When I wrote my post on last weekend’s homeless attack in Pioneer Square, I wrote is as a letter to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. I mentioned that in addition to the post I would be sending a copy to his office. I followed through on that and today I got a response.
Actually I shouldn’t call it a response. It was an email from a staffer who had cut and pasted the text of the Mayor’s comments on the attack, and shot it back to me from a “no reply” email address.
Here’s the text of Mayor Murray’s statement:
Fire Department Chief Gregory Dean and I have discussed the unfortunate incident that occurred at Occidental Park over the weekend.
Our firefighters are often the first responders for homeless individuals in crisis, and a key measure of their performance is how they treat our most vulnerable residents.
And we hold Seattle firefighters to high standard: whether they are on duty or off, Seattle firefighters are expected to treat every member of the community with care and respect.
Regrettably, that did not happen in this case – and, for that, we both apologize.
I have instructed Chief Dean to work with the City Attorney Pete Holmes and Personnel Director Susan Coskey to identify an outside investigator to conduct a full review of what occurred. I have asked Police Department Chief Harry Bailey to analyze SPD’s response time after this incident was first called in. And I’m seeking the perspective of City Attorney Holmes and the labor relations department to assist Chief Dean in evaluating the disciplinary options he will need to consider.
I am also asking Chief Bailey for a review of the Police Department’s staffing in Pioneer Square during professional sports games to make sure we have the police presence required to prevent violent behaviors from breaking out, and to be responsive and timely when they do.
Over the years, Pioneer Square’s residents and businesses have asked for greater attention on public safety issues.
The unfortunate incident Saturday sheds light on this important request, and so over the next few weeks and months I will be meeting with businesses and social service providers in the neighborhood to work with them in ensuring that Pioneer Square is a safer and more welcoming environment for all people.
On one hand I understand. The Mayor calls for an investigation, a review of the response time, and a review of police staffing allocations in Pioneer Square. It’s just not enough.
Where’s the commitment for any follow up? You’re going to identify an outside investigator. Great. By when? When will you expect the investigation to be complete? Until then how will the Mayor’s office commit to keeping the public informed so that this doesn’t just fade away and everyone can see that the Murray administration has a real commitment to holding our public servants to a higher standard in their behavior? You’re going to review the discipline options? Does that mean it’s time for more “training” and less “discipline” as Chief Bailey has recently flipped on?
I am personally very disappointed in Mayor Murray’s response. I appreciate that the issues here are complex. Union contracts, as well as city and state laws, come into play around the punishment and dismissal of city employees who break the law when they are not on duty. I was just one witness to part of the incident and an investigation will be complex. It will take time and justice isn’t something that should be rushed.
Yet this response strikes me as just another circling of the wagons by the Murray administration around misconduct that should be punished, not winked at, and lacks the commitment we need from our city officials to public safety in Seattle’s historic and vibrant downtown.
“However, McGinn fought with the Justice Department over the scope and cost of the reforms. He also clashed with three members of the City Council and City Attorney Pete Holmes, who favored taking a less confrontational approach with the DOJ.
McGinn repeatedly attributed his tough bargaining to his desire for reforms that produced effective changes, enhanced public safety and stayed within the city’s budget.
One danger was that officers would interpret his approach as a rejection of the Justice Department’s conclusions, making it more difficult to win support for reforms.
Some citizens already have raised concerns that some officers are refusing to deal with spontaneous problems, particularly in response to downtown disorder. While anecdotal, those officers might be deliberately engaging in what is known as “de-policing,” either out of fear of being second-guessed or to create a public backlash in favor of more aggressive policing.
Murray has been endorsed by the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild, which would put him in a delicate position if elected.”
Everyone (citizens, police, even the politicians) knows that things need to change. And, there is this horrible resignation that it won’t. That is the sort of complacency that keeps the system right where it is, of zoning poor levels of safety for certain areas.
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