Tacoma – 10th Congressional District candidate Kristine Reeves today issued the following statement calling for a serious commitment to police reform in the aftermath of the death of Manuel Ellis, who died in the custody of Tacoma police on March 3rd while handcuffed and under restraint:
“Like so many others, I was anguished and angry when I saw the video clip of a white Minneapolis police officer crushing the life out of George Floyd. My heart goes out to his family, and to the families of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, and to the countless other victims of unacceptable violence rooted in persistent structural racism.
“But this sort of horrific police violence directed against African Americans and other people of color is not just a distant, national problem. It’s happening right here in our own backyard. On March 3rd, an African American man by the name of Manuel Ellis died after being handcuffed and restrained by Tacoma police. Just like George Floyd, some of his last words were, “Can’t breathe.”
“The tragic death of Manuel Ellis, the homicide of George Floyd, the racially disparate policing that has led to the killing of so many people of color by police officers across our country, is outrageous and unacceptable. But sincere condolences or words of condemnation are not enough. This sort of tragic and needless violence must end, and that requires immediate and decisive action.
“In the near term, we need a comprehensive, independent investigation of what led to the loss of Mr. Ellis’ life, and I am grateful to Governor Inslee for moving quickly yesterday to assure the public that such an investigation will take place. If that investigation determines that Manuel Ellis was a victim of police misconduct, those responsible must be held accountable. Otherwise nothing will change.
“Four years ago, when Barack Obama was president, we could have confidence that the federal government would be an active partner in such an investigation. Over President Obama’s time in office, the US Department of Justice was proactive about driving systemic police reform forward at the local level. The Obama DOJ opened more than two dozen ‘pattern-or-practice’ investigations of local police departments, leading to 14 consent decrees, including in Seattle. And those decrees have led to real reforms and cultural change within police departments, and reductions in use of force and biased policing.
“But Trump and the DOJ under Sessions and Barr have all but abandoned these investigations, which are an important tool in keeping local police departments honest and accountable. They have backed away from important work of police reform, and communities of color are suffering the consequences. Instead, the current DOJ has compromised itself and sacrificed its independence, acting as Trump’s personal legal and law enforcement arm.
“So yes, let’s investigate Manuel Ellis’ tragic death, but we need to do much more than that. We need to restore an independent and actively engaged United States Department of Justice, one committed to using its powers to eliminating structural racism and biased policing in law enforcement.
“Moreover, at the local level we need to significantly strengthen civilian oversight of police conduct, including in Tacoma, where the police still largely police themselves. The people of our communities deserve policing that is free from the taint of institutional racism and from unacceptable violence disproportionately directed against communities of color. If I am elected to Congress to represent the 10th Congressional District, I guarantee you that I will do everything in my power to ensure that Michael Ellis’ death is not forgotten, and that we implement real reforms at the federal and local levels that will prevent these sorts of heart-wrenching tragedies from occurring again in the future.”