skip navigation
Support KUOW
Listen to KUOW News

Audio not available.

KUOW News on Demand


The Mayor's Race: Police

Sam Eaton

How Seattle’s mayor leads the police department has become a major political issue. Mishandling of the WTO protests and Mardi Gras riots along with several racially tinged police shootings have divided the city. In the final part our election series, KUOW’s Sam Eaton reports on how Mark Sidran and Greg Nickels would tackle these issues if elected mayor.

SFX: (Rally: one, two, three, stop police brutality!) AT A RALLY AGAINST POLICE BRUTALITY THIS WEEK IN SEATTLE’S CENTRAL DISTRICT, ACTIVISTS AND FAMILY MEMBERS OF THOSE KILLED BY POLICE VOICED FRUSTRATION IN WHAT THEY SEE AS A LACK OF JUSTICE. I mean this has been happening for centuries, you know, and basically it seems like everything is always justified when it comes to the police. The only people in the world that I have a problem against and that’s the police department and I do not respect them anymore. THESE ARE THE TYPE OF SENTIMENTS THAT CONFRONT THE TWO CANDIDATES FOR MAYOR. GREG NICKELS, A KING COUNTY COUNCILMAN, ACKNOWLEDGES RACIAL TENSIONS DO EXIST HERE, AND SAYS THEY’RE JUSTIFIED. I think it’s larger than the individual incident, I think it has to do with the fact that whether you’re talking about our police department, the use of deadly force, or even our schools, there is I think a sense that there is institutional racism in our society that isn’t being dealt with, and I think we need to deal with it, I think it’s important that we talk about that as a city and as a larger community as well. TO ADDRESS THESE TENSIONS NICKELS HAS PROMISED A MAYORAL CABINET THAT REFLECTS THE RACIAL MAKEUP OF THE CITY. HE ALSO CALLS FOR REFORMS TO THE INQUEST PROCESS SO THAT THE POLICE DEPARTMENT ISN’T IN CHARGE OF INVESTIGATING ITS OWN OFFICERS. NICKELS BELIEVES RACIAL PROFILING AND OTHER POLICE ABUSES ARE PROBLEMS IN THE DEPARTMENT, BUT ARE OFTEN THE RESULT OF INSUFFICIENT TRAINING. We expect our police to do a very tough job, they are dealing with people who are mentally ill, people who are angry, people from very many varied backgrounds, and we expect them to do that job very well. We need to give them the training and the skills to do that. NICKELS AGREES WITH PROTESTORS WHO SAY THE MAYOR IS ULTIMATELY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE POLICE DEPARTMENT’S ACTIONS. HIS OPPONENT, CITY ATTORNEY MARK SIDRAN, GOES ALONG WITH THAT, BUT SAYS ANY ABUSES IN THE DEPARTMENT ARE THE RESULT OF A FEW BAD APPLES, NOT INSTITUTIONAL RACISM. I certainly believe that the police should be accountable, they wield tremendous and power and in the main do it very well, but there will always be some officers who don’t and if I were mayor it would be very clear that officers who were not doing the job appropriately are going to be held accountable for that. SIDRAN SAYS, UNLIKE HIS OPPONENT, HE HAS EXPERIENCE IN PUBLIC SAFETY FROM HIS YEARS AS CITY ATTORNEY. HE SAYS HE’S PROSECUTED OFFICERS FOR MISCONDUCT AND UNDERSTANDS THEIR JOB WELL ENOUGH TO SEE THAT THEY DO IT RIGHT. BOTH CANDIDATES CALL FOR COMMUNITY DIALOGUES ABOUT RACE AND POLICE ISSUES. BUT SIDRAN SAYS IF ANY REAL PROGRESS IS TO BE MADE, IT HAS TO GO BOTH WAYS. I think it’s also important in the dialogue with the community to point out that the police also need to be treated with respect and that we have some work to do here in terms of a two-way dialogue. I don’t believe in stereotyping people based on their race and I don’t believe in stereotyping police officers based on their uniform. AS HARD AS THE TWO CANDIDATES TRY TO DISTINGUISH THEMSELVES ON THESE ISSUES, BOTH ARE BEING MET WITH SKEPTICISM. (Nat sound of rally) MANY OF THOSE RALLYING AGAINST POLICE BRUTALITY DOUBT SIDRAN AND NICKELS ARE BEING SINCERE. What they talking about right now is basically politics, you know, both of them trying to get elected. KEITH WILLIAMS, AN EX-BLACK PANTHER, SAYS NOT MUCH HAS CHANGED SINCE HE WAS YOUNG BECAUSE SO FEW LEADERS ARE WILLING TO TAKE ON RACISM IN THE POLICE DEPARTMENT. Black people, we know that we can get out here and talk about it and march and whatever but until there is people in positions that want justice, there will be no justice. AND WILLIAMS SAYS IT’S HARD FOR HIM TO IMAGINE EITHER MARK SIDRAN OR GREG NICKELS IS CAPABLE OF SOLVING THE PROBLEM. SAM EATON, KUOW, 94.9, PUBLIC RADIO. We want justice now! (nat sound fades)