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Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace

May 9, 2011

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


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Le Roi Brashears permalink
    May 9, 2011 2:30 pm

    From the way this has been written I am certain this involves the ACLU and its ongoing inability to have a constructive relationship with communities of color or the traditional organizations that attempt to serve those communities. This is a disaster, maybe one even bigger than the same dynamic that causes the police to brutalize people of color with impunity. I’ve no way of knowing if I am correct about this, but that is a discussion for another day, though one that needs to happen soon. With that, I urge people who care about justice to overlook this egregious flaw within the ACLU and circulate the word as widely as possible and participate in this process. The Seattle police department is having a grand old time stomping on people, shooting them, beating them, punching them, kicking them and using racially disparate selective policing to drive up the incarceration rates of communities of color – particularly African-American, Latino and Native American communities. This persists despite and perhaps because of Seattle’s reputation as a liberal, tolerant community. As someone who has lived around the country, no regional societal brand could be further from reality. From an institutional racism standpoint, Washington State is one of the most vehemently racist places in the country – definitely a top five. I can understand why many would be so exhausted by this grinding reality that they would fail to engage but if we have the attention of the federal governemnt, this may be a very fleeting chance to make a difference. Certainly, no one with any power here in Seattle city government will use that power to effect a difference. I have registered to participate in this process. I sure hope any and all of you seeking more justice will do so as well.

  2. Astonished permalink
    September 9, 2011 8:43 pm

    I am not for police brutality in anyway! Nor am i for incarceration of an innocent person! I am especially not for any form of racism. But Mr. Le Roi Brashears, you should really know who you are trying to back up before you stand up in court, etc for them. The color of someones skin does not make them a bad person, just as the color of their skin does not make them a good person! Mr. Brashears stood up in court for a repeated sex offender, who from prison has continued to contact their victims. Yet Mr. Brashears states they are a good person! Really should know who you are backing up! I feel that you came into court with the intent on making it a race issues….but couldnt once you realized both sides were african-americans!

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