Port of Seattle Launches Review of its Police Department

Port of Seattle
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Published Jul 16, 2020 9:23 PM by The Maritime Executive

Like government entities large and small across the United States, the Port of Seattle is taking a close look at how it conducts policing. The port announced Tuesday that its commission has created a task force on policing and civil rights, which will carry out a full assessment of the Port of Seattle Police Department. The 110-officer department provides coverage for the port's maritime facilities and for Sea-Tac International Airport.

"A broad consensus has formed in the United States that a close examination of current policing practices is necessary and urgent,” said Peter Steinbrueck, Port of Seattle Commission President. “The Port of Seattle has the responsibility during this critical moment in history to ensure that our Police Department is held to the highest nationwide standards achievable for public safety, protection of civil rights, equity, accountability and oversight.”

The task force will be composed of two commissioners, representatives from the Port’s Blacks in Government chapter, the Port’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Port Police, community leaders, civil rights advocates, union representatives, members of the Civil Service Commission, and experts on law enforcement.

“Black Lives Matter and the nation are calling for an end to racial injustice, police brutality, killings and dehumanizing of Black Americans, and major reform of policing in the United States,” said Delmas Whittaker, the Port of Seattle’s Chapter President of Blacks in Government. “There is a clear demand for an end to these issues, and immediate, deliberate action with sustained resolve that we can begin today.”

In June, the port (along with the city of Seattle) banned the use of chokeholds, which have been associated with detainee fatalities in other jurisdictions. It has also put new officer qualification requirements into effect, including a ban on candidates who have a record of misuse of force, and it will implement de-escalation, “bystander’’ intervention and anti-discrimination training.

The port has not received any recent use-of-force complaints related to actions on its own properties, and it says that its reforms are intended as a proactive measure.  “These actions are in no way a reflection of the past conduct of Port police,” said Steinbrueck. “It’s a reflection of the time we’re living in . . . we want to be on the right side of history.”