UPDATE TO COMMUNITIES IN KING COUNTY
BLACK LIVES MATTER SEATTLE-KING COUNTY TO EXECUTIVE CONSTANTINE: DISMANTLING SYSTEMIC RACISM AND OPPRESSION STARTS WITH KING COUNTY
Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County (BLMSKC) is committed to making sure all people and families in King County have access and resources to reach their full potential. In recent months King County Executive Dow Constantine publicly expressed his commitment to identify and dismantle systemic racism and oppression in county government and services. The commitment of Executive Constantine to identify and urgently address systemic racism marks a cornerstone in the legacy of the county and its role in building well-being for everyone.
BLMSKC met with Executive Constantine and his staff to begin addressing an array of issues within the county. This meeting was a first step, not the finish line, and the issues discussed represent a fraction of the areas that require urgent remedy and measurable impact. The Executive focused on immediate, actionable steps to enact changes that will directly impact disenfranchised communities in King County.
Hate Crimes, Racial Harassment and Discrimination
A recent audit confirmed that bias crimes are up 230% in Seattle, but this epidemic and its impact are not limited to one city. Hate crimes, discrimination, targeted harassment, and violence happen every day in King County. The absence of trust in law enforcement means an unknown number of incidents go unreported, thus skewing awareness of the problem and limiting the resources necessary to combat it. This is what unequal justice looks like.
BLMSKC requested that King County conduct a county-wide audit of bias crimes or complaints to law enforcement agencies and share the resulting information with communities. Participants also discussed the need for a community-centered reporting system independent of law enforcement. The Executive committed to identifying the current scope and impact of bias crimes in King County as the first step to determining the county’s role in addressing them.
Police Deadly Force Inquest Process
The King County Executive’s office has previously announced a halt to mandatory inquests of police involved deaths in King County until the recently formed review committee has made recommendations for change.
BLMSKC asked the Executive to share those recommendations and what changes he will make to the inquest process with communities before those changes are finalized. BLMSKC made the direct recommendation that in addition to the changes ultimately made, King County build in a mandatory review of the inquest process, to occur at least every five years.
According to the ACLU, marijuana arrests now account for over half of all drug arrests in the United States. Of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88% were for simply having marijuana. Nationwide, the arrest data revealed one consistent trend: significant racial bias. These convictions impact people’s ability to meet their basic needs in areas like employment and housing.
BLMSKC asked that King County vacate existing marijuana convictions in King County. The Executive affirmed that these convictions are an unnecessary burden impacting people’s lives. King County will gather information and data from multiple departments and agencies including public defenders and the prosecuting attorney’s office, and will involve communities as this effort moves forward to identify relevant existing convictions. This is an example of tangible equity in social justice and a priority of the Executive.
End Cash Bail for Non-Violent Crimes
Everyday an average of 700,000 people are condemned to local jails and separated fromtheir families. A majority of them are there simply because they cannot afford to pay bail. The organizations involved in the National Bail Out are working to end money bail and in the meantime get as many people being held for non-violent misdemeanor charges out of cages and back home. Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County and Northwest Community Bail Fund are partnering beginning February 13 and lasting at least through the end of the month to work with communities to identify and bail community members out of jail. More information can be found here: https://blmseattle.btownwebclients.com/mamas-day-black-love-bail-out-2018/
Even without being convicted of a crime, to get out of jail often requires bail. But 44 percent of people struggle to cover a $400 emergency. Bond companies charge about 10 percent of the full bail amount. If the person can’t afford the fee, bond companies set up an installment plan and charge interest. That money will never be refunded, no matter how a court case is resolved. Because of this, BLMSC requested King County abolish cash bail for most non-violent crimes.
King County will gather information and data from multiple departments and agencies including public defenders and the prosecuting attorney’s office, and will involve communities as this effort moves forward to determine the impacts of cash bail particularly in correlation to plea bargains, and to identify the relevant criminal cases, their status, and then, a process to address them. The burden of cash bail will come to an end in King County.
Law Enforcement Accountability
Residents across King County have demanded measurable change to police oversight and accountability for decades. Initiative 940 would require law enforcement personnel to provide first-aid to save lives and require law enforcement agencies to adopt guidelines for implementing this duty. It would amend the standard for justifiable use of deadly force by law enforcement, including adding a “good faith” standard and requiring independent investigation, requires all law enforcement officers in the state receive violence de-escalation and mental health training. Whether I-940 passes, change to law enforcement oversight and accountability is inevitable and necessary at every level, including King County.
The county committed to evaluating existing and needed resources to insure comprehensive oversight of law enforcement including expanding the scope and capacity of departments within the county to establish consistent community collaboration and accountability.
Free School Meals
BLMSKC delivered a request that the county conduct a needs-based assessment to determine the resources necessary to provide breakfast and lunch to all children and youth enrolled in school in unincorporated King County. Access to food impacts a child’s ability to learn, perceptions of student behavior and discipline. Schools and students often end the academic year in debt because they cannot afford breakfast or lunch, or because they do not meet outdated eligibility guidelines.
No New Youth Jail
Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County opposes the construction of the new Children and Family Justice Center. County leaders know investing in prevention has a proven return that far outpaces the financial and social burden of locking up children. Prevention and alternatives to incarceration are not only cheaper, they strengthen families and communities. BLMSKC delivered its position to Executive Constantine: Invest in people, not jails.