Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace
Fact: Excessive force and racial profiling are systemic problems impacting law enforcement agencies all across the country, from which none are immune.
Fact: Excessive force, police brutality and racial profiling by members of the Seattle Police Department has gone on for decades.
Fact: The Department of Justice has launched an investigation into SPD’s practices, sending investigators to Seattle this week to conduct interviews with anyone who wants to tell their story. The focus of the “pattern and practice” investigation is on excessive force by SPD officers; and racial profiling / discriminatory policing.
It feels like we all know someone who knows someone who’s been through it- an encounter with a police officer that turns hostile, even physical. Just the other night in Pioneer Square with a friend, I pointed to a corner where a man had been savagely beaten by SPD officers.
The effort to convince a federal entity to investigate has been going on for years, and each time the Feds take a cursory glance before they decline to go any further with an investigation.
With the shooting death of John Williams and numerous videos capturing (at best) questionable conduct by SPD officers, the Feds once again agreed to take a cursory glance at the department’s practices.
No one really expected it to go any further than that.
Low and behold- it has.
Federal investigators will be in Seattle this week. They’ve been working to set up face-to-face interviews with anyone who has something to share.
For weeks now, I’ve heard consistent rumblings the DOJ isn’t having much luck hearing from and connecting to organizations that serve communities of color.
Information from larger civil liberties organizations is supposed to flow through these organizations to you- but the level of distrust in the process (and the government) means information is choked off instead of distributed. Politics between these smaller organizations and the larger organizations clouds the air.; “community leaders” turn passive on the subject instead of organizing and encouraging people to participate in the investigation.
Many people don’t even know an investigation is underway, or that the DOJ will be here this week.
There is no excuse for this, but there is no 1 agency or organization to blame. Everyone plays a role.
Sure, I’ve heard all the arguments about corrupt government. I’ve heard time and time again the assumption the DOJ isn’t going to do anything in the end. I’ve heard all of the conspiracy theories about why the government would “pretend” to investigate the SPD but aren’t “really” investigating the SPD.
Those things may be true but have yet to be proven. Here’s what we know for sure however; the DOJ is investigating the SPD. They’ll be here this week, and they want to hear from members of the public on Wednesday. If you know something or have witnessed something involving SPD but your “fuck the police” mentality is so strong that you won’t participate, then you have no standing to complain about SPD in the future.
It’s now or never.
For help scheduling an interview with the DOJ, contact community activist The-ahn Nguyen at Theanh@nguyensfoundation.org