Just three days after another fatal shooting in Seattle, Mayor Ed Murray used a special meeting of the Seattle City Council chambers to lay out his program to address public safety concerns in the city. His plans to support youth programs, reform the police department and crack down on gun violence brought rounds of applause from the packed room.
“We have not over the years developed a coherent and coordinated citywide approach to public safety policy,” Murray said. “Unless we as a city address this crisis of confidence, our challenges in public safety will only grow.”
Murray announced the launch of what he called the “summer of safety” pilot program, which engages community members to identify hotspots for criminal activity and help remedy neighborhood nuisances through “Find-It-Fix-It” community walks to identify graffiti, litter accumulations, street lighting problems and overgrown bushes that can be quickly dealt with. The first walk will be held on July 2 in the Central District.
Youth programming was also a key part of the mayor’s plan with promises to extend park and community center hours and organize community-building activities during the summer. Additionally, teen summer employment programs will be expanded in partnership with private employers such as Swedish Medical and Puget Sound Solar as well as city departments. More than 1,000 job opportunities can be provided this year alone, Murray said.
The mayor announced further plans to reform the Seattle Police Department with newly confirmed Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole. They will clarify instructions and provide training and support programs for city officers and “reconnect officers with the communities they serve,” the mayor said.
Councilmember Bruce Harrell said later, “We need to be very clear of what expectation of officers are. We have to give our officers more tools and support in allowing them to do their jobs ... [while allowing] them to build community trust.” To do so, Murray plans to hire an East African liaison for the police department and partner 20 female officers with 20 women in the refugee and immigrant community.
Harrell, who is chair of the council's public safety committee, plans to join Murray on next week's "Find-It-Fix-It" Central District walk.
Rev. Harriet Walden, founder of Mothers for Police Accountability, said, "We still have to deal with the culture of death that young people have to deal with. How do you create an environment that young people feel welcome … and [make them feel] there’s a place for them?"
To combat gun violence, Murray said he would work for strictly mandating background checks on individual gun sales and also partner with law enforcement officials to stop gun trafficking. “We are not looking to take guns away from responsible citizens, but we currently make it far too easy for criminals to get guns,” he said.
Murray choked up as he talked about Dwone Anderson, a recent University of Washington graduate who was killed in a double murder on June 7 in the Central District — one of four fatal shootings in a one-week period early this month.
“The gut-wrenching truth is that I do not possess the simple solution that has evaded my predecessors and colleagues," Murray said. "Nor have I uncovered the undiscovered words of grace that will heal the families of those who have been harmed by gun violence. But these are not reasons to lose hope. Deaths by guns are not inevitable. We can prevent gun deaths by recognizing that it is an epidemic.”
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