March 26, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 13


New head of city’s civil rights office wants to take race and justice training into the community

By Aaron Burkhalter / Staff Reporter

Patricia Lally

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The new head of Seattle’s Office for Civil Rights hopes to bring into the community a decade of internal racial and social justice work by the city of Seattle.

Mayor Ed Murray announced the appointment of Patricia Lally in December, before he took office. The Seattle City Council confirmed the appointment March 24.

Lally, a former federal prosecutor, said the city’s Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI) must now extend outside city hall, into public education, criminal justice, housing and employment.

RSJI, an internal process that trains city employees on institutional racism and civil rights was launched a decade ago. Every city employee goes through RSJI training, and departments report on their race and social justice efforts to the Seattle City Council annually.

“This is an opportunity to look at the community and ask ourselves the same questions,” Lally said.

Lally replaces former Office of Civil Rights Director Julie Nelson, who held the position since 2007. Nelson oversaw the implementation of the city’s law mandating paid sick leave for all city employees and a law prohibiting employers from barring people with felony records from applying for jobs.

The Office for Civil Rights also enforces the city’s civil rights laws and advises the mayor and city council on social justice policy. It handles civil rights complaints, including those related to paid sick leave and job applications. It collects complaints against the Seattle Police Department and files them with the Office of Professional Accountability.

Lally was previously a prosecutor at the U.S. Attorney’s Office. She handled large criminal enterprises, including a case in which people from Washington to Florida were stealing insulin doses and reselling them to wholesalers.

Lally was at one time the president of the Latina/o Bar Association of Washington. She was president when Seattle Police Officer Shandy Cobane was caught on video stomping on Martin Monetti, Jr., saying he would “beat the (expletive) Mexican piss” out of the man.

Lally led the Latina/o Bar Association’s response, which, in part, prompted to the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Seattle Police Department. The resulting 2011 report found that the department had a “pattern and practice of excessive force.”



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