Seattle Mayor says more police should live in city

Feb 22, 2011

With 82-percent of Seattle's officers living outside the city limits, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn says it's hard to have a good local police force. It's also difficult to do anything about it because state law prevents cities from requiring officers to live where they work. McGinn says there could be an opportunity, though, when 300 officers who are eligible for retirement leave the force.

He said the city will recruit more officers from the community who understand it and its values, during his annual State of the City address. He also chided the Seattle police union, saying it is in a “state of denial” about problems between police and the community:

"They need to face facts. The union has a responsibility to step up and be part of the solution. They owe it to their members. Serving as a cop in a city that doesn’t trust cops is an awful position to place their members."

McGinn’s comments follow a series of high profile cases of alleged misconduct by Seattle police, which have led to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. They include the fatal shooting of a First Nations woodcarver, the punching of an African American teen and the kicking of a Latino man. As KPLU has reported, the Seattle police department’s Firearms Review Board found the shooting of the woodcarver to be unjustified:

The case is “among the most egregious failings that I’ve seen in my thirty years with the Seattle Police Department,” said the board chairman, Deputy Chief Clark Kimerer.

In a recent column in the police guild newspaper, the Seattle police union head told officers to wait for 911 calls rather than stopping when they see something suspicious. He said given recent events the public doesn’t seem to want an aggressive police force.

McGinn says right now, public trust is in danger because of the hateful words and tragic actions of some officers. While he acknowledged it looks like nothing’s being done, he says the process just takes time.

"We're not going to solve this problem just by firing cops after they make a big mistake on camera. We've got to get ahead of this problem."