In the wake of recent gun violence, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said the city faces a crisis of confidence in public safety.
Speaking in City Council chambers, Murray declared a "summer of safety" in response. He said his administration will undertake everything from trimming overgrown bushes in “violence hotspots” to continuing with police reform and tackling economic inequality.
Murray said he supports the ballot measure to require background checks for all gun sales, as one response to the shootings at Seattle Pacific University and elsewhere in the city.
He noted to the reporters surrounding him, “that same week, three young black men were killed in Seattle with a fraction of media or public attention.”
Murray concluded his speech with details from the obituary of one of those victims, Dwone Anderson-Young, a young man so bright he went to kindergarten early and graduated from the University of Washington. “And we lost him through senseless violence,” Murray said.
Former public school principal Dr. Brenda Jackson attended the event as a member of the Central Area Advisory Board. She was impressed. “You could see the passion, he had to bite his lip, you know, to keep from getting teary-eyed. So that’s a passion, I believe he’s committed in what he’s trying to do,” Jackson said.
She's particularly happy about the city doubling the size of a summer jobs program for teenagers to around 1,000.
Murray said his initial plan is modest – it moves around existing funds for small-scale programs. He said he hopes to expand on them, but the looming issue is funding. “There’s a huge unanswered question,” he said. “Even without the plan I put forward today, the costs of implementing the federal court’s mandate on our police department is significant, and we have not fully identified where the costs for police reform itself will come from.”
Murray said when he’s not leading community walks and discussions during the “summer of safety,” he’ll be scrutinizing the city budget to find ways to fund police reform and all of his anti-violence programs.
One of his proposals is a revamp at the Office of Professional Accountability, which investigates police misconduct. Murray said he wants to combine existing – and competing – civilian oversight groups like the Community Police Commission, which was created out of the consent decree with the Justice Department. “The idea is to grab those pieces and put them in a single entity independent of the department itself,” he said. But he noted that this change will require negotiations with the Seattle Police Officers' Guild.
Murray is also seeking to make the office more independent of the Seattle Police Department.
Pierce Murphy oversees the OPA. He said he’s glad to see these changes. They’ve been endorsed by the Community Police Commission as well. “I think they’re good recommendations and I’ve been very supportive of the direction. They are consistent with what the CPC has recommended, and I really look forward to the opportunity to implement them,” he said.
Murphy has already sought more independence for the OPA in terms of location – he moved the office out of Seattle Police Department into the Municipal Tower nearby. Later this summer it will move into a private office building downtown. Murphy said the new office will be less intimidating for visitors.