• Why Cops are Cops

    If you ever wonder what cops think about their jobs, this little item might shed some light. I’ve been keeping a journal over the years. As we’re now in the Christmas season, in light of all the anti-police rhetoric flying around, this old entry struck me as relevant.

    Apparently, I worked Christmas Eve 2003. My wife, a firefighter, was also on duty, but with 24-hour shifts, I wouldn’t see her until morning. Seems after shift, I spent the evening at home with my youngest son who was nineteen at the time. I recorded that we had a good time—I think there was some mention of rum and eggnog, but my handwriting is atrocious.

    Anyway, I ended my journal entry of 12/24/03, 11:49 p.m. with: “At work, put a bully in jail, made a scared woman feel safe, Merry Christmas!”

    I don’t remember the call, the bully, or the woman. I just feel good that, as a cop, I was in a position to make someone’s Christmas a little better.

    This is why most cops are cops.

  • Losing Touch with Police Bashing

    Out of touch?

    Every once in a while, I wonder if I’m getting out of touch with police bashing and other issues since I’m no longer on the job as an active cop. Not having to face the BS daily, I wonder if things might be getting better. Maybe I’m not as cynical as I think. (Anything is possible). I think: perhaps, some sanity has seeped into the liberal cabals. And then life provides me a sobering slap in the face.

    Anti-police bias.

    Yesterday, I had the pleasure of chatting in a coffee shop with two cops each from neighboring [to Seattle] police agencies. Both are sergeants with many years of experience. One I’ve known for years, the other I’d just met. They expressed their concerns about policing today. Both spoke of the anti-police bias held by so many in the left wing of politics. They wondered how groups (such as Black Lives Matter) with such a blatant predispositions against cops could be so influential in a mainstream world (easy, they have the Democrats—and the media).

    Cops today hesitate.

    They spoke of being frustrated with the nonsense being taught to cops today, such as the emphasis on “crisis intervention training” for dealing with the mentally ill. We agreed, cops need to act based on an individual’s actions, not on what ancillary afflictions he or she may or may not have. They lamented police academy students and student officers who hesitate during mock scenes (scenario-based training), when placed in a position where force is necessary. Hesitation kills. Now, you probably didn’t hear that here first. That’s because it’s common sense—or it should be.

    “Glad we’re not SPD.”

    What struck me most were their comments regarding the Seattle Police Department. Neither of them blamed me for retiring as soon as I could but long before I had to. In fact, they wondered how I lasted as long as I did. One of the sergeants said, “SPD is the department we [surrounding agencies] are supposed to look up to. Now, we’re just glad we’re not you guys.”

    No secret what the DOJ did to the SPD.

    I was surprised at how in command of SPD issues they were regarding the department’s decline. One of the sergeants said, “It’s amazing how the DOJ could come in, not validate their negative findings, and then implement “fixes” that destroyed the SPD.” Yes, he used the word “destroy” (and the sergeant doesn’t even read this blog—but he or she will now that he or she knows about it).

    Educating the public about what cops do.

    These police supervisors confirmed for me things are still as bad for law enforcement as they’ve ever been. Part of the problem, which I’ve mentioned so often, is that law enforcement is awful at educating the public about what they do. However, that can’t all be put on your average police officer. After all, street cops normally deal with people individually or in small groups. It should be up to the people who run police agencies to educate the public. They are the people who have the “microphones.” Unfortunately, any police chief, as an appointed official—in Seattle, appointed by the mayor and city council, is likely to “educate” the public akin to how a liberal mayor would. And we’re seeing the results of that. Instead of teaching why the police had to do what they did, city leaders too often teach people that the police were wrong even when they weren’t.

    Return to police bashing.

    Perhaps, part of why I start to think things might be getting better for cops is when there happens to be a lull in police bashing because of some other media distraction. I just have to remind myself that the political left and media will always get back to “bad” cops, eventually.

     

  • A Chief of Police or a Chief of Mayor?

    Does a chasm exists between cops and their chiefs?

    Could a problem in policing today be the gaping chasm that seems to exist between many American police chiefs and their rank and file cops. The position is known as Chief of Police. However, it seems a mayor appointing a person to the office, instead, expects him or her to be the Chief of Mayor. Sheriffs, who are directly elected, may have similar problems depending on the politics of the electorate, but at least they run their own departments.

     

    Alchemy in achievement.

    Police chiefs rise through the ranks either within their departments or are appointed by mayors of other departments to serve as their top cop. These chiefs are usually good people, but many are also, evidently, politically malleable (i.e., the ladder seems to lean to the left as they climb it). Could the philosophical and political separation between cops and their chief come from the alchemy that occurs within some people who rise through the ranks? Sadly, many succumb to the adage: go along to get along. There may be a necessary professional distance that exists between employees and their bosses, generally. However, law enforcement, being a risk-laden, paramilitary organization, poses additional considerations, and trust and loyalty in both directions is crucial.

     

    Conservative cops vs. Liberal leaders.

    It’s no secret that the vast majority of street cops tend to be politically conservative. It is also no mystery that the people running cities such as Seattle are liberal, have oodles of leftist-sanctioned diversity, but scant political diversity. So, what happens when it’s time for the liberal city leadership to choose a chief of police to “lead” its police officers?

     

    The selection process.

    We cops used to parody Seattle’s police chief selection process. We could imagine the mayor meeting the police chief candidates at SeaTac Airport and requesting the candidate hand over his or her ______ (balls for men and, for women, the female equivalent) before then being pre-qualified to be invited to city hall for the formal interview. The city employs a ruse that the rank and file has a “vote” because the Police Officers Guild interviews the candidates and makes recommendations. However, in reality, the guild leadership essentially has to choose among candidates who range from politically left to, far left to, have left the building.

     

    Chief of the cops?

    There hasn’t been Chief of “Police” in Seattle for a long time—probably since Patrick Fitzsimons (the chief who hired me). Coming from the NYPD, many officers may have had legitimate issues with Chief Fitzsimons, but there was no doubt he was the Chief. I often saw Fitzsimons visit the precinct–and pound his knuckles on officer’s chests to make sure they were wearing their ballistic vests. To the contrary, even if I were missing three fingers, I could count on one hand how many times I saw Chiefs Stamper, Kerlikowske or Diaz in a precinct roll call during either of their tenures. How should patrol officers feel knowing they will never work for a chief they can trust—someone they could follow with confidence. The truth is, the mayor and city council will never appoint a chief who the rank and file approves of, because city leaders have never seemed very interested in the cops’ perspective (just shut up and be good little socialists, as a certain officer once put it).

     

    Chief of Police or Chief of Mayor?

    Does this mean the rank and file won’t give a new police chief the benefit of the doubt? Of course not. We gave it to Chief Norm Stamper, R. Gil Kerlikowske, John Diaz (in whom we had the most hope, because he came from us) and most recently, to Kathleen O’Toole. Still, while all of these chiefs, from a patrol officer’s perspective, made good and bad moves, officers were mostly disappointed after these chiefs seem to have been (or are a) puppet(s) of the municipal handlers, more concerned with following political protocols than with truly leading police officers. While a chief, ostensibly, has authority over his or her officers, should we have to wonder who actually runs the police department in Seattle? Shouldn’t it be an apolitical (as much as possible) chief of police? If Seattle weren’t lead by its liberal elite, its police department might not have become the petri dish for liberal, social justice experimentation that it is today. And it would have a Chief of Police, not a Chief of Mayor.

  • Teach Victimhood, gets Victims; Teach Responsibility, get…

    What’s going on today on America’s college campuses? Students are shouting (I’m talking, screaming invective-laden screeds that would make a banshee blush) down professors who dare to express something other than radical, liberal orthodoxy. A professor—of media studies, no less—soliciting “muscle” to help her eject a reporter attempting to cover a race relations gathering on public property (she must have missed the free speech day in grad school). These liberal bastions (did you think I was going to use another word?) are now reaping what they have sown. It would be humorous, if it weren’t so sad. Check out the U.K. Daily Mail article.

    If our colleges and university professors teach young, impressionable students that they are victims of a fundamentally “bad” nation, students will look for what’s wrong with America, and then discover how best to express their victimhood. Hmmmm, who could have ever seen this coming?

    What would happen if, instead, professors taught students that they are not victims and encouraged them to take responsibility for their own success?

    Well, since teaching victimhood creates victims, perhaps, teaching responsibility might create responsible people. Hmmmm, just a thought.

  • Border Patrol Pauses to Reflect on Police Body Cameras

    Is it time to pause and reflect about police video?

    It appears the U.S. Border Patrol has provided American law enforcement legitimate cause to pause and reflect on the use of police video, particularly, body cameras. I mentioned in a previous blog that a barista berated a friend of mine, still an active duty cop, for daring to answer another barista’s question about police body cameras by telling her the truth regarding arguments for and against police body cameras. During the rude barista’s tirade, she said, “I’d rather be filmed naked than let you cops get away with what you do.” I don’t think we have to decipher her open-mindedness on the issue. What happens when officers enter an innocent residence in error or while chasing a suspect on foot? (Yes, this happens) What happens when those people are caught on camera in legal, but compromising, situations? That footage is still open to public disclosure. Would you also rather be filmed naked, and then viewed by strangers–perhaps, a lot of them?

    U.S. Customs and Border Patrol

    Despite the barista’s neurotic fears, and acknowledging the pros, there are also legitimate cons regarding law enforcement officers wearing body cameras. Recently, on www.PoliceOne.com, an Associated Press article written by Elliot Spagat reported that the U.S. Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection is recommending against the use of body cameras (US border agency staff rejects body cameras). The reasons cited were refreshingly “old school,” as the reasons reflect the concerns of cops as human beings. And, I’m saying this despite numerous officers being exonerated of wrongdoing due to vehicle and body camera footage. Still, the objections are valid and should be considered.

    A distraction and morale suffers.

    According to the article, “The yearlong review cited cost and a host of other reasons to hold off, according to two people familiar with the findings who spoke on condition of anonymity because the findings have not been made public. It found operating cameras may distract agents while they’re performing their jobs, may hurt employee morale….” They also cited difficulties with the hot, dry weather conditions for agents stationed on the southwest border experience.

    Training

    The training many officers initially received on dash cam videos demonstrated that many officers concerns are valid. I remember attending in-car video training several years ago. One of the issues of concern instructors attempted to dispel immediately was that administrators and supervisors would proactively cull videos for use in disciplining or even retaliating against officers. Our instructor assured us videos would never be used in “fishing” expeditions against officers. Every officer in the class snickered with skepticism. Talk to any officer today, and you’ll find evidence that vindicates the skeptics.

    Video “fishing expeditions”

    Prior to the Department of Justice (DOJ) arriving in Seattle and presenting their bogus investigation findings, Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) investigations were relatively infrequent with some officers having gone without receiving a white envelope with a red stamp in their department mailboxes for years. I went nineteen years, all on the streets in patrol, without being a “suspect” officer in an investigation before the DOJ consent decree debacle. Following DOJ’s arrival I was investigated several times, mostly from internal, department initiated charges. Today, it is rare to find any officer who hasn’t been under investigation for some alleged violation. And video is often the weapon used to find these allegations.

    Now, even examples of police excellence are often questioned

    An example: Before I retired I was involved in what would normally be viewed as an exceptional example of great police work. Several units responded to a report of a knife-wielding suspect threatening a gas station owner. On arrival we determined that not only had the suspect threatened the store owner  with a knife, he’d also punched her. We arrested him, recovered a knife as well as items that indicated the suspect may have been posing as a police officer (though not during this incident).

    After receiving information from the primary investigating officer, we arrested the suspect. After the arrest, while waiting for the primary officer to gain additional information from the victims, one of the officers determined the suspect’s vehicle would be impounded, as it was blocking access to the gas pump island. Prior to a tow truck arriving to hook the car, officers routinely inspect the car’s interior and trunk to be sure there is nothing hazardous in the vehicle. In fact, policies and procedures at the time dictated officers do this. One officer did this.

    From my location, I could see a cardboard box, a piece of rope and maybe some other innocuous items within the trunk—essentially nothing of note. So innocuous, later, I barely recalled that portion of the incident. Subsequent to the inspection, the suspect’s sister arrived at the scene. The suspect requested his sister take possession of the car rather than it being impounded. The officer who’d inspected the trunk cancelled the tow truck and allowed the sister to take the car.

    Recap: We’d arrived in time to stop any further assault against the victim and arrested the armed suspect, confiscating a knife from him. Great police work, right? Commendations all around, right? Not post-DOJ. Resulting from this investigation, every officer present was investigated for alleged wrongdoing.

    The suspect–yeah, the guy who’d assaulted a poor business owner, punched her and threatened her with a knife–filed a complaint contending the officers had conducted an unlawful search of his car’s trunk. Due to the fact that the suspect’s sister was allowed to take the car—by officers at the scene, it was no longer an “impound” therefore investigators determined that the inspection of the trunk was illegal. OPA investigated we three officers for an “illegal” search. Despite only one officer having physically inspected the trunk, they also investigated the other two officers: the primary officer, who was inside the store interviewing the victim and witnesses, and me, standing by with the prisoner in the parking lot. Apparently, they investigated us simply for being on the property at the time the vehicle inspection occurred.

    The officer who inspected the trunk was sanctioned for conducting an “illegal” search, and the primary officer and I were eventually “cleared” but were referred to our supervisors for further “training.” Training in what? How to stand inside a store or in a parking lot while another officer peeks into the trunk of a car?

    Cameras

    This is where the camera issue comes back into play. In training, we were all taught some basic protocols. One was that sometimes the vehicle camera direction simply wouldn’t be pointed at where the “action” is occurring. After all, Steven Spielberg isn’t on scene directing this stuff. On arrival at an incident where a suspect has assaulted a victim and is armed with a knife, officers are not concerned with where their cameras are aimed, only their guns. Another protocol taught was if there is no audio to go with the video, there is no video. On arrival, my car happened to be pointed toward the west exterior wall of the store. The incident was taking place in the parking lot on the north side and the suspect’s car was at the west fueling island. When I arrived, I parked, jumped out of my car and ran to assist the other officer in taking the armed suspect into custody.

    Due to the parking lot configuration, the other officers’ vehicles were also facing directions not where the arrest was taking place (suspects and victims rarely stand still). In this instance, because the audio was not married to the video, officers were taught video was not required.

    Still, each one of us was investigated for not activating our video cameras during the incident. Having done great police work, protected a victim and arrested an armed suspect, my two fellow officers were officially sanctioned for not having their cameras activated during the incident. I only ducked the same fate because, during my transport of the prisoner to the precinct, I had activated my camera, videotaping the suspect in my backseat. Therefore, I actually had video of at least a portion of the incident recorded–a technicality. How I actually remembered to turn the camera on at all is a mystery to me. We were all still getting used to something very new to us.

    Let reason, not emotion,inform policy

    The Border Patrol’s findings give us a valid reason to pause and take a hard look at both the benefits and liabilities of these developing technologies and how best to deploy them without neglecting the humanity of those required to wear them. I wonder: would the politicians so interested in cops wearing body cameras be interested in wearing them too. After all, they are public servants.

     

  • Workers Need the Rich to Buy Limos, Yachts and Mansions

    Anti-capitalism seems all the rage. Malcontents in many cities throughout the world recently held demonstrations, including here in Seattle. Amusingly, in the Jet City, the police tasked with escorting the protesters outnumbered them, as they attempted to express their First Amendment “rights” by blocking Seattleites pursuits of happiness. For the left it was business as usual; it seems nothing is more important than what they believe.

    It’s nearly impossible to imagine what, besides time and experience, could get through those granite noggins. The fact—yes, fact—that free market capitalism has made the world a much better place than the one it found on its arrival in the arsenal of American Exceptionalism, is undeniable. However, it’s also no mystery that these perennial protesters deny the undeniable. Logic seems to play a small role, if any, in their thinking and actions.

    The anarchists, the socialists, the communists and the ignorant whine about the so-called “One Percent.” They ask derisively, how many jets, houses or yachts a rich person should have? I have two answers to that. One: as many as they want and can afford—it’s their money! Two: Hopefully, as many as possible. The second answer comes from all the aviation, marine and housing laborers who are responsible for putting food on their tables and keeping roofs over their heads.

    The white-collar one-percent don’t physically build the cars; their blue-collar employees do. For every limousine, private jet or mansion built, companies need skilled and unskilled laborers to build them. Try making a list tracking all the hands involved in the manufacture of these products. General contractors, subcontractors, and designers; mechanics, carpenters, and bricklayers; stone masons, electricians, and plumbers; painters, landscapers, and gardeners; pilots, drivers, captains and crews; architects, accountants, and insurance agents and on and on. And this is just off the top of my head and not nearly a complete list. It doesn’t include the myriad ancillary businesses supported by the dollars these companies spend on materials, hardware, and parts, not to mention what their laborers pour into the economy.

    No issue is as black and white as the social justice agitators would like to have us believe. Then again, critical thinking has never been one of the left’s strong suits.

     

  • There Are Police Victims and Then There are “Victims.”

    A few days ago, an “American”, Kyle Lydell Canty crossed the border from the United States and requested asylum in Canada. He cited “police brutality” in the U.S., as his primary reason for seeking protection from American tyranny. Canty shrieked that American blacks are “being exterminated at an alarming rate.” Really? Even a cursory glance at any legitimate federal data shows this not to be the case—not even close. Now, if Canty were to make the same argument regarding cities such as Chicago, where blacks are “exterminating” other blacks at an alarming rate and where American officials refuse to take necessary actions to stop the carnage, at least he’d have a better argument.

    Canty complains about alleged “harassment” at the hands of American police. What’s his evidence of harassment? According to http://www.huffingtonpost.com, “Canty is facing criminal charges for a number of misdemeanors, including offenses as minor as jaywalking….” [Emphasis mine] Not surprisingly, huffingtonpost.com emphasizes, “jaywalking,” which is not a misdemeanor crime but only a civil infraction. I suppose emphasizing the most minor charge shouldn’t surprise us considering the source. Of course, Canty argues he’s a victim of racist police and claims all the charges are unfounded. He also accuses the American criminal justice system of denying him his due process rights. Well, why stop at harassment and brutality—violating his constitutional rights is a nice cherry on top of this silly sundae.

    This reminds me of the frustration cops experience when they see people on TV news claiming they’ve been “harassed” by the police. It’s common for cops to recognize these “oppressed” folks as people they’ve arrested—often, repeatedly. Okay, I’ll give away a law enforcement secret here: Yes, cops harass criminals—though we don’t call it harassing, we call it arresting.

    I remember during one shift back in the 90s, someone showed me a story in the Seattle Times. In a photo accompanying the story there was a drug dealer (well known to the precinct’s cops), with a record of multiple arrests and convictions for selling drugs, grinning, standing on the steps of the courthouse shaking hands with an equally grinning judge who was in charge of so-called, “Drug Court.” The piece touted the drug dealer as a “success story.”

    We, cops, recognized him as someone many of us had investigated or arrested numerous times—or, if you’re a lefty, repeatedly “harassed.” However, the poor “former” drug “user” was a Drug Court success, so, we should give him the benefit of the doubt, right? No longer than a week after appearing in the paper, once again, cops arrested him—for selling drugs. Remember, so-called, drug courts are set up, ostensibly, to help addicts kick their addictions–which can have noble intent. However, in this case, all the cops knew this drug court “success” very well, although he also used drugs, was primarily a drug dealer.

    The next time you begin to feel sorry for some “victim” of police “harassment” or “brutality,” suspend your judgment until you get the other side of the story. There are likely cops out there watching the same news story who have arrested the “victim,” probably several times.