Speech by Councilmember Kshama Sawant for Charleena Lyles Press Conference with Andre Taylor and Other Activists



SEATTLE – On November 17, 2017 I made the following remarks after a press conference held by Andre Taylor and other Activists in reaction to the Force Review Board’s preliminary results in the pending investigation of the death of Charleena Lyles:

“The decision of the Seattle Police Department’s Force Review Board is shameful.

According to the Seattle Times Wednesday, they somehow decided that shooting a small, pregnant mother of four, in front of her children, shooting her seven times, including twice in the back, is reasonable and consistent with the Seattle Police Department’s policies.

In other words, the leadership of the Seattle Police Department thinks this sort of brutal violence is reasonable. And if anyone had doubt in the past, it is now clear that the SPD cannot be trusted to police themselves.

And to be clear, despite the reassuring words by the politicians in City Hall about civilian oversight, the Office of Professional Accountability recommendations and the King County inquest that are upcoming will both base themselves on whatever evidence was collected by the SPD Force Review Board’s internal self-investigation.

And what does the SPD choose to investigate when their officers shoot and kill people? They investigate the victim, not the shooters. The public now knows how many kitchen knives Charleena Lyles kept in her kitchen, but we do not know the Use of Force histories of the officers who shot her.

At a City Council committee meeting, I asked the former director Murphy of the Office of Professional Accountability if they consider past use of force when they investigate deadly police shootings, and he said they don’t even look at it.

I guarantee that if you or I as an ordinary person shot someone seven times, the SPD would be interested if we had a history of violence, but they are not interested in that when they investigate their own officers.

The Force Review Board is a total waste of taxpayer money, because we know their conclusion before they start their investigation, and not just in Seattle.

Across the United States, police officers have killed thousands of people in recent years, including one thousand one hundred fifty five last year alone. With these one thousand one hundred fifty five police killings only 13 officers faced charges and none were convicted – even when the victims were unarmed, and the killing was videotaped.

So we know the King County inquest into Charleena’s death will not bring her and her family justice. And we know that the next ten inquests into the next ten times the SPD kill people will be the same. And officers know that too.

If one officer was held accountable for killing someone, anywhere in the country, officers would think twice before using deadly force and it would save lives.

But that will not happen as long as the political establishment is happy to allow the police to investigate themselves.

In June, we demanded an independent investigation into Charleena Lyles death, and the SPD’s Force Review Board has again just demonstrated why.

To be clear about how unaccountable the SPD is, Police Chief O’Toole has not been willing to come speak to an open City Council meeting in over a year. And the important questions we asked on June 20 about the SPD’s use of force policies such as what is the use of force histories of the officers involved in the last 10 fatal shootings, have not yet been seriously answered.

And without answering our questions, without coming to the public hearing into Charleena Lyles death or any other council meetings, they turn around and ask us to trust them, to trust them when they say this killing is just and their process is reasonable.

They put more bullets into Charleena Lyles body than all the police of Finland together fired in a whole year according to statistics from the Guardian newspaper, and the Force Review Board thinks this is reasonable.

I think this is shameful.”

*I also made comments about an electoral measure that cannot be included in this press release due to Seattle election laws.

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