Opinion

Compliments and Complaints – Police Accountability is a Two-Way Street

If you ever wonder about what political administrations do to undermine their police officers, look no further than the Twitter account of the Seattle Office of Police Accountability (OPA). There, dated March 29, 2018, among the case summaries and job posting tweets, is this little gem: “Do you know how to file a complaint against a @SeattlePD officer? If not, read about the complaint process here.”

An active-duty police officer brought this to my attention in an email he titled: “Sick Police Department.”

One thing that struck me about OPA’s tweet was the lack of a corresponding method to also commend a police officer. Perhaps OPA doesn’t believe that ever happens or can’t think of a reason anyone would want to commend a cop. In fact, only people replying to OPA’s tweet pointed out the omission, providing the Seattle Police Department (SPD) link where you can say something nice about an officer.

This demonstrates a tone deafness coming from some cities’ offices of civilian “oversight” of their police departments. For an OPA staffer to post a tweet on how to condemn police officers without anticipating comments calling for a way to compliment cops as well seems odd. It makes you wonder how people placed in the position to judge police officers’ actions think.

Either the staff person didn’t think about the consequences of posting a complaint process without at least a passing reference to a means for commendation, or the staffer thought about it and didn’t care.

Perhaps, since OPA’s emphasis is investigating police wrongdoing, they care little about police commendations. But what about maintaining at least an appearance of fairness? What about the optics and how it makes the city’s police officers feel: they’re already wearing targets on their fronts, called a badge, that the bad guys aim at. Do they now have to have targets on their backs, aimed at by their own city leaders?

It’s been a little while since I’ve been an active officer, but a couple things have me leaning away from OPA not even thinking about including a commendation link and toward OPA not caring about including one.

When I went through my first significant OPA investigation, after 19 years on the job and which was brought by my own department for an article I’d written for the police union newspaper, the OPA director at the time publicly commented, with an obvious bias, about me in the media.

Kathryn Olson said, “The articles [he wrote] don’t represent ‘a widespread culture’ but rather ‘reflect the values of the author and very few others.’” (the stranger-Slog Jan. 2011). Values she obviously found repulsive but which, I’d wager with confidence, a majority of officers share, not only a “very few others” like Olson mentioned.

Ms. Olson was the head of the office responsible for investigating my supposed policy violations: OPA. How fairly do you think I felt she would treat my case? How much confidence did I have going to work each day with that investigation hanging over my head? I could almost feel city leaders and OPA waiting for me to screw up somehow so they could really pounce. Many officers before and since have had it much worse than I did.

As far as OPA’s objectivity improving after I retired, the director who’d replaced Ms. Olson arrived a year before I was heading out the door. Pierce Murphy was someone I initially felt could be good for officers. I even wrote a blog about it. Murphy was a former reserve police officer from an agency in Idaho.

Unfortunately, my hopes were misplaced. In fact, citing just one incident he’d investigated, Murphy found himself up against a police chief, Kathleen O’Toole, not exactly known as a political conservative, law-and-order type (yes, I see the irony in that statement). But in this case, she thought like a cop and did the right thing.

Nut-shelling the event, during the incident in question, officers returned fire at an approaching car because they believed they were under fire from people within it. An investigation later showed that the shots fired at officers were coming from a location behind that approaching vehicle. The incident occurred at night, and there was no way the officers could have known the rounds weren’t coming from that car. In fact, in a video of the incident, not only did they respond well while under fire, but you can see the officers immediately move to protect the civilian they were interviewing.

OPA Director Murphy, apparently, disagreed that the officers had performed admirably. He told the Seattle Times there was “insufficient evidence to show the officers had a reasonable basis to believe anyone in the car posed an imminent threat of death or serious injury.” This conclusion is astounding. That information could only be known after the incident.

Apparently, if Murphy had his way, the officers would have been disciplined with 15 days off without pay. For what? Even Chief O’Toole, appointed by a far-left mayor, could see the cop-logic in the situation, saying she would have done exactly what her officers had done. I still say, good for her.

(Credit: YouTube/Q13 Fox)

This shows you what today’s police officers across the country face. OPA directors believe cops should somehow be able to divine, while being shot at, at night, with a car approaching them and a civilian to protect, that the shots were coming not from the car but from behind it. Come on!

This has been coming for many years. The future became especially clear back when our department began taking anonymous, third-party complaints against officers. “Yes, I’d like to report that my cousin’s brother-in-law’s barber told me that his sister’s husband’s dog walker got stopped by a cop, and the cop just hauled off and…”

A tweet reader made a poignant comment about the OPA’s Twitter invitation to complain about cops: “Are you kidding me, Seattle? We [OPA] don’t have enough complaints against our officers to make us look good, so we will walk you through it to make it easier. Pathetic!” Yes, that is exactly what it is.

Look good to whom, you might ask? Don’t forget about that fraudulent federal consent decree the Obama/Holder DOJ foisted on Seattle back in 2012. That biased black hole has been sucking officers into its abyss ever since its inception. Looking good in the eyes of the left is all that matters in leftist jurisdictions these days. Oh, and it’s a bonus if looking good to the left happens while also making the cops look bad.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Steve Pomper

Steve Pomper is an OpsLens contributor, a retired Seattle police officer, and the author of four non-fiction books, including De-Policing America: A Street Cop’s View of the Anti-Police State. You can read a review of this new book in Front Page Magazine and listen to an interview with Steve on the Joe Pags Show. Steve was a field-training officer, on the East Precinct Community Police Team, and served his entire career on the streets. He has a BA in English Language and Literature. He enjoys spending time with his kids and grand-kids. He loves to ride his Harley, hike, and cycle with his wife, Jody, a retired firefighter. You can find out more about Steve and send him comments and questions at www.stevepomper.com.

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