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Trial Verdict in State of Washington v. TPD Officers Burbank, Collins & Rankine Statement From the Mayor Victoria Woodards


Thank you all for joining us today. This is a significant moment of deep consequence for everyone in our community. No words are adequate for this moment and any statement is sure to disappoint. While words may be inadequate, I need to speak first to the family and friends of Manuel Ellis. My heart breaks for you, and I want to acknowledge the immeasurable pain and loss that his death has caused. We are hoping for strength and comfort as you navigate through this challenging time. We have seen the love, resilience, and fortitude that you have brought to bear in pursuit of justice for your son, and your brother, Manuel Ellis. His death creates a hole that cannot and will not be filled, and the waves of grief have impacted our entire community, but we know you hurt the most.

 

In an effort to be clear and concise, I’ve worked hard to gather my thoughts and made notes, to be sure that I cover each point that I want to share today. I also want to acknowledge who is here with me today. In the short lead up to this moment, all of your City Council Members were unable to join us, but I want to be clear, here or not, we stand together today. I also want to be sure to acknowledge who is here with me today. I am joined by Deputy Mayor Kristina Walker, Council Member John Hines, Council Member Sarah Rumbaugh, Council Member Keith Blocker, Council Member Kiara Daniels, and Council Member Olgy Diaz.

 

Following my remarks, our City Manager and our Police Chief will address the administrative process and next steps.

 

We have all waited for the conclusion of this trial and a decision on this case. The weight of this moment is one that's been carried for a very long time – nearly four years. I want to acknowledge the challenges and complexities associated with a case of this nature and thank the court and jury for this difficult work. We learned together today that all three officers have been found not guilty. This verdict undoubtably elicits a wide range of emotions from each and every one of us including myself.

 

Specifically, I want to acknowledge the anger, distrust, doubt, fear, hurt, and exhaustion that we as Black people have experienced as a result of the history of policing in this country. As your City government, we hold the power to impact lives. Our police officers are entrusted with a specific kind of power and a responsibility to uphold and enforce the law. The verdict today does not lessen our commitment to ensure that the City’s power is used to protect and serve and that the essential services provided by all City employees are delivered equitably and fairly. Under the leadership of Chief Avery Moore, the Police Department will continue its work to repair and transform. Their ongoing efforts to be more open, authentically connect with community, and support the safety of everyone in Tacoma will continue and I am grateful for the dedicated officers at TPD who show up every day in the spirit of excellence and service to this Community. Today, three officers’ trial concluded, but the entire Tacoma Police Department was not on trial.

 

In this moment, some of us will need time to process our emotions. I know I certainly will, but it will be critical for us to come together, foster dialogue, and grow greater understanding between our community and City government systems. Right now, I know many of you feel the need to be heard. I want to be very clear that it is not only your right, but also your duty, to use your voice. In these difficult moments, I am heartened by Tacoma’s longstanding practice of showing up actively and peacefully, and I call on all who want to speak out, to do so in a way that reflects Tacoma’s values. It is our responsibility as a City to protect that right, even and especially now when the message is harsh and critical of government. Your Council and I will continue to protect that right. 

 

While the jury rendered its verdict today, the City’s internal processes continue. In a moment, you’ll hear from our City Manager on the administrative investigation underway.

 

Over three years ago, I called for the firing of each officer involved, and at that moment my heart was breaking. Following that statement, I further clarified the importance of process before decisions would be made.  While there is no outcome that would be perceived by all as just, I believe that these administrative investigations will be carried out impartially. As your Mayor, I share the depth of emotion that many of you are experiencing right now. As we individually and collectively grapple with our response to today’s verdict, I know this is not the moment to share our past actions or list our future plans to fix our systems. And let me be very clear, this is bigger than just the systems the City controls alone. But what I want you to know, is that I personally commit – along with every member of your City Council, our City Manager, and our Police Chief – to a just, transparent, and safer Tacoma for all our residents. And I stand with you, beside you, in front of you, and behind you as you advocate for the changes that need to be made.

 

These are not just words. This commitment is real, and it has been and will continue to be backed by action. We still have much to navigate, but I know if we work together, we can be the city where everyone feels safe, respected, and cared for. We will use this moment in Tacoma’s history to guide and inform our change, and we WILL NOT … We WILL NOT forget the life of Manuel Ellis.

 

 

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