you only hear the chilling sounds of four bullets fired from Birk’s gun. The video range was too limited.

The city will now spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, trying to determine and address what actually occurred outside the range of the video. As Councilmember Bruce Harrell proposed in September, Seattle could avoid similar situations by equipping police officers with small body-mounted cameras that weigh about the same as a cellphone — something Oakland, San Jose and Cincinnati and other cities have done.

In 2009, video from a body camera exonerated a Fort Smith, Ark., police officer who used lethal force after ordering a man to drop a gun nine times. In Cincinnati, a body camera showed an officer telling a suspect repeatedly to put his hands behind his back. The suspect refused and said, “Tase me then.” The officer did.

Today, most cellphones have video-camera capability. Seattle has been tarnished by police events being video-recorded by citizens and put on the Internet for national dissemination. These devices could also capture when the officer’s conduct is professional, appropriate and procedurally correct.

We just witnessed weeks of proceedings of a public grand-jury inquest that reviewed the Williams shooting. All eight jurors concluded that they still did not know whether Williams tried to put the knife down after the officer’s order; four believed the knife blade was open and four did not know; and four believed Williams did not pose an imminent threat of serious harm to Birk, yet three did not know. Clearly, had the officer recorded the incident with a body-worn video camera, the jury may have been better able to ascertain facts.

The city of Seattle’s 250 patrol cars are already equipped with in-car video equipment. The obvious limitation is that the camera is stationary. The current equipment is nearing its end and will soon be replaced — at a cost of as much as $5,000 per unit. However, the small body-mounted cameras cost only about $900 — or a fifth of what the in-car equipment costs — and can also be placed on the officer’s dashboard and serve the same function.

Recently, the Oakland City Council passed a resolution authorizing the purchase of 350 body-mounted cameras from a Seattle-based company that manufactures small, body-mounted cameras for police work.

Our public demands better officer training in the use of de-escalation tactics and nonlethal force. The police seek better public understanding of the difficult, split-second decisions officers must make in dangerous, life-threatening situations. With the use of body cameras, the circumstances of what happens on the streets can be better understood and improve the work of policing.

As San Jose’s police Chief Rob Davis stated, body cameras provide invaluable evidence and save the internal affairs department the time and cost of pursuing complaints hinged on one person’s word against another’s.

Describing body cameras are the “wave of the future,”Cincinnati’s Police Chief Tom Streicher stated: “What better way of evaluating that officer’s conduct by taking a look at what that officer is seeing?”

Like a growing number of law-enforcement agencies across the country, the Seattle Police Department can demonstrate to the public it embraces accountability and professionalism through the deployment of this technology.

Healthy and sustainable communities work in close partnership with those in uniform whose sworn duty it is to protect them.

Bruce A. Harrell is a member of the Seattle City Council and chair of the Energy, Technology and Civil Rights Committee. Peter Steinbrueck is a former Seattle City Council member and principal of Steinbrueck Urban Strategies.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2014199894_guest14harrell.html

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Feb 02 2011

City of Seattle launches My.Seattle.Gov

Press Release issued: 1/31/2011

New web site is a vital step to enhance customer service and improve access to city services and information

SEATTLE – Today Mayor Mike McGinn and Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell announced the launch of My.Seattle.Gov, a new public engagement and customer service website that allows Seattle’s residents to create and customize their own unique Seattle.gov homepage from a selection of widgets.

My.Seattle.Gov will make it easier to receive information from the City and do business with the City. Users can add a widget to receive important crime stats for their neighborhood, have quick access to multiple news feeds, see what events are occurring in their community, and view Seattle Channel videos.

“Last Saturday we held an open house at City Hall to express our commitment to open effective government and to better connect the public with their government. Today we launch My.Seattle.Gov as the latest step in the process of making government more accessible through technology,” said Mayor Mike McGinn. “This tool gives users the power to customize their experience of the services and information available through the City’s website.”

“The launch of My.Seattle.Gov is just the beginning in our efforts to completely transform the way Seattle communicates and does business online with its residents,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Energy, Technology and Civil Rights committee. “2011 will be an exciting year as we introduce new and robust online tools to enhance customer service and optimize communication with the public.”

A new feature of My.Seattle.Gov is the Single Sign-On system. This gives residents the ability to log in just once to access all the city services they need in the way that works best for them. After an extensive review of the City’s online registration system, Councilmember Harrell advanced the requirement of Single Sign-On. The City has more than 50 available online registration pages throughout City departments. This was not effective for the public and not efficient for the City.

The major integration of utility billing, permitting, customer service requests for potholes or graffiti, and support for mobile devices will be coming soon.

My.Seattle.Gov is just the latest step in improving customer service for Seattle residents. Begin personalizing a My.Seattle.Gov home page by clicking on the link from the Seattle.Gov homepage or go to My.Seattle.Gov.

In addition to the redesign of the City’s homepage and launch of My.Seattle.Gov, the following are coming soon to enhance the City’s online presence and resident experience:

-Seattle Speaks, a new tool where constituents and City officials can discuss issues in an open and online forum;

-Ask.Seattle.Gov, a new site for Seattle residents to directly engage decision-makers in city government.

My.Seattle.Gov is only the latest website launch from the City, building on the launch of Data.Seattle.Gov, a site where data sets from city government are posted to promote transparency.

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