Jan 20, 2008

Drug enforcement and SPD: your help needed

(Ellen O'Neill-Stephens , a King County Prosecutor, worked extensively with us on the long-standing drug problems on Madison. You can hear her describing her work on this recording of a Council meeting at Miller. Here she writes asking for our help in giving a judge a balanced view of drug enforcement practices in Seattle. It's an awkward time and place to go, but I hope some of you can help). She won a Seattle Police Foundation award recently.

Racial Disparity Project

Many people have told me that they would be interested in attending the next open hearing regarding this matter. Up until now the judge has made decisions about the arguments based on briefs provided by opposing sides.

To refresh your memories, the Public Defender's Office has filed a motion to dismiss narcotics trafficking charges against several African American individuals who were arrested for selling narcotics in open air drug markets. The Racial Disparity Project is accusing the entire Seattle Police Department of being racist. This is not a claim of individual racism by particular officers, but institutional racism. It is being argued that SPD has created policies that intentionally target African Americans for felony drug offenses.

The defense has swamped SPD with discovery and public disclosure requests. They have also sought to interview and depose multiple persons from the Chief of Police on down, as well as persons with the Mayor's office.

Their claim is predicated upon a statistical analysis that they claim shows that African Americans are disproportionately being arrested for drug offenses and that this proves institutional racism.

This statistical analysis is being reviewed and will likely be challenged.

The SPD has responded to this accusation of institutional racism, by stating that open air drug markets are targeted for law enforcement in response to community complaints of narcotics trafficking, open drug use, and the crimes associated with street drug markets such as theft, violence and acts of prostitution.

Since community complaints to SPD is a major issue in this case, I was wondering if you thought members of your group would still be interested in participating in this process and possibly letting the judge know your thoughts about the defense's representations.

If you think members of your community groups would be interested in attending this hearing please contact me as soon as possible by phone. 206-423-9756.

Thanks, Ellen

(Addendum) I have learned that Judge Armstrong has been reassigned to the Regional Justice Center in Kent. That will certainly have an adverse impact on the number of people who can attend this hearing scheduled for 1/25/08 at 9:00.

I have also spoken to Dennis McCurdy, the prosecutor assigned to the case. He anticipates that the hearing could last up until an hour and that the defense will be demanding more evidence from the police department.

Dennis and I strongly believe that community participation in these hearings would lend some balance to the hearings.

Please contact me so we can best discuss how to involve the Seattle community in these hearings since participants would have to travel such a long distance to attend. I was wondering if a core group of individuals and businesses, representing communities from all over the city, could make a commitment to attend all the hearings and report back to their neighborhoods.

This could also get quite heated. Andrew Taylor and I vividly remember how representatives from the public defender agency accused the residents of the Miller/Madison Community of being racists themselves and promoting gentrification.

Please feel free to contact me ( Ellen.OneillStephens@Seattle.Gov) or Dennis regarding this. My cell is 206-423-9756.
Dennis can be reached at dennis.mccurdy@kingcounty.gov.

2 comments:

Seadevi said...

I was all set to cc you on an email to Ellen & Dennis volunteering to attend the hearing. But, we're traveling on Friday. I have a meeting with my neighbors this evening - so I will let them know about this.

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