Seize Time for Oppressed People

On Tuesday, August 20, 1974 at 7:45 pm, the Seattle City Council's Public Safety and Health Committee held a special meeting to hear public opinion regarding a petition of Seize Time for Oppressed People (STOP) "for establishment of a Citizen's Review Board to review police misconduct complaints, etc." In their proposal, STOP stated: "The procedure for making and adjudicating complaints brought against the police is desperately in need of modification to the extent that it becomes a just and sensitive civil procedure. To ensure objectivity and to eliminate the prejudice attendant upon the vested interest of the police in protecting the police department, administration and adjudication of complaints must be removed from the hands of the police and transferred to a Citizen's Review Board... Today's City government needs to represent and protect the human, social, economic and cultural interests if all its citizens equally if it is to ensure justice for the future." The STOP petition was submitted with over 1,500 signatures.

A Seattle Police officer shot, but did not kill, Michael Jones, a nineteen-year-old Black man, on November 14 as he fled on foot from a stolen car. This event was one of the catalysts for STOP's petition. The officer was placed on a ten-day suspension. Two citizens, including Fred Maxie who was Black, were allowed to sit in on a police review board hearing after the community demanded a presence from those outside the Police Department. Elmer Dixon, representing the Black Panther Party, stated, "There is clear evidence that a community police review board is needed to control police activities," according to the Seattle Times on November 22, 1974.

Supporters in favor of forming a Police Citizen Review Board included the Japanese American Citizens League, Action Childcare Coalition, Feminist Coordinating Council, Radical Women, Freedom Socialist Party, Seattle Counseling Service, University of Washington Law School's Women's Caucus, United Workers Union - Independent Unitarian Feminist Alliance, the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party, Seattle Gay Liberation Front, and the Gay Community Center of Seattle.

At the August 20th meeting, STOP chair Adriane Nihaund spoke in support of a citizen review board. Her speech was met with multiple rounds of applause from the audience. Judith Freel of Radical Women and Elmer Dixon also spoke in favor of a review board in their public comments.

With the support of some local residents, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) resisted the implementation of a citizen review board, arguing that civilian eyewitnesses did not have a full understanding of situations and jumped to conclusions that police brutality was indicated. SPD believed they should be able to handle these investigations and determine appropriate repercussions internally. Speaking on behalf of SPD, Mark Levin (head of SPD's Internal Investigations Division) argued that citizen review boards do not work and that there was no evidence of consistent misconduct within the department. Following the meeting, additional petitions were filed to establish a Police Citizen Review Board.

On December 10, 1974 (Event 2665), Seattle City Council's Public Safety and Health Committee chair Randy Revelle submitted a brief to the committee, recommending the Council file the petition to establish a review board without action, which was agreed upon unanimously by the full committee. Stated in a letter to STOP Chairperson Adriane Nihaund, Revelle's reasoning cites:

  • Promises from the newly selected police chief to conduct a review of SPD's disciplinary procedures during his confirmation proceedings.
  • Stipulations in the 1975 Police Guild contract that disciplinary procedures will be improved, including a civilian, non-voting observer to oversee citizen complaints about police behavior and report actions taken for each to Mayor Uhlman.
  • That the Seattle City Council funded the Ombudsman during the 1975 budget process "with the understanding that he would review citizen complaints about the police disciplinary process in an effort to improve public credibility in the process and ensure fair and impartial hearings."
  • That, in his opinion, citizen review boards have not been successful in the United States and he didn't see why Seattle's situation would be unique or different.

On Monday, December 16, 1974 (Event 2672), the full City Council was presented with STOP's petition and placed it on file without any apparent further action.

Letters arguing all sides of the Civilian Review Board formation, the Seattle City Council decision making process, related research, and public opinion can be read in the full documentation of Comptroller File 279625. Notable sections of the file include:

  • A copy of STOP's recommendations and reasoning behind the petition for a Citizen's Review Board (pages 44-52)
  • Sign-in sheet for public comment (pages 22-24)

Audio clips from the August 20, 1974 meeting:

Additional local residents can be heard in the full recording of the August 20th meeting (Event 2469, hearing starts at 3:24:04).