Seattle police officers mingle with neighbors in the International District during Pinball with Police at the Seattle Pinball Museum. (Dyer Oxley)
Seattle police officers descended upon the International District Tuesday. Lights were flashing as they darted down alleys, raced up ramps, sped through lanes, and slammed their … flippers?
“The nice thing about Pinball with Police is that you can play the game or watch others play, while carrying a conversation or waiting to get into a conversation,” said Vicky Li, Chinatown/International District Community Engagement and Outreach Specialist for SPD. “It provides a fun background activity, but not too much of a distraction.”
The city’s focus was on Seattle City Hall Tuesday as the city council debated, at length, a contract for police officers through the afternoon and into the early evening. After years of working without an agreement or pay raises, and with tensions between police and city leadership, the contract was eventually approved 8-1.
But in another corner of the city, a collection of cops spent their time away from city politics, playing pinball and talking with neighbors in the International District.
If you’ve heard of coffee with a cop, this is essentially that — though with less coffee and with a lot more lights (neighboring Starbucks did provide free beverages, however). The conversations that evening were cordial, but to the point. For example, as one officer chatted with Pinball Museum owner Charlie Martin, he noted that on this particular evening the room was filled with minority cops, gay cops, older and younger cops — making a “we’re like you, you’re like us” point, with a hint of “we’re trying.” In return, Martin conveyed some of the concerns locals have when dealing with police.
The outreach effort comes in the wake of tense relations between Seattle police, community members, and city leaders. The police department has spent years in a state of evolution while under a consent decree with the Department of Justice. The order cited biased policing practices in Seattle. It prompted a series of changes from de-escalation training to use-of-force…