A History of Seattle Police: Part 2, East Precinct – Controversy from the Start

Content Warning: This post links to an historical newspaper article that uses the term “homosexuals,” which is an outdated term used to characterize gay people as having a psychological disorder.

In response to local interest on the history of policing in Seattle and community-driven police reform movements, Shelf Talk presents a three-part series that dives into historical resources on these topics. Part 1 examines police accountability starting with two events in 1965, Part 2 looks at controversy surrounding the creation and siting of the East Precinct, and Part 3 concludes with events in the 1980s and 1990s.

From proposal to opening, the creation of the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct took nine years and cost approximately $3.6 million. From the outset, community organizations, leaders, and citizens from the Black community, and later the gay community, resisted various proposals for siting the precinct within the Central District neighborhood. Continue reading “A History of Seattle Police: Part 2, East Precinct – Controversy from the Start”

A History of Seattle Police: Part 1, Accountability

Recent events have again highlighted long standing discussions on public safety, the appropriate use of force, the goals and mission of police forces, and accountability to the public, among related topics. In Seattle, how have these conversations changed over time, and what lessons might we find in the past to provide direction and shape public policy in the future?

In response to local interest on the history of policing in Seattle and community-driven police reform movements, Shelf Talk presents a three-part series that dives into historical resources on these topics. In this series we will look more closely at Seattle’s history to see how it impacts us today. First, we will look at how two events in 1965 anticipate in many ways the current conversation on police review boards and greater accountability to the public. (In our next post, we will look at the controversy surrounding the creation and siting of the East Precinct, and our final post will review events in the 1980s and 1990s.)

Content Warning: This post and the linked historical articles contain mentions of racial trauma, violence against Black bodies, and racial slurs that can be disturbing.

​1965: Accountability by Whom, to Whom?

Attempts to call for an independent police review board in Seattle began as early as 1955​, particularly in response to that year’s Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Police Practices which found that the “…Seattle Police Department — like the white community — held essentially racist attitudes about Black citizens, frequently stereotyping them as ‘criminal types.'” Despite the report, requests for an independent police board were denied, and instead only sensitivity training for police was recommended.

Seattle Daily Times January 23, 1965

Formal attempts to create a police review board can be traced back to a request by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in November, 1964 for a hearing on the creation of a police review board. Recently, the Seattle Municipal Archives has made audio, transcripts, minutes, and more from the meetings available digitally through their Seattle Voices online exhibition portal. Key figures, including the Reverend Samuel McKinney, testified. Continue reading “A History of Seattle Police: Part 1, Accountability”

Library Podcasts with a Seattle Focus

Last week I highlighted some of the diverse podcasts the library has to offer on it’s website with no library card required. I wanted to discuss some of the other things offered on the Library Podcast page, specifically the variety of discussions on Seattle and Seattle history.

In Fall of 2019, the Library hosted discussions on the hidden history of the Space Needle, including Space Needle Redux: Knute Berger and B.J. Bullert Eye the Needle. Continue reading “Library Podcasts with a Seattle Focus”

Donald Schmechel Oral History Collection

October is American Archives Month and we are celebrating with the completion of a new digital collection: the Donald Schmechel Oral History Collection.

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Donald Schmechel was a Seattle Public Library board member who, in the 1980s, created a project to interview prominent figures in Pacific Northwest History. Schmechel raised funding for the project, volunteered his time to manage it, and conducted interviews along with a crew of volunteers. The resulting oral histories were divided between the Seattle Public Library and the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI). Continue reading “Donald Schmechel Oral History Collection”

New Digital Collection Highlights Lives of Seattle Pioneers

This month we’ve launched a new digital collection which reveals a glimpse into the personal lives of some of Seattle’s early pioneers. The Lu Jacobson Collection of Latimer and Denny Family Material includes materials focusing on Alexander Latimer, his wife Sarah Chesney Latimer and their five daughters: Narcissa Latimer Denny, Eliza Alice Latimer Fowler, Harriet Ellen Latimer Stephens, Clara Latimer Bickford, and Emma Chesney Latimer Reynolds.

Narcissa, Alice, Hattie, Clara, and Emma Latimer, circa 1880.

The descendants of the Latimer family played a significant role in the founding of Seattle. Alexander Latimer’s sister, Sarah Latimer, married her first husband, Richard Boren in 1822. Their children, Mary Ann Boren Denny, Carson Dobbins Boren and Louisa Boren, were in the group of Seattle’s first settlers who landed at Alki on November 13, 1851. They were accompanied by Arthur Armstrong Denny (husband to Mary Ann Boren Denny) and David Thomas Denny (soon to be husband to Louisa Boren). Arthur and David were the sons Sarah Latimer’s second husband John Denny from a previous marriage. Continue reading “New Digital Collection Highlights Lives of Seattle Pioneers”