Ferguson and Seattle:  Similarities and lessons

SEATTLE -- For some here in our region, the events in Ferguson, Mo., strike very close to home. Four years ago, a white Seattle police officer shot and killed a minority suspect -- an incident that led to mass protests and calls for major reform.

Despite these similarities, Mayor Ed Murray has been stressing the differences between the two cities.

“Seattle is not Ferguson” Murray said.   “Ferguson is predominately an African American town that has only three African American police officers.”

Moreover, Murray says that Seattle is committed to the goal of "social justice in all areas.”

The comparison between what happened in Ferguson and what happened a few years ago in Seattle is not a huge stretch.

In 2010, Seattle police officer Ian Birk shot and killed woodcarver John T. Williams in what many argued was a stark example of overreaction.  Birk was white and Williams was Native American.  What followed were street protests and demands for change.

Unlike black teen Michael Brown, who was unarmed, Williams was carrying a carving knife.

In the four years since Williams' death, the Department of Justice has come in to Seattle to force major police reforms, including more training and more community oversight of the SPD.

The DOJ is now looking at the Ferguson Police Department to determine whether similar reforms should be imposed there as well.