• SEATTLE POLICE OFFICERS’ CIVIL RIGHTS LAWSUIT

    author-photo-150x150Police work is tough. If there is a more difficult job in America, I’m not sure what it is. I don’t know of another profession where more people, with little or no law enforcement experience, presume to know how to do the job better than the professionals trained to do it. (Note: for the plaintiff’s official perspective, visit: Seattle Police Officers’ Civil Rights Lawsuit.)

    More than 120 concerned Seattle cops are asking you to support the Seattle police officers’ civil rights lawsuit, which names U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, et al., as defendants.

    Precipitating this lawsuit were dangerous changes made to the SPD use-of-force policy, effective Jan. 1, 2014. The essential changes include requiring that officers use significantly less force than a suspect is necessary to subdue a threat, and a prohibition from using effective tools or techniques against vaguely defined, newly protected classes of suspects.

    Effectively, cops are left wondering not just what force they can and cannot use but when and on whom. This can lead to deadly hesitation. Too often, an officer’s use-of-force is not deemed “wrong” until after an incident, even if the techniques or tools used were in compliance with what he or she had been taught by the department.

    To briefly recap what initiated this debacle, the Department of Justice (DOJ) came to Seattle a few years back with an apparent preconception that its cops were racist brutes. The facts did not back this assumption. However, the DOJ found that Seattle police officers violate suspect’s constitutional rights an absurd 20% of the time when using force. Inexplicably, the DOJ refused to releaseits methodology—We’re from the government; just trust us.

    In steps, Seattle University Professor of Criminal Justice, and former DOJ statistician, Matthew J. Hickman, conducted his own more comprehensive analysis and found closer to 3% that might have violated suspects’ rights. Professor Hickman wrote an article that appeared in the Seattle Times Feb. 8th, 2010, entitled: “Department of Justice owes the Seattle Police Department an apology.”In the article, Hickman advises the SPD command staff to “call DOJ’s bluff, and settle for nothing less than a formal apology.” This advice was obviously ignored. If not for the DOJ’s bogus findings, this lawsuit would not be necessary. Seattle Police Officers Civil Rights Lawsuit.

    Following this infliction of a fraudulent federal consent decree or settlement agreement, the DOJ contracted Merrick Bobb at $800,000 per year to serve as the federal monitor. In the first months of implementation, Bobb was investigated for dubious expenses he charged to Seattle taxpayers. While some supporters downplayed the issue as only about some Egyptian cotton pillowcases and a corkscrew, Bobb subsequently deducted $7,500 from his expense charges.

    Another concern is with U.S. District Judge James Robard who was assigned to oversee the implementation of the consent decree, and is the person who approved the new use-of-force policy. He has betrayed his bias by telling the officers bringing the suit to “get over it” [the new policy] and admonished, snidely, that, “The good old days are not coming back.” Since the good judge obviously supports the “reforms,” is he saying that officers supporting the lawsuit wish to return to a time in Seattle when, supposedly, cops abusing citizens was commonplace? What a rude caricature he must think of the police.

    This brings up another issue. While covering the Seattle Police Officers’ Civil Rights Lawsuit, one should notice another bias, this one perpetuated by the local news media. Consider this quote written by Seattle Times reporter Steve Miletich: “But the suit has proved to be a public-relation headache for the city, creating a perception of significant resistance to the reforms in the ranks.”

    This assumes the need for “reforms” are legitimate and that the sweeping changes are valid. However, while improvement is always sought, the need for drastic reforms overseen by the federal government is an insult to the dedicated men and women of the once nationally lauded Seattle Police Department. People consistently hear about SPD being, “resistant to reform.” However, they rarely hear about the dubious methods the DOJ used to inflict this consent decree on Seattle. Incidentally, an editor at the Seattle Times strung me along for 38 days, feigning interest in a story I wrote addressing this very issue, before declining for absurd reasons. Subsequently, a similar column I wrote was printed in Crosscut.com.

    Another distraction comes from reports that the Seattle Police Officers Guild does not support the lawsuit. This is misleading because, while the Guild does not support the tactic of bringing a federal lawsuit, Guild president Ron Smith told KIRO 7 that morale is low, and he doesn’t blame officers “for being upset about this vague use of force policy,” or for being upset about the settlement agreement (emphasis mine). Smith simply prefers a different approach to solving the same serious issue.

    Whether or not each of the specific allegations brought by the police officers in the lawsuit are found to be substantive or applicable, which is at issue in the city’s motion-to-dismiss, is not crucial. It is not unusual for some portions of any lawsuit to be dismissed while others are upheld. The U.S. Supreme Court as well as the many inferior courts make partial or selective rulings like this all the time. I would hope that any judge considering such a matter would err on the side of officer and public safety and not political expediency.

    It is also important to note that among those officers leading and supporting this effort are some very well educated and extremely experienced law enforcement officers and sergeants who are experts in police work as well as use-of-force training and implementation.

    Also, it would be disingenuous not to admit that some officers, perhaps even most, harbor some contrarian or even angry sentiments toward the fraudulent consent decree. After all, no one likes being lied about or having one’s integrity questioned. However, this does not invalidate the legitimate concerns officers have regarding a severely flawed use-of-force policy. It is a policy that a judge merely reads on paper but an officer literally lives (or dies) on the streets.

    This group of concerned Seattle police officers needs your support. Although the legal support received from Lisa Battalia and others is appreciated beyond mere words, the cause simply needs more support. Police officers have become accustomed to the difficulty of finding legal support to defend their constitutional rights. For example, the ACLU seems more willing to defend American Nazis’ rights than those of American police officers.

    These Seattle police officers have filed this suit not only concerned for their safety but also for that of the citizens they serve. The U.S. Constitution provides every individual American the right to self-defense. This right includes the ability to use all the necessary force in order to protect oneself or others adequately. When the definition of “necessary” is altered to reflect self-defense that false short of what is actually necessary for an officer to effectively protect him or herself and others from the vicious criminals they face, as the SPD’s new use-of-force policy clearly does, police officers are duty-bound to judge it objectively, and, in the event it is found deficient in practice, take measures to remedy the deficiencies. This is simply another example of dedicated police officers working to protect their city.

    Please take a moment to visit: Seattle Police Officers Civil Rights Lawsuit.

    (With full disclosure in mind, I am a proud signatory to the lawsuit mentioned herein, although I am no longer an active duty Seattle police officer. The comments contained herein represent my thoughts and opinions only and not necessarily any other party to this lawsuit.)

  • America: an anti-police state?

    Is America becoming an anti-police state? Every law enforcement officer in America, after having successfully passed a rigorous battery of mental and physical tests, medical and psychological examinations, a polygraph and a background check will raise his or her hand and swear an oath to uphold the laws of their community, state and nation to do their job honorably and honestly to the best of their abilities. This oath-taking requirement is rare among professions. For example, journalists, the folks who most examine, investigate and criticize police officers are also expected to be honest, fair and to do their jobs with integrity. However, to the best of my knowledge, they do not swear an oath to do so. Which, in some cases, does seem apparent.

    There are some on the left who question whether America is turning into a police state; I would challenge, instead, is America degenerating into an anti-police state? Sadly, because of the nations’ political slide to the left since the election of Barack Obama and his appointment of Attorney General Eric Holder, an anti-police state, in many ways, is what we now live in.

    Of course, the racial fraud occurring in Ferguson, Missouri, is currently in the nation’s consciousness, while here in Seattle, the DOJ consent decree, also, in part, a racial fraud, continues to destroy the Seattle Police Department, which has been one of the most respected and emulated in the United States.

    So, if America has chosen not to trust its cops, then why should law enforcement officers continue to take oaths? First, we have to ask what an oath means. Essentially, an oath is a sacred or solemn, often legal, pledge or promise one makes to hold one’s professional duties above any personal biases to the best of one’s ability. To judge how someone feels about an oath that one has taken, look at one’s behavior. For example, the president, the attorney general and Supreme Court justices all take oaths to uphold the U.S. Constitution. A casual skim through Constitution-ignoring news stories over the last half dozen years alone demonstrates how lightly some office holders (pun intended), especially on the political left, hold such oaths. Based on this observation, is it a stretch to believe that one who doesn’t hold one’s own oath in high regard, might not be able to fathom that another individual would hold his or her oath as professionally critical?

    The issue of video cameras in police work is the proverbial double-edged sword, but is arguable, However, more departments are mandating videos in cars, videos in holding cells, and, now, videos on officers’ uniforms (I wonder how long a politician would last in office if he or she had to wear a video body camera throughout their work day). The result: unless there is a video of an officer’s actions in a given controversial circumstance, the officer seems to be presumed guilty. In the past, taking the oath afforded an officer the benefit of the doubt. In general, police officers act on behalf of the community that has hired them to face the danger and the criminals so residents won’t have to. The criminal, on the other hand, by definition, acts to his own benefit. However, when an incident occurs, such as in Ferguson, MO., which seems to be looking more and more like a justifiable shooting, the new American anti-police state gives the benefit of the doubt to the criminal (turned victim) instead of the cop. President Obama, Attorney General Holder, and Governor Nixon have all spoken out for justice—justice for Michael Brown and the Brown family—but not justice for Officer Darren Wilson. If it turns out that the facts show events unfolded in such a way that Officer Wilson acted exactly as he should have, will these politicians apologize? As the Brits say, “Not bloody likely!” And if this isn’t more proof of today’s American anti-police state, I don’t know what is.

    If an officer gains nothing by taking an oath because the society he is swearing to protect and serve no longer values such a pledge, then perhaps the law enforcement oath’s time has passed. If an officer, who has chosen a profession in which he or she will risk his or her physical and mental health, and perhaps even life, cannot get the benefit of the community’s doubt, then who else in society deserves this benefit? It seems, more and more, the criminal does. The vast majority of police officers take the job so they can help people to live in safe communities where they can pursue their happiness in whatever peaceful ways they choose. It is one of the highest and noblest of all professions, and one without which peaceful society cannot exist. The racial aggitators would have everyone believe that we live in a police state where black teens are being gunned down in the streets. However, the statistics show that out of 12 million arrests per year, over 30,000 per day, 99.9% occur without a suspect being killed. And of that .1%, the vast majority are justified police shootings. Hardly the bloodbath myth some would like to portray.

    I don’t know of another profession other than law enforcement where more people feel compelled to tell the trained professionals how to do their jobs. Are we witnessing a time when the most qualified people to do this job will no longer be willing to pin on the badge? Are we witnessing the inception of America, an anti-police state?

  • Ferguson, MO.: Reporters have no right to trespass on private property

    Does anyone know of another profession, outside of law enforcement, where so many people profess to know more about how to do the job than those who have been trained to do it? Seriously, I cannot think of any profession that is second-guessed and criticized to such a degree.

    For example, I was just listening to a radio program where an activist (I didn’t catch his name, however, his comments have been expressed by many people) was criticizing Ferguson police officers for “abusing” the media by arresting two reporters who had refused management’s instructions to leave a McDonald’s and police officer’s orders to leave, citing First Amendment abuses.

    This activist suggested the cops need to be retrained. How presumptuous and, sadly, ignorant is that? If he knew even the basics about law enforcement, he would know the officers did their job according to policy and law. However, since the critic’s constricted view of this law enforcement action didn’t conform to his uniformed perspective, and with no comments from the officers involved, he criticized how they preformed their duties. This, even though the critic has zero law enforcement training while even a rookie cop has successfully completed and graduated from a law enforcement training academy.

    Let me ask you: How would you respond: Riot conditions exist in the streets. The McDonald’s manager calls the police and reports they have some people who won’t leave the restaurant when asked. First, the responding officers don’t care what the occupation of the trespassers are, once the owner asks a person to leave their private property, that person must leave. Period! The First Amendment does not give reporters special rights to trespass on private property.

    Second, once the cops arrive and do their duty by instructing the trespassers that they need to leave, the officers, needed for emergencies and riot associated activities, don’t have the time to discuss the trespassers’ personal questions. Can you imagine if a cop, dealing with a crowd, had to stop to discuss the situation with every person who asks? Once the officer says leave, the person is obligated to leave or they are failing to comply with the officer’s lawful order, which is breaking the law and they are subject to arrest. Trespassing and refusing to obey an officer’s lawful orders are crimes.

    People in the TV audience, like the critic, get only a fish eye view of what occurred in the restaurant. They see stern officers giving people stern instructions to people to leave private property, and in response, those people refuse to leave. They don’t see the melee occurring outside, to which the officers should be responding and not wasting their time with indignant news reporters who would rather waste the town’s resources and the officers’ time by breaking the law.

    What are the officers supposed to do? They responded to a storeowner’s valid complaint. The cops are mandated to enforce the law once the complainant has called and a crime is determined to have been committed. The officers didn’t take the reporters, who were, in fact, trespassing, into custody immediately. Instead, they gave instructions over and over again for them to leave the restaurant, which the reporters ignored.

    To avoid arrest, all the reporters had to do was leave the restaurant.

     

  • When was the last time you called a cop a liar?

    Recently a friend of mine suggested I ask the general question: “When was the last time you called a cop a liar, to his face?”

    Now, most people will say, “I’d never call a cop a liar to his face.” Really? Well, never mind lie, some people also swear at officers. In fact, when writing my book, Is There a Problem, Officer?, an editor challenged me on my relating an incident during which a driver swore at me. She didn’t believe anyone would ever swear at a cop. Well, people do swear at cops, and they also lie to cops. However, while people lie to cops all the time, quite often it’s not in the way one might think.  Consider this passage from my book:

    “Oh, no Officer. I did too stop for that stop sign!” The plump, pasty-skinned woman spoke confidently from beneath a white, broad-brimmed hat and from behind dark sunglasses.

    “I’m sorry, ma’am, but you failed to come to a complete stop.”

    “Oh, no, Officer; I’m sure I stopped,” the woman challenged, turning her nose up and looking away.

    “Ma’am, I was sitting in my patrol car in a stationary position right over there. I had an unobstructed view of your car. I saw quite clearly that you didn’t stop.”

    “But I’m sure I stopped.”

    “Sorry, ma’am, you didn’t.”

    “Are you sure, Officer?”

    “Yes, ma’am, I am.”

    The woman sat silent for a moment, carefully considering her situation. She slowly turned her head back up toward me and said, “Well—maybe I didn’t stop-stop, but I stopped.”

    It’s sure hard to argue with her special form of logic. I chose not to and wrote her a ticket. Following her quasi-concession, she began to argue that she truly thought she’d stopped. I explained I’d be concerned about her if she couldn’t determine whether or not her vehicle was stopped or in motion. I still remember this encounter even though it occurred over a decade ago. It wasn’t the first incident I’d had where a motorist had challenged me over a stop, but it was the earliest one I still remember in detail where the first words out of a motorist’s mouth were essentially, “Hello, Officer—nice day, isn’t it? Oh, and by the way, I don’t mean to offend you, but you’re a liar.”- (Lyons Press, 2007).

    Lying to a cop is bad enough, but lying without realizing one is lying, is a mistake no driver should ever make—it could be a very expensive one.

  • POTHEAD PETE

    author-photo-150x150 it happenedI’ve been holding my comments regarding any predictions about how Seattle’s new police chief, and fellow Massachusetts native, Kathleen O’Toole, will pursue her office. I have already written about my positive views regarding her stellar law enforcement background both in the U.S. and Ireland. I was hopeful for positive things. Still, I’m now wondering if, in the case of Officer Randy Jokela’s, sarcastic marijuana citation, kerfuffle, she is missing an opportunity to acquire a visceral understanding of just how intensely negative her police officers feel toward Seattle’s current city attorney, Pothead Pete—Hey, “Petey” is already taken. After all, he has worked pretty hard to earn police officer’s enmity since assuming office by eschewing cops and embracing criminals. Do officers, once again, have to ask if they have a chief of police, or, instead, a chief of mayor (or city council) (or city attorney) (or even worse, of DOJ)?

    I hope Chief O’Toole can see past, being new to Seattle, what she may view as simply a disrespectful or insubordinate officer. Officer Jokela’s scoff-drenched enforcement of Seattle’s laughable public marijuana-use law enforcement illuminates the cynicism with which a high percentage of Seattle’s police officers view the city attorney’s office in its current incarnation. The criminal-friendly/cop-hating record of Pothead Pete speaks for itself. Either using marijuana in public is against the law or it is not—make up your mind!

    Jokela’s marijuana enforcement is full of biting sarcasm. It is quite evident in the tickets he writes. For example, on one of his citation’s officer’s notes, which was made public, the officer issues a ticket to one offender over the other dependent on the results of a coin toss. Seems Pothead Pete should appreciate the social justice aspect of such enforcement—completely arbitrary. Incidentally, Jokela allowed the offender to keep his pipe. Jokela never tried to hide his contempt because, like every other cop, he knows that Pothead Pete will very likely dismiss these citations. Don’t forget, they’re also trying to turn Jokela into a racist, bigot and a, umm, homelessist because the violators don’t have to good sense to break the law in proportion to their their race’s, ethnicity’s or homelessness’ proper percentage of the population.

    This issue is not a matter of whether or not one favors or opposes marijuana legalization (being a consistent libertarian, I happen to support marijuana legalization, although, I do not endorse its use); this is about the propriety of a city attorney who is responsible for prosecuting lawbreakers on behalf of the citizens of Seattle. Pothead Pete shows more compassion, empathy and sympathy for Seattle’s creeps than he does for its cops.