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Survey Shows Racial Divide in Approval of Seattle Police


A survey shows more than 60 percent of Seattle residents approve of the job the Seattle Police Department is doing. But it’s a far more problematic picture when you break down responses by race.

While the vast majority of whites and Asians give high marks to the Seattle Police Department, when you talk to African-Americans and Latinos, the approval rating drops dramatically. For example, only 35 percent believe police treat all races equally.

The random sample telephone survey of 900 residents in the city was commissioned by Merrick Bob, the federal monitor overseeing court-ordered reform in the police department. It was presented to a Seattle City Council committee on Wednesday.

Bob says the results of the survey are troubling.

“The difference in perception, perhaps the difference in reality, by the African-American and Asian community underscores the necessity for there to be significant change,” he said.

One of the main changes he’s working to implement is a more defined policy for police use of force. Under the proposed new rules, whatever action a police officer takes will have to be “proportionate” to the situation.

Bob says the  new policy will require police to take into account someone’s ability to respond to an order: “Are they deaf? Are they monolingual in a language other than English? Are they mentally ill?" 

But Bob stresses that officer safety will remain a top priority. And, he says, if an officer pulls out his or her gun, the direction will still be to shoot to kill.

Bob says as much as people would like to say "just shoot the gun out of a suspect’s hand," that approach is not realistic.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.