Seattle City Council's town hall-style forum tonight on the shooting of Charleena Lyles will give the public a chance to ask questions and have a conversation about police accountability. But you won't see Lyles's family there, the family's spokesman said Monday night.
Andre Taylor—the brother of Che Taylor (who was fatally shot in the hands of police last year) and unofficial spokesman for Lyles's family—said the public forum wasn't what he and the family were asking for. They wanted a hearing where Lyles's family could directly ask the police chief questions publicly—and after learning Seattle police representatives won't be at the hearing tonight, said they decided they won't be participating.
"We appreciate city council but question the value of this and who it is really about. It is not unreasonable to request the opportunity to talk to the police and chief in a public forum," Taylor wrote on Facebook Monday night. "So we will not support this event because it's not about Charleena and the other families of police violence. We need substantive honest conversation, not just another hearing on a topic we have grown too familiar with."
The hearing was organized by the office of council member Lorena González, who chairs the public-safety committee, after Lisa Herbold offered to take up the issue in the civil-rights committee. Kshama Sawant at the council briefing Monday morning pressed González about whether Seattle police chief Kathleen O'Toole would be there. "To be clear," Sawant said, that's what she wanted when she asked for a public hearing.
González confirmed that O'Toole won't be there, and said that a public deposition of officials wasn't the purpose of the meeting. (O'Toole's also not in charge of the investigation, González pointed out—that's the SPD's Force Investigations Team.) “I’m not under any illusion that this will be the answer we will be looking for," González said, but was the start of a conversation on what policies council could develop to improve accountability.
Two officers fatally shot Lyles—a 30-year-old black mother of four believed to be pregnant and struggling with mental health—last week after she called to report a burglary and brandished a knife, according to police accounts. A Taser-trained officer is reportedly being investigated after he didn't bring his Taser to the call.
"What the community needs is not a space to grieve," Sawant said, but results on police accountability. Sawant last week also called for an independent investigation into Lyles's shooting from a third party.
González at the briefing said having a third party investigator is something the public-safety committee considered—ultimately it wasn't ready for "primetime" because it can be a complex policy to develop, she said.
González said she intends for the public forum not to follow the city council's formal public hearing format. Members of the public could speak longer than two minutes, and may not have to sign up for their turn beforehand. The meeting starts at 6pm Tuesday night in Room 130, Kane Hall, at the University of Washington.
Lyles's family is large, so not everyone may get the memo, Taylor told PubliCola Monday night—but most will only be there under the condition that SPD shows up too.