‘I’m not going to be window dressing’: Key police reform activist quits Inslee task force
Community activist Andre Taylor launched police reform and accountability nonprofit Not This Time! in 2016, not long after his brother Che Taylor was shot and killed by Seattle police. About that same time, Taylor joined a legislative police accountability task force the governor created.
That eventually culminated with I-940, an initiative from lawmakers agreed to by all sides, but that the Legislature failed to pass. That forced a public vote, which eventually saw it approved overwhelmingly.
But, as Gov. Inslee and Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson recently discovered, even that law isn’t being followed. That, the public outcry over the Minneapolis Police killing of George Floyd, and recent protests demanding reforms prompted Inslee to create a new task force. Much like the last one, it was meant to come up with reform recommendations that Inslee can use to craft legislation next session.
But now, three weeks into the governor’s 10-week task force, Taylor has walked away, calling it a waste of time.
“It’s a bunch of [expletive], reminds me of the task force back in 2016, [when] nothing happened, nothing manifested,” Taylor explained. “I just thought it was a ploy of the governor to get the pressure off of him to be able to say, ‘Well, you know, I have a task force working on it now.’ You should have worked on it yourself,” Taylor said of Inslee.
Taylor is critical of Inslee for, as he puts it, not showing leadership when he had the chance to act alone to bring about some substantial, real change, much like other governors and elected officials had done in places like Colorado and New York.
“At the height of support that any governor in the country could have wanted to do something and (Inslee) didn’t do it. Right after the George Floyd killing and all that was going on, when there was great support to bring some real change, you could have led the state and you chose not to,” Taylor said of the governor’s response.
“But you chose to put a task force in place to make decisions that you could have made — that’s not leadership, and I’m not going to be window dressing,” he added.
Taylor wished those remaining on the task force well, and knows they believe in the work. He also admits that anything is possible, but after the way things went the last time around, he believes walking away is a better way to put pressure on.
“Because people know the work that I’ve done, people know the credibility and accountability that I have, so me leaving … I believe can create a different type of pressure, because then, is (the task force) credible? If Andre Taylor is stepping down from this task force, is this task force credible?” he posited.
In the meantime, the task force remains focused on one of the big issues left unresolved by I-940, according to state Rep. Deborah Entanmen, a member of the Black Caucus and part of a group of state lawmakers working in tandem with this task force.
“They are focusing on one particular issue and that issue seems to be the investigation that happens when police use deadly force,” she described. “Everybody in the group has an understanding of that, and I think that the task force is working very well. That does not mean that people on the task force aren’t concerned about other things and want to continue to do work around police reform, but they are taking one step at a time. And I think it is going very well.”
At least one other member of the task force appeared to doubt whether it would amount to any real change.
“I’m not sure where we’re going just yet, but I’m trying to remain hopeful that some good will come out of this task force, but that is yet to be seen,” said Katrina Johnson, whose cousin Charleena Lyles was killed by Seattle Police in 2017. “I know there’s a lot of great people that came to this task force in hopes to change something and I think the only change that could happen is a completely independent entity investigating the police use of deadly force, and it is out of the hands of law enforcement agencies.”
“That doesn’t mean that it’s going to be some botched thing,” she clarified. “That just means there could be retired police officers or whatever, but we will not have commissioned officers investigating their friends, their buddies, the next department over, anything else like that. It will not bring about community healing, it will not bring about transparency, and there will be no peace to family members until we have a completely independent entity doing this.”
It remains to be seen what proposals will come out of this task force, how much of that makes it into an actual bill next session, and whether that bill actually gets passed onto the governor’s desk. But for those like Taylor, the time to act has already passed.
“This needs to be put back in the governor’s hands,” Taylor said. “The governor needs to lead. You don’t need to pass the buck of leadership. The governor needs to lead on this. Other governors are doing it. He needs to do it. We can’t call ourselves the most progressive state in the country without the governor taking the helm and leading.”
The governor’s office has not returned our request for comment on this story.