I keep returning to the leftist political petri dish of Seattle as a microcosm of the negative forces damaging policing today. Obviously, one reason is because I served the city for over two decades (experience matters) but also because it is so indicative of what is wrong with how leftist local governments view law enforcement today.
I wrote a couple articles supporting Carmen Best when she was vying for the police chief position in the Seattle Police Department (SPD). As I’ve written before, I served under Chief Best when she was a sergeant. Though I don’t agree with all of her positions or some of the decisions she’s made, she was a good supervisor and one of the nicest people I know, which puts her at a distinct disadvantage when dealing with city politicians who, um…ain’t so nice.
According to a recent interview with Brandi Kruse of Q13 News, Chief Best expressed her frustrations, accusing the Seattle city council of “failing to support her officers at a time of already low staffing.” One councilmember has even accused two officers of murder, and she has yet to take those comments back.
During the city council meeting that prompted Chief Best to speak out, Councilmember Lorena Gonzales, in a grandstanding effort likely intended to bolster an expected run for state attorney general, questioned SPD’s implementing emphasis patrols in high-crime neighborhoods.
Emphasis patrols are the department’s routine, effective response to increases in crime in specific areas. Often, these areas have a high percentage of minority residence. Gonzales, rather than being grateful the department is addressing crime in these neighborhoods, worries about things other than crime victims. Gonzales worries about criminals. She said at the meeting that she wants “to make sure the program isn’t going to have harmful unintended consequences either in the short term or the long term.”
The program? She talks about it as if the approach is new. The SPD has been deploying emphasis patrols into high-crime neighborhoods for decades—I know; I’ve done many. Here’s a short-term consequence for the councilwoman: officer presence and enforcement goes up, crime goes down. Weird, uh? But those aren’t the consequences Gonzales is likely concerned about. She isn’t as concerned about crime as she is about the cops whom she disrespects.
How are police officers supposed to react to such a comment? And if you’re wondering about Gonzales’ anti-cop bona fides, reportedly, she was also dismissive of resigning police officers’ exit interview comments as to the reasons they are resigning. The primary reason cited was the lack of support from city government. Many Seattle cops have resigned to go to work for smaller agencies for less money. This says a lot.
Holly Matkin, writing for Blue Lives Matter, put it succinctly: “Gonzales blew off the content of the [exit] interviews, and said they only were a reflection of the beliefs of ‘a very small percentage’ of the department. What an ignorant comment. Seventy-two officers leaving is significant, and the exodus continues. The woman has no clue about the police officers who serve the city she represents.”
This “small percentage” quip is a natural go-to comment for progressive city officials who deny the serious public safety crises they create. For example, here’s a comment from a city official from 2011, back when the city “investigated” me because they didn’t like my columns in the police guild’s newspaper which were critical of leftist city policies. Incidentally, social justice policies have led to the crisis we’re discussing today.
About the views addressed in my articles on the anti-cop policies of the city, Kathryn Olson, the then-Director of the Office of Professional Accountability (the person responsible for objectively investigating me) told Seattle’s furthest left newspaper, the Stranger-Slog, “the articles don’t represent ‘a widespread culture’ but rather ‘reflect the values of the author and very few others.” Again, this progressive city leader also had no clue about the views of the officers she was responsible for investigating.
Think about this equation: Cops tell the city council why they are leaving + city council refuses to take the cops’ reasons seriously = Disaster!
Speaking at the invitation of the U.S. Coastguard in Seattle, Chief Best said about her officers, “I’m their biggest champion, and I will always be their biggest champion because I know how tough the work is.” She commented about her cops having to wear “bullet-proof vests” and rapped on her own body armor with her knuckles to emphasize how dangerous the job can be.
Kruse asked Chief Best about people who accuse SPD officers of leaving because they don’t want someone holding them accountable for their actions, having to “go through the extra layers of reviews being placed on them.”
Chief Best countered that not one exit interview she read mentioned anything about fearing legitimate accountability as a reason for their leaving the department. She said there was no reason for cops to “sugarcoat” why they were leaving, as “they’d already resigned.”
The police chief concluded by illustrating how critically low staffing has gotten. She mentioned one recent weekend that saw two shootings and a fatal stabbing. She wonders what would have happened if there had been even one more critical incident, would there have been enough officers to respond?
She’s right. And while it’s gotten worse, it’s nothing new. The SPD has been critically understaffed for many years. Ask any officer with over five years on and they’ll confirm this. We often remarked at how lucky the city has been that that one additional mass incident hadn’t happened at the wrong time. But that is just a matter of time as the lack of staffing gets even more dire.
I commend Chief Best for speaking out on behalf of her officers. I cannot convey to you just how courageous that is for a person in her position in a city like Seattle. It shouldn’t be a courageous thing to give your honest opinion, as Chief Best is doing, but against today’s everyone who disagrees with me is a racist (or other -ist of your choice) or just plain evil climate, it is courageous—not to mention, refreshing.