#CharleenaLyles and my broken trust in the SPD

Yesterday, I called the SPD, to ask about de-escalation training. And unlearning racism seminars/classes for their officers. I talked to a civilian aide, in their community relations dept, who gave me a bunch of other names to call. When I told her that my friends and I don’t feel safe calling the police, she didn’t believe me. I decided to make it more clear.

This was the script I wrote, for my phone call:
My name is Alisa Starr. I live in the East side of Seattle. I’m calling you because I woke up yesterday thinking I need to make an alternate plan to calling the police.

I have several friends, making lists of other people/companies to call rather than the police. Your organization is losing public faith.

I thought about what you could do to restore my faith, and I thought if you’re giving your patrol staff de-escalation training, and unteaching them racial bias, that would help us believe that you care about public safety.

And there are several institutions that can unteach racial bias: Undoing Racism: The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond is a nationally recognized institution, which often does workshops in the Seattle area. So is The Anti-Racist Alliance.

Will you be calling them to do training for your patrol staff?

I started with Tricia Collin, the Admin Assist to the Deputy Chief: Carmen Best. She said much the same thing that yesterday’s admin said, when I called.

“Our police force goes through de-escalation training, every year. And they go through unlearning racism training, every year. We can’t change the schedule, to put any of our force through the training earlier.” When I said “OK, so you’re not doing anything to make me feel safer calling the police?”

She said “I can’t help how you feel.”

So, at the end of the day, they’re not going to do anything. A community meeting live-televised by our new mayor, Nikkita Oliver, listed things that are going into place in the next 2 years. But the immediate fear in the community, of the police is not something the SPD is currently addressing. Even through lip service.

At the close of that community meeting, Nikkita Oliver gave me the closure and compassion I was looking for from the police.

Her voice cracked with tears as she said: “I think it’s real to say ‘We can’t offer your community a practical solution for safety right now.’ I think we would accept that as an honest answer. That there are a lot of things are going into place, to transform the culture of policing, BUT,it’s not transformed yet. And your babies might not be safe. And I think what we never hear is that acknowledgement that our communities are not safe. And there may not be a practical answer for it tomorrow. I think I would rather hear that than hear the list again, than the list of reforms coming again; which we’re incredibly grateful for!

I think I would rather hear that, ‘We’re in an unsafe position right now. And we’re in that with you.’’

I love how radically thinking Nikkita is. She just wants our community leaders to be honest. And she’s right. Honesty heals.

I know, as a white person, that my faith in the police has outlasted those of my peers. My best friend looked at me funny, when we were discussing home protection once. “I hide weapons through-out my house.” She assured me. “I don’t call the police. Do you?” She seemed puzzled. I grew up middle class.

When I waS 13. I was molested. A police officer came to my house and asked me horrible questions, and then the man who molested me went to jail for a few months. It was as nice as that sort of thing gets. And it made me feel like justice was a thing.  

When I was 22, San Jose PD ran over my boyfriend with their car. His arm was broken, and it scared the shit out of me. That’s when I realized that I had some privilege protecting me. But my magical bubble of white skin didn’t extend to those I loved.

My BFF and I have continued to talk about our expectations of what the police do. I started keeping track of all of the Black Death the police have wrought. I found the graph below at mappingpoliceviolence.org. There is a current database of people killed by law enforcement officers at killedbypolice.net.

There is no federal database of people who die by police hands. There was no way to track it. The killedbypolice.net is a volunteer organization, which started in May, 2013. These are the only stats we have. And they show us that people of color in America are in danger.  

#PhilandroCastile, #TrayvonMartin, #DontreHamilton, #EricGarner, #JohnCrawfordthe3rd, #EzellFord #DanteParker, #TanishaAnderson,  #AkaiGurley, #TamirRice, #RumainBrisbon, #JarameReid, #TonyRobinson, #PhillipWhite, #EricHarris, #WalterScott,

#FreddieGray, #AkielDenins, #GregoryGunn, #SamuelDubose, #BrendonGlenn, #FreddieGray, #NatashaMcKenna, #WalterScott, #ChristianTaylor, #LaquanMcDonald, #YvetteSmith, #JamarClark, #RekiaBoyd, #ShereeseFrancis, #RamarleyGraham, #SandraBland

This isn’t all of it. This isn’t even close. But, I wanted to #sayhisname, I wanted to #Sayhername. I wanted to honor some of the people who have died because violence and racism are alive and well in America’s police departments.

Seattle is the most progressive city I’ve ever lived in, and we live in a racially charged time. There are community meetings and angry marches and concerned citizens from all over Seattle who want to change this. I feel lucky, because our next Mayor is a Nikkita Oliver: a black, queer woman, who spearheaded this search for safety. And acknowledged that these answers are not easy or immediate.

I’m going to keep pushing for answers. For reform. For my faith to return to the SPD. I’d like to see People of Color safe, in America, in my lifetime. I hope it can happen here.

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