State BLM group calls for investigation after report detailing biased policing in Pierce County
The Washington Black Lives Matter Alliance (WBLMA) has called for the U.S. Department of Justice to launch a civil rights investigation into the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department over excessive use of force against communities of color.
It follows a report, begun in 2020 at the behest of Pierce County Executive Dammeier, which determined that uses of force carried out by the sheriff’s department disproportionately affected Black and Native American communities.
The report found that the Black population is 5.6 times more likely than the white population to be met with force by the sheriff’s department. That figure scales to 2.31 when applied to Native Americans.
“It doesn’t get more clear than these numbers; the need for a new vision for justice is overdue at the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department,” said Carol Mitchell, WBLMA steering committee member, in a recent news release.
“If the DOJ digs further, they will find that Black people are arrested more often and over-represented in the Pierce County Jail and at Remann Hall,” she continued. “When involved in domestic conflict, Black children are not diverted to family therapy, but arrested and sent to detention. Black children are presumed to be gang-affiliated just because of their family name, and get charged with more serious crimes than their white counterparts engaged in the same behavior.”
Washington Black Lives Matter represents a coalition of members from Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, the Puget Sound Chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Eastern Washington University, Byrd Barr Place, and others.
Use of force is defined by the department to encompass “the application of physical techniques or tactics, chemical agents, or weapons to another person.” The county reports 671 average incidents of use of force, many of which are defined as “control tactics” with “empty, soft hands,” in addition to “non physical force” in the form of “verbal commands.”
The county reports roughly six annual incidents of lethal force use between 2016 and 2020. When adjusted for population, Black people were three times more likely than the white population to experience lethal force.
The call for the investigation follows Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer’s violation of department policy, per an independent investigation commissioned by the county council. Troyer is subject to two misdemeanor charges for allegedly failing to accurately report an incident involving a confrontation with a Black man, for which he has pled not guilty.