- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 17, 2016

U.S. District Judge James Robart declared “black lives matter” in court Monday during a hearing on Seattle police reform.

Judge Robart, who is presiding over a 2012 consent decree requiring the city to adopt reforms to address federal allegations of police bias, rebuked the Seattle police union for holding up reforms as it bargains over a new contract, The Seattle Times reported.

“The court and the citizens of Seattle will not be held hostage for increased payments and benefits,” the judge said, according to the paper.

“To hide behind a collective-bargaining agreement is not going to work,” he said.

Kevin Stuckey, who recently became president of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild, said the union is prepared to sit down with the city and reach a deal.

Judge Robart, a George W. Bush appointee, said proposed police reform legislation should include putting a civilian in charge of police oversight, shutting down a police-led disciplinary board and creating a civilian position of inspector general.

“The judge has given us our marching orders,” Mr. Stuckey said.

The office of Mayor Ed Murray said it will propose such reforms by Labor Day.

Mr. Stuckey said the union’s vote this summer to reject the deal was not due to “payments and benefits” but to the leak of confidential contract details to The Stranger newspaper, The Times reported.

Judge Robart threatened to call a hearing and override the city’s bargaining process with the union if he concluded the union was interfering with reform, The Times reported. 

The judge ended Monday’s hearing by citing a statistic that claimed 41 percent of the shootings nationwide by police were of blacks.

“Black lives matter,” he said, drawing an audible reaction in a courtroom, The Times reported.

Judge Robart added that the recent targeted shootings of police officers across the country signaled the importance of strengthening police and community relations.

Commissioner Enrique Gonzalez said he’s “very encouraged that a federal judge has actually said that black lives matter, because now we know that not only is this movement happening in the streets … even a federal judge has acknowledged that people of color have been on the receiving end of police brutality and this needs to change,” The Stranger reported.

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