If you've ever had problems with law enforcement, there is now someone in Seattle that wants to hear your story.
The Seattle/King County branch of the NAACP recently formed the People's Panel on Police Accountability to address issues and concerns about police accountability and inequitable treatment of minorities and the poor.
The NAACP declared a "state of emergency" in how minorities are being treated by the police after reviewing complaints to the organization, NAACP chapter president James Bible said.
"We've been deeply concerned about the interactions between people of color, the poor and law enforcement," Bible said. "With the numerous complaints we've received, we felt it was important to address this issue that's been affecting our community."
The People's Panel is comprised of a diverse team of 11 community members, some who have experienced police misconduct, and two Seattle University professors who will organize and analyze the data in order to compile a comprehensive, final report to be released later this summer.
The panel, created in partnership with the Minority Executive Directors Coalition, is holding a series of public hearings throughout King County to gather information from individuals in the community on police misconduct.
Part of the reason the local NAACP set up the panel is the city's inaction. Bible feels The Seattle City Council's Professional Accountability Panel, formed in June by Mayor Greg Nickels, won't be able to serve justice fairly and is not representative of those in the community or those who have experienced the highest rates of police misconduct.
At the NAACP hearings, people are encouraged to testify on their personal experiences with law enforcement. The stories will be used to compile a holistic, community-centered assessment of police misconduct throughout Seattle and King County and to foster a collective call for police accountability.
The assistant sociology professors, Dr. Gary Kinte Perry and Dr. Mako Fitts, are also on board to add legitimacy to the research and to make sure the complaints don't fall on deaf ears, according to Bible.
"People are encouraged to come forward and testify about their experiences with the police," Perry said. "We want to hear from those people and we want to make sure their voices are heard for this important research."
Perry said the intention of the panel is to give a citizen perspective on police misconduct that is truly representative of the community.
All stories are confidential and will be recorded on audio files. The panel will then look for trends in individual testimonies to make recommendations at the policy level.
"Research impacts policy," Fitts said. "The NAACP's goal is to provide concrete evidence that there are certain types of generalized patterns that happen."
Fitts said that with gentrification, Blacks have been relocated to areas outside of Seattle, particularly the Puget Sound end, and that the NAACP has received complaints from all over King County.
"Many areas are experiencing problems with police misconduct and accountability so that's why we are having meetings throughout Seattle and King County," Fitts added.
The public hearings will be held on Thursday's beginning at 6 p.m. in the following areas:
• May 15, Des Monies, Highline Community College, 2400 S. 240th St.
• May 29, Federal Way, Location TBA
• June 12, Rainier Beach, Rainier Beach Community Center, 8825 Rainier Ave. S.
• June 26, West Seattle, Freedom Church of Seattle, 9601 Delridge Way S.W.
• July 10, University District, American Friends Service Committee, 814 N.E. 40th St.
For more information, call K.L. Shannon at 206-854-5462 or email klorganizer @yahoo.com.