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How to destroy a perfectly good police department

Seattle Police vehicles (in Belltown, 2008). Credit: 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.

What will the SPD look like after its sinew has been turned to flab? One fear is “de-policing” — a phenomenon where cops avoid pro-active patrol. De-policing is not about police apathy toward their jobs. It is about liberal antipathy toward police — and the understandable reaction of any employee who feels their work isn't valued and their reputations have been wrongly tainted.

Seattleites should be aware of how this DOJ fraud is affecting their great cops.  Unfortunately, most Seattle media report only the contentiousness in implementing the federal consent decree, but they ignore the fraudulent means used to impose it in the first place.

Seattle has recently elected a new mayor, Ed Murray. I’ve met him, and I like him. However, he has yet to acknowledge the DOJ corruption behind the bogus, expensive, and dangerous consent decree. The criminal justice system has a doctrine known as, fruit of the poisonous tree. Basically, if a legal step was violated during an investigation, evidence stemming from that violation is tainted and cannot be used. Seattleites need to be reminded that the consent decree is fruit from a very poisonous tree.

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