In 2020, legislation from former Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office was drafted to transfer ownership of a police department building to Black Lives Matter, reported The Seattle Times. That summer, protestors were met with tear gas as they surrounded the barricaded East Precinct demanding for the police to be defunded. Durkan’s office had almost considered giving the property over to the organization following the evacuation of the building during the intense standoffs between police and protestors.
According to the Times, the draft of the resolution included the transfer of property to Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County by the first of July and aimed to make the space into a public health and community care center. However, the Times reported those message threads between Durkan and other decision makers had gone ‘missing.’
From The Seattle Times:
In a recent deposition, former Deputy Mayor Casey Sixkiller said the Durkan administration nixed the East Precinct transfer possibility after the activists decided they didn’t want the property. It was a coincidence that the draft resolution was shared on the same afternoon the precinct was abandoned, Sixkiller said.
But the FAS memos from June 8, 2020, demonstrate that Durkan’s office was interested in a transfer before the precinct was abandoned and before Sawant weighed in. A June 15 letter from BLMSKC demanding a transfer and offering to contribute millions of dollars to repurpose the building was circulated by mayoral staffers. And additional FAS memos from June 17, 2020, indicate the administration continued for more than a week to explore the possibility of permanently relocating East Precinct police operations.
Spokesperson Chelsea Kellog told the Times the idea was abandoned after “the very preliminary work by FAS and the realities of policing confirmed it was neither feasible nor in the best interest of public safety.”
“There was no plan to transfer the East Precinct and from the time SPD made the decision to temporarily evacuate the precinct for safety reasons, it always planned to return,” said Kellogg via the Times.
On the other side, BLMSKC supported Rev. Harriet Walden to hold a position in the East Precinct but Walden did not know there were talks about transferring the building to the organization. Walden spoke in favor of the police returning to the building, reported the Times. The police department was also left out of the conversation.
From the Times:
Since then, Durkan representatives have denied the building was offered and downplayed the notion that City Hall seriously pursued a transfer, attributing the idea to some demand letters from activists and to City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who on June 11, 2020, tweeted she would sponsor legislation to convert the property into a community center.
On June 15, 2020, a letter from BLMSKC to Durkan and other leaders demanded the precinct be ceded to the organization as part of a process to repurpose the building with Public Health—Seattle & King County for community needs. BLMSKC offered to contribute $2 million for renovations and $4 million to help support operations.
Additional memos were sent regarding ‘interim site options’ for police operations and co-locating community operations at the East Precinct, reported the Times. However, nothing ever came of the drafted resolutions nor any new ideas for creating a community space. “I truly believe we can reimagine the space, a shared space, including a community room in the East Precinct and things in and around Capitol Hill,” said Durkan via the Times.