NAACP president: Seattle could be the next Dallas, Baton Rouge

Jul 21, 2016, 7:04 AM | Updated: 12:38 pm
seattle, spd, biased policing...
Gerald Hankerson speaks at a meeting of Seattle's Education, Equity and Governance Committee. The meeting addressed issues of biased policing in Seattle. (Seattle Channel)
(Seattle Channel)

A local leader believes Seattle might be the next city where tragedy strikes.

“The biggest fear that we’ve had, and I still have, is [about] what happened in Dallas and Baton Rouge,” said Seattle-King County NAACP President Gerald Hankerson.

“I’m worried about the creation of some people doing crazy stuff that we do not condone, nor do we support,” he said. “Unfortunately, I’m worried about Seattle becoming one of those places.”

Related: Could Seattle’s ‘deep-seated issues of racism’ fuel a tragic event?

Hankerson made his comments at a Seattle Education, Equity and Governance Committee meeting that discussed ways to address biased policing, which can include racism in police work, and methods such as racial profiling. Community members involved in the discussion noted the anxiety they felt when police are near them, and the need to make sure that everything from a tail light to tabs are in order — to avoid police contact.

Hankerson noted recent tragedies where black men were killed at the hands of police — shootings that were caught on video. The fallout of the shootings led to the killing of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

Hankerson said that Seattle has its own problems regarding race and policing.

“I want to say that the NAACP, under my leadership and nationally, does not condone those kinds of (shootings), however, I do want to acknowledge that there is an understanding that when people have reached a point when they say, ‘Kill or be killed,’ they see the police as an enemy rather than an ally,” he said. “This is nothing new to our community.”

“What we saw on video is real,” Hankerson said. “What we saw in Seattle with Che Taylor is real. For that to become a debate of ‘we did not see what happened,’ or ‘we don’t know’ — we are so tired of that debate and argument … police in our community, we consider them terrorists wearing badges. Terrorism has existed in our community long before 9/11.”

Hankerson has previously commented on the officer-involved shooting and death of Che Taylor in Seattle. He called the incident “cold-blooded murder.”

Hankerson said that Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell’s attempt to discuss and produce legislation on biased policing is proactive, not reactive. He wants Seattle to address the problem before any potential tragedies happen locally.

“I will not be surprised that by the time I walk out of here I will get a call that somebody else has been gunned down by police in some other part of the country,” Hankerson said. “This is the first time I can actually admit and say that this is a scary time. If we don’t deal with this right now, then it is our responsibility of what transpires tomorrow.”

Seattle and biased policing

Councilmember Harrell wants to get policies on the books that address biased policing. That way, when Seattle is no longer under a consent decree with the Department of Justice, the city will continue with good practices. Harrell intends to draft and produce legislation in August that will propose anti-bias policing policies.

According to a city memo, that legislation could include a firm definition of what bias policing is; a prohibition against bias policing; requirements for the police department to maintain a commitment to bias-free policing; and analysis and reporting by a third party on how the police department is maintaining bias-free policing.

The legislation may also include a method for victims to file legal claims against the city if they feel they have experienced bias policing.

The city memo on bias policing notes that the DOJ consent decree does not state that Seattle has discriminatory policing practices, but that the department had “serious concerns” related to the issue.

Though new policies are now in place at SPD, and the city made changes through the consent decree process, the city has not made any binding long-term commitments to bias-free policing.

Those new policies went into effect in 2015.

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NAACP president: Seattle could be the next Dallas, Baton Rouge