There are more questions than answers about Charleena Lyles’ shooting by Seattle police. Under the federal consent decree and years of reforms, the department now has a good process for investigating these types of shootings.
The tragic shooting of Charleena Lyles by Seattle police on Sunday deserves a full, vigorous investigation.
If recent history is a guide, there is reason to hope it will get one. Reforms in the Seattle police have vastly improved the department’s investigations into officers’ use of force. Lyles’ death is a tragedy, and the closely watched investigation will be a stress test of the recent accountability reforms.
Lyles was black, and the Seattle police officers who shot her are white. Both her family, and the officers, deserve a full investigation. Regardless, race in our society remains an indicator of inequality — from vastly disproportionate incarceration rates of black men to lagging graduation rates for black students. African-American communities have good reason to distrust policing.
The public should demand answers to many troubling questions about Lyles’ death. Why was deadly force necessary against a pregnant woman with three children in her apartment? Why did the incident escalate in seconds from a routine interaction to gunfire? Why did at least one of the officers not have a Taser? Did the officers follow their Crisis Intervention Training, which teaches de-escalation strategies?
There are also troubling questions about the human-services system. Just two weeks before her death, Lyles had allegedly threatened police with scissors and voiced apparent delusions while her 4-year-old daughter crawled on her lap, according to a police report.
Was there adequate treatment offered to Lyles for mental-health problems, which her family said were getting worse? When she was in jail earlier this month, did she get evaluated and treated? Washington, after all, is under a federal court…