“As I say at every new-hire orientation session ‘you do not give up one single constitutional right when you pin on your badge’” (The Guardian, June, 2013). Sgt. Rich O’Neill, President Seattle Police Officers Guild.”
Note: The following article represents my own views. In exercising my First Amendment rights, I do not speak for anyone other than myself.
Back in September, I read a newspaper article and came across a notion expressed by Mayor Mike McGinn that might provide a window to his (now-defeated) political soul. When responding to comments about how the police are dealing with the crime problem in Downtown Seattle, reporter Lynn Thompson wrote that McGinn, “cited the City Council’s effort early in his administration to enact an aggressive panhandling ordinance, and said that he had rejected the suggestion then that police needed to ‘hand out more tickets to people who are poor’” (Seattle Times, September 29th). Such a lack of respect for and understanding of law enforcement’s role is astounding, especially coming from the mayor of a major American city. Is our mayor actually characterizing police efforts to battle street crime as harassing “poor” people?
Leave it to Seattle’s liberal politicians to make the simple appear difficult. Apparently, the city administration has some difficulty in determining whether police officers are law enforcers or social workers. Cops know they are the former while politicians evidently believe cops should be the latter. Thus, Seattle’s Downtown crime problem is no surprise—to the city’s police officers.
When police officers have more to fear from their own city attorney than they do from the criminals they face, something is desperately wrong. Seattle Police Guild President Rich O’Neill pointed out that cops have more of a chance of having charges filed against them than Downtown derelicts do.
Society has both police officers and social workers for a reason. Reason dictates social workers do not chase criminals and cops do not provide social services. According to Thompson’s Seattle Times article, City Attorney Pete Holmes, as well as Mayor Mike McGinn, believe offering social services to offenders in lieu of taking proper police action is within a police officer’s job description. That the mayor believes that cops keeping Downtown safe and civil for the good taxpaying citizens amounts to harassing poor people, should trouble this community. McGinn and Holmes seem to believe that these Downtown ambassadors of incivility behave as they do because they are poor, rather than the truth that they are poor because of their uncivil behavior.
Of course, there is a place for social services. For over twenty years, I’ve worked a beat with several mental health patients and facilities. However, last I checked, the police officer’s role in society is law enforcement, not social work. If the courts want to redirect an amenable offender toward drug counseling or anger management, or give them a bag of Doritos, or provide some other prosecution avoidance or deferral services, that is one thing, but to ask the cops first to process their law enforcement actions through a social services filter is not fair to the police officers or to Seattle’s good citizens.
For example, regarding the police chief presenting twenty-eight chronic offender cases to City Attorney Holmes, Thompson writes: “Holmes returned the binder, saying the police had not documented that alternative approaches to criminal charges — including social-service outreach — had been attempted and had either failed or been refused.” Yes… my head just rotated a full 360° on my shoulders. They are attempting to redefine law enforcement, and this new “social justice” definition seems to be making little sense.
If an officer comes across someone who requests information about available services, of course they should provide it if they have it. To expect an officer who is attempting to enforce the law to run his or her own mini diversion program is, to put it mildly, questionable. This approach can significantly compromise officer safety.
Officers need to enforce the law and investigate crime with officer safety uppermost in mind. Can city leaders be asking officers to treat a violator as if they were Nordstrom’s customers? This is a perversion of the cop-suspect “relationship,” which can compromise officer safety and public safety.
That Seattle tolerates uncivil behavior from delinquents and criminals on the streets, in the parks, under the freeways—under the viaduct, is not news to cops. In fact, this fact would likely surprise very few Seattleites, either. However the same city places its police officers under a microscope and has a history of violating an officer’s First Amendment rights including abusing the internal investigative process when an officer dares to speak out, off duty, in opposition to the very policies responsible for what Thompson’s article title illustrates: “Downtown street offenses going unpunished”.
Nothing in the Seattle Times piece would come as a surprise to any rank and file cop. The politicians in Seattle have spent years promoting social justice and other progressive-liberal, political agendas and policies, with the most recent administration raising political indoctrination to an art form. They may try to push the blame for the ills of the Seattle Police Department onto the good men and women in blue who serve this city, but the truth is: The cops know they are cops, and they know how to be cops. The simple problem is, Seattle’s leadership (now with the help of the DOJ) will not let the cops be cops.