SEATTLE -- With the divide in the nation many say all of us need to talk about race relations.
It's a topic front and center at the Seattle Police Department.
Since a 2012 consent decree with the US Department of Justice Seattle police have been working on use of force and bias policing. Recently the feds, even the president recognized the progress Seattle has made.
Seattle police say they require officers to report when they see bias policing within their own department. They say more of their officers are also out in the community getting to know the people they protect.
“Our diversity is increasing both in our applicant pool and final hiring recruits, I say at this point Seattle is a leader in policing reform,” Chief Operating Officer Brian Maxey said.
COO Brian Maxey says Seattle police is now not only more diverse but better trained to deescalate dangerous situations before using force.
“Instead of doing the classroom settings we`ve gone into scenario based training,” Maxey said.
That means more role playing and simulations of intense situations.
“To see how they will implement that skill in real time,” Maxey said.
Seattle city council member Bruce Harrell acknowledges the progress made by SPD and says the vast majority of officers are good.
But he says police reform in Seattle still has a long way to go.
Harrell says nationally African Americans are disproportionally affected by police misconduct. They point to a Bureau of Justice study from 2013 that said blacks and Hispanics were more likely to be searched during a traffic stop than whites.
“I think we have an incredible long way to go,” Harrell said.
He is speaking not only as a politician but also as an African American man.
“I can tell you time and time again about stops that I have had, complete disrespectful interface I’ve had with police officers,” Harrell said.
And a Facebook post from the Seattle Police Officers Guild may put the perception of progress in jeopardy. On the heels of the deadly Dallas police shootings, the guild posted:
‘Dallas PD and their officers are in our thoughts and prayers ...the hatred of law enforcement by a minority movement is disgusting..heads in swivels brothers and sisters..#weshallovercome'
“I think it was a poorly thought through post and it`s disappointing he certainly can speak for himself or the guild can speak for him as what they meant by this post,” Maxey said.
SPD is distancing themselves from the post saying it does not represent their department as the guild president Ron Smith apologized in a written statement on Tuesday.
“The post made to the SPOG FB page was done as our brothers and sisters of the Dallas Police Department were still under attack on June 7th; a highly emotional time. What the post was meant to say is that it is disgusting that a small segment of society perpetuates violence toward law enforcement officers across this country. At no time was there any intent to apply blame to any organized group; only the small segment of society which has the propensity for violence toward law enforcement We shall overcome meant just that; law enforcement will persevere and work through this time in history just as law enforcement did after 9-11 and how local law enforcement did after we lost 6-local law enforcement officers in a 6-week period in 1999, including Seattle Police Officer Tim Brenton. I regret that this post offended any one, as that was not the intent in any way. We all need to do a better job of listening to one another in society so that we can understand where folks are coming from.”
The need for a greater sense of unity and community is something everyone agrees on.
“We need to get closer to our community to heal some of those wounds and to better develop communication,” Maxey said.
SPD says they are also encouraged by new numbers that show every year police officers deal with about 10,000 crisis situations when they come in contact with people.
They say .5% of those cases result in significant force used. That’s 50 cases out of 10,000.