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How to destroy a perfectly good police department

Guest Opinion: Start with absurd premises about Seattle police drawn from never-explained methodology. Then drag officers through political training exercises.
Seattle Police vehicles (in Belltown, 2008).

Seattle Police vehicles (in Belltown, 2008). Dmitri Fedortchenko/Flickr

How do you take a well-respected police department and transform it into an enfeebled version of its former self? Impose a social justice regime, subject police officers to political indoctrination and allow the U.S. Department of Justice to perpetrate a federal fiction.

Having recently retired after more than 21 years of service, and, sadly, years earlier than I expected I would, I feel confident giving a brief street cop’s perspective of today’s Seattle Police Department.

Political indoctrination begins with inane jargon and political correctness, spurred by Seattle’s “Race and Social Justice Initiative.” Elliott Bronstein of Seattle’s Office for Civil Rights, last year, nudged city employees to refrain from using such horrendously bigoted words as, "brown bag" and "citizen."  This leftist lunacy was reported as far away as the United Kingdom.

At Hempfest 2013, the city had cops hand out Doritos in specially labeled bags that had instructions on how to comply with the new state law to the pothead throng illegally smoking marijuana. Beer nuts for sidewalk inebriants, anyone? During a speech to the orange-fingered masses, City Attorney Peter Holmes cheered legalized pot, shouting out, “We did it!” This from a city attorney who has dubiously prosecuted officers, who were subsequently acquitted, but is reluctant to prosecute Downtown street crime. Last year Holmes declined to prosecute 28 chronic street criminals personally requested by Interim Police Chief Jim Pugel. 

Shamefully, Seattle now sends its cops, including yours truly, to political indoctrination disguised as law enforcement training. The indoctrination includes a PBS produced video series: “Race: The Power of an Illusion,” which provides some valid scientific and historical information but then trainers conflate this with invalid contemporary conclusions about power and race. The program employs an insidious method: Attendees are first herded with a guided, one-sided discussion and video presentation, before being corralled into what might be considered a predetermined-conclusion pen. At points, attendees are quite literally herded, as they are directed to leave their seats and line up against the back wall (at some points I was hoping an execution was about to occur, which might have been preferable to this indoctrination). Attendees are then asked amorphous and ambiguous questions and directed to either side of an answer spectrum: Strongly agree to one side of the room, strongly disagree to the other, and to varying degrees of agreement to one side or the other of center. This is regardless of whether or not one agreed with the question’s premise.   

The seminar perpetuates a view that white privilege and minority oppression are the preeminent rule in America today. This is a political perspective (a flawed one, in my view), not law enforcement training. How would this city’s current political elite react if the opposing political party were in power and instead of social justice training, conservative city administrators mandated firearms self-defense lessons, gun safety training or open- and concealed-carry seminars for all city employees? What if instead of a PBS documentary they use NRA videos to teach the classes? The left would never tolerate it, nor should they.

Then there’s the Department of Justice, who, without divulging its mystical methodology, allegedly found that Seattle police officers’ uses of force violated suspects’ constitutional rights an absurd 20 percent of the time.

Seattle University criminal justice professor and former Department of Justice statistician Matthew J. Hickman debunked the report. Conducting his own more thorough studies, Professor Hickman arrived at a more lucid 3.5 percent incidence of violations of suspects' rights, which included possible violations. In a courageous Seattle Times oped, “Department of Justice owes the Seattle Police Department an apology,” Hickman advised the SPD to, “call DOJ's bluff, and settle for nothing less than a formal apology." Despite this objective, timely and credible defense of the SPD, the city ignored his advice.

Merrick Bobb, the federal monitor, waxed Orwellian in an article carried in the Police Guild's newspaper last August: “Whatever the correct figure might be, it is not relevant to our task today… What I know for sure is that the settlement agreement embodies best practice in policing and that it is to the SPD’s and Seattle’s benefit that it be implemented regardless of what led up to it.” Regardless of what led up to it? For SPD’s honorable officers, this is like being falsely charged with a crime and then exonerated, but you still have to serve a sentence.


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Comments:

Posted Mon, Apr 14, 8:14 a.m. Inappropriate

If you don't believe that "agendas" are trumping common sense, you haven't paid much attention to Obama's DOJ record.

Besides providing phony numbers of illegal immigrant deportations, the administration has made sure that immigration laws were effectively dismantled.For example,the Department of Justice secretly organized rallies on behalf of Martin’s friends and family that helped elevate the issue to a national stage. The Community Relations Service, a civil rights unit of the DOJ, helped with security for the rallies.

And last year there was the situation where the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement defended the role of federal agents in transporting illegal immigrant children after a federal judge complained they were hand-delivering smuggled kids to parents in the United States.

Many reports of similar situations caused the city council and the dominating voices in the city government to ally with DOJ imperatives because they recognized the same agenda was being served.

Thanks to Crosscut for providing this evidence of the politically-correct enervation of the Seattle Police. It's too bad there is so little analytical or combating-political-winds journalism elsewhere.

Posted Mon, Apr 14, 9:24 a.m. Inappropriate

I have no doubt Officer Pomper believes every word he's written here, and I welcome it because from a different perspective than his own it makes vivid the culture issue inside the Seattle Police Department.
In a time when police departments are moving from the traditional command-control model to a more reality-based community policing model, and to the recruitment of officers with real community experience, Officer Pomper ridicules the effort as "leftist lunacy," and "political indoctrination." His resistance to the idea, the necessity, of adapting police work to a new time is palpable.
We could re-litigate again and again how DOJ reached its conclusions re: SPD, but surely federal monitor Merrick Bobb - derisively quoted by Pomper - has it right when he says of the DOJ consent decree "[it] embodies best practice in policing and that it is to the SPD’s and Seattle’s benefit that it be implemented regardless of what led up to it.” Of course, the goal in the end is to have in SPD the best practice in policing.
The challenge for SPD, and for this community, is to reach that goal in a positive way. That will take leadership from the Mayor's office and a willingness inside SPD to look beyond the old norms, and beyond Pomper's phrases from the "perfectly good police department" playbook, especially that old canard "liberal apathy towards police." I suppose, to the extent labels mean anything now, I'm in a liberal/progressive camp, but share no antipathy toward the difficult work of police officers. I know many of them, and know they are committed to public service. I simply believe, and our recent history suggests, that we can do better.

Posted Mon, Apr 14, 10:37 p.m. Inappropriate

There's a reason SPD has been targeted by the DOJ and it's not because the they didn't buy enough Girl Scout Cookies. SPD has a long track record of abuse, it goes back to the 1960's. The attitude and beliefs of Officer Pomper do nothing to instill confidence that the average citizen in Seattle would be treated fairly by the current crop of cops. Of course Pomper and his former associates in SPD think they do no wrong, and when confronted with the evidence of wrong doing, they become attack dogs.

It pains me that we allow bad public officials to retire with a publicly funded pension. In my opinion, Pomper is undeserving of his. His two page write up, displays for all citizens to see, what the below average SPD cop feels about following the law. Small wonder DOJ is here, SPD can't follow the law, nor can they be trusted to enforce the law. That is the problem.

Thanks to Crosscut for allowing Pomper to bare his soul. If this is the majority attitude of the SPD cops, Seattle is in for a rough ride as it trims the dead wood from a rotten tree.

Djinn

Posted Tue, Apr 15, 1:03 a.m. Inappropriate

What a nasty, slimy article. Thank god this guy is no longer with the SPD, and I'd imagine that some higher-ups are glad also. They don't need this kind of abhorrent stuff in front of the public right now.

sarah90

Posted Tue, Apr 15, 11:05 a.m. Inappropriate

Thank you for retiring... If you have any friends still on the force who agree with this old-school, backwards thinking, please encourage them to join you on the golf course.

Mickymse

Posted Fri, Apr 18, 5:14 p.m. Inappropriate

When I get stopped by the police for a traffic issue, it really doesnt matter whether I am right or wrong- I do what the police say, because they have the power in the situation.
The exact same thing applies to the DOJ and the Seattle PD- it doesnt make any difference whether this writer thinks the policies of the DOJ are "mystical".
The DOJ writes the rules.
They have the power.
And fighting them is not only useless, but a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Its odd to me that someone who spent 20 plus years benefitting from this type of power relationship is unable to see it from the other end...

Ries

Posted Mon, Apr 21, 12:36 p.m. Inappropriate

"Perfectly Good?" Is this the same Seattle Police that is widely considered one of the most abusive in the nation?

Is this the same Police Department whose union newspaper spouts clearly fascist-mafioso-like doctrine?

boblgumm

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