• City of Tacoma QA
  • City of Tacoma Data




Mayor on Attorney General's Charging Decision

A Statement From Mayor Victoria Woodards on Attorney General's Office Charging Decision

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 27, 2021

 

MEDIA CONTACTS

Tanisha Jumper, Media and Communications, tjumper@cityoftacoma.org, (253) 591-5152
Maria Lee, Media and Communications, maria.lee@cityoftacoma.org, (253) 591-2054

 

A Statement From Mayor Victoria Woodards on Attorney General's Office Charging Decision  

 

TACOMA, Wash. -- Today, the Attorney General’s Office followed through on its commitment to hold the facts of the Manuel Ellis investigation up to the standard of the laws in our state. We now know the deeply significant felony charges that will begin criminal proceedings against three City of Tacoma Police Officers

I know that what I have to say today may raise more questions than answers. And I acknowledge that the information I have today is likely to feel deeply unsatisfying. We don’t have all the answers yet, but we will be sharing more as we learn it. 

The charges being brought against three of the officers on the scene the night of Manuel Ellis’s death will no doubt be received with strong emotions across our community. For many, this news will be welcomed. For others, this news will be deeply troubling and difficult to bear. And for more still, the news may prompt any number of mixed emotions. It will no doubt intensify questions about the safety of Black lives here in the City of Tacoma. 

The truth, no matter where you might stand on the Attorney General’s decision, is that Manuel Ellis was a son, a brother, a father, a churchgoer, and a friend to many. The loss of his life is tragic and heartbreaking. And losses of Black lives specifically impact our friends, families, neighbors of color – and me. 

The Ellis family specifically requested an independent state investigation, and I want to thank the Washington State Patrol and the Attorney General’s Office for their efforts in fulfilling that request. Moreover, the City Council and I are grateful to Gov. Jay Inslee and Rep. Debra Entenman who heard us and worked to make independent, state-level investigations a right that is available to every Washington family impacted by officer-involved deaths. And I hope – in the next legislative session – we will add independent, state-level prosecutions as well.  

I want to thank the community and especially the Ellis family for the extreme patience you all have demonstrated throughout the investigation of this case. I know it has taken much, much longer to get to this point than any of us expected or wanted, but I also believe it allowed for the thorough, independent review that Manuel Ellis’ family and the Tacoma community deserved.

Because the Attorney General’s Office has reached its decision as an independent agency, this matter will now enter our legal system.  And – while it will require more of our patience – we will respect our legal system’s prosecution of the charges and proceeding in a manner that is just. 

While the criminal process moves forward, Deputy Mayor Blocker, the City Council, and I will support City Manager Elizabeth Pauli and her staff’s effort to begin a separate administrative review to determine whether there is cause for disciplinary personnel action with any of the five officers involved. The Council and I will be holding the City Manager fully accountable for this review, including responsibility for reporting back to us and the community on a regular basis on how the work is progressing.  

I have complete trust in the diligence that City Manager Pauli and Interim Police Chief Mike Ake will use in following the processes that are required to handle these personnel matters thoroughly and appropriately. We saw in Atlanta how an officer fired and charged with murder was reinstated, and I cannot imagine how that shook that community’s sense of safety. I don’t want that to happen in Tacoma.

In Tacoma, our administrative leaders who bear responsibility and authority for personnel decisions are going about this wisely to ensure the best outcomes for Tacoma, and they do so knowing the intense urgency for answers held by this community, the City Council, and me – both as a Black woman and as your Mayor. 

What remains unequivocally true is this: Black lives matter. And we must act like they matter. The systems built up around policing have disparate outcomes across the nation, and the Council and I have heard the community’s demands for change here in Tacoma. While we await and eagerly anticipate the policing transformation team that we expect will be established as part of the community-led Heal the Heart initiative, we as a City have been and will continue to take action now to address this important need for change.

While we ask hard questions and look for areas where we can transform, at the same time valuable work continues in our police department as well.  For those officers who work every day with integrity to protect and serve our community, I know the Manuel Ellis case and events across the nation have been heavy burdens for them and their families as well.  Many members of the Tacoma Police Department have shared with me that they welcome the opportunity to improve policing in our city, and I welcome their partnership on the transformation we have already begun. 

While there is so much yet to do, we are already seeing results from our transformation process. We have deployed body cameras to Tacoma police officers, and I have requested that staff look into using American Rescue Plan dollars to implement dash cams. We’ve adopted policies based on the national “8 Can’t Wait” campaign to include limiting the use of all chokeholds. And this year’s contract negotiations with our police unions will focus on addressing all barriers to transformation.

In March, we received an initial analysis and 64 recommendations from 21st Century Policing to help plan our next steps in police transformation. We are working with the Community Police Advisory Committee to move these recommendations forward. And this week, we received a study that will help determine what services we might divert from law enforcement to other kinds of responders. These foundational steps demonstrate our commitment to real change.

Beyond transformation of our policing system, the City Council and I have committed to a community-led systems transformation to ensure that all community members have equitable access to opportunities and services, an effort now known as the Heal the Heart of Tacoma initiative. The City Council and I appointed a core coordinating team in November to support this community-led work, and regular meetings have begun. In addition, the City Manager worked to develop the City’s first anti-racist budget, which we can amend as needed based on the community-led work to become an anti-racist Tacoma. 

These are just initial steps. The City Council and I remain dedicated to supporting this work in whatever ways we can and listening to the community’s suggestions for additional change. 

Let me end where I began.  It has taken us a long time to get to this point in the investigation into the death of Manuel Ellis.  I want to again thank everyone in our community for the patience they’ve shown as we waited for the thorough, independent investigation this case deserved. I ask for more of that patience now as we embark on the criminal phase of this case, and as we begin an administrative review of the facts.  What we have learned and will learn from this investigation will help us move our transformation process forward. These charges are not an ending, they are part of the beginning we are embarking on to make Tacoma a better place for all our residents.

If we must go through these deeply difficult and heartbreaking moments as a community, then as your Mayor, I promise that these hard times will also result in meaningful change.

More information about the City’s transformation efforts is available at cityoftacoma.org/transform.

 

###

 

On May 27, 2021, Mayor Victoria Woodards was joined by City Manager Elizabeth Pauli and Interim Police Chief Mike Ake in issuing statements on the Manuel Ellis case. Watch the video here