Federal judge tells Seattle police union: “Black Lives Matter”

Seattle Ferguson Protest Photos
Protesters march at the University of Washington following a grand jury decision not to indict the officer who fatally shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. University of Washington, Nov. 25, 2014. (File photo by Jama Abdirahman)

U.S. District Judge James Robart closed a hearing this week on the federally mandated reforms of the Seattle Police Department with a rebuke of the police union, and stated, “black lives matter.”

Slate noted that Robart’s public declaration on Monday was the first time a sitting federal judge cited the national movement.

Robart, who is overseeing the court-ordered settlement between the Justice Department and the city of Seattle, also rebuked the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild for rejecting the city’s latest contract offer, which included police accountability measures that would have complied with the 2012 agreement.

The 2012 agreement had followed a U.S. Department of Justice investigation that found the Seattle Police Department had been engaged in a pattern of excessive force. The justice department said the behavior violated the U.S. Constitution and risked “discriminatory policing.”

The South Seattle Emerald reported that Robart criticized the union for asking for increased compensation to comply with the reform measures outlined in the proposed contract:

“Let me once again be blunt. The court and the citizens of Seattle will not be held hostage for payment of increased compensation and benefits…”

The reform measures, Robart added, were proposed to protect constitutional rights.

Andrè Taylor, the brother of Che Taylor who was shot fatally by Seattle police earlier this year, also talked to the Emerald following the hearing:

“It moved me for him to say black lives matter,” said Andrè Taylor, who became a law enforcement reform activist after Seattle police fatally shot his brother last February. “For him to recognize that there is an issue and a problem within this country, and to acknowledge that — in all of the things that he said — for him to acknowledge that in that way, I think it was historic. End of fact.”

Further reading

Slate: Federal Judge Declares “Black Lives Matter” From the Bench

Seattle Times: Federal judge declares ‘black lives matter’ during hearing over Seattle police reform

South Seattle Emerald: Update on SPD reform packs courthouse as judge lays out pathway ahead