Seattle Police “Reform” and Fed Court Supervision
The residents of Seattle and its Police are approaching a point where the Police may simply be allowed to continue with their present behavior rather than undergo serious changes.
The Federal Courts decided that Seattle Police Department (SPD) required direct Federal oversight in order to bring it into standards that are unbiased and not hostile to the public. In 2014, a Consent Decree was put together by the Community Police Commission (CPC), that laid out reform recommendations but the Federal Judge halted implementation of those recommendations until he could decide whether it was acceptable under the terms of the Consent Decree. At this time, the CPC is asking “stakeholders” to step forward and present any other revisions to the final documents before the courts have their hearing on June 28th at 9:00 a.m. in the 7th & Stewart courthouse in downtown Seattle. If the courts permit, then the control over the Police shifts to the Seattle Council’s legislative processes.
Since then the City of Seattle, CPC and the Justice Department have filed briefs saying that Police accountability should be a matter of the city’s legislative process and not the courts.
CPC has provided a list of 55 items that they feel, should be changed to allow for better disciplinary action but from my reading, they have not gone deeper into the policies and practices of SPD. A lot of leeway is given to The Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) to oversee the complaints about SPD but we have also experienced the OPA rushing into high gear to protect SPD when they goofed and gave a “Tolerance Training” contract to an entity whose reason to be, seems to be to attack Islam and Muslims. We already have experience with the lax and indulgent manner with which the City Council and the City Attorney look at Police misconduct and these recommendations simply appear to hold Hope that things will change for the better and that the police, the City and the Attorney will cooperate and we will have no further problems.
Hope is not a Plan.
I believe for proper reforms to be grounded into SPD rank and file, there must be fundamental changes in their attitudes and in the way they act and react. Such changes go directly to the way they are trained and the way they are permitted to work.
During training, they are instilled with the position that they are in a “War Zone”; some, if not many, regard themselves as “Warriors”.
They are told “Force-Protection” is paramount and then they are told that this means they may never risk the safety of a fellow officer…don’t take any chances; better to shoot first rather than find out that you’ve been shot.
“Continuum/Escalation of Force” is another problem. The training and orders seem to suggest that after three warnings it is okay to use lethal force and far too often, such mind-sets result in killings of people such as John Williams.
When shooting, Police are trained to shoot for the head, then the heart and finally at the (femoral artery) groin. Seldom do the Police use just the one or even the three bullets, they end up emptying the magazine at their target. Ironically, many bullets simply miss the target, which presents further threat to people around them. While the stated goal may be to (as they say) “stop” the target, the real result is his/her death which is often not necessary. In fact, opening fire is probably not needed to begin with.
To compound the lethality of the use of force, the Police use Hollow-Point Bullets (HPB). This means, that as soon as the bullet enters the body, it breaks into several pieces, flying in different directions and thus, having the effect of a lender flying through the body. Chances of rupturing vital organs increase as do chances of permanent injuries…IF the target is “lucky” enough to survive the multiple shots that Police fire at him!
So heavily are the odds of getting away with killing in favor of the Police, that in the few cases when a killing is being investigated more deeply, an officer who may be feeling a little unsure as to the results may resign and the investigation stops. Then all s-he has to do is apply to another Police department and carry on as if nothing had happened. If the officer is fired, then he cannot get employed as a Police officer again. Further, when a Police officer retires, s-he retains all the authority of a serving officer (gun and all), without even the basic supervision they had while in uniform. To top it all the Police Union (they like to call it a “Guild” to make it more palatable) has negotiated contracts with the City (yes, the same City that says it can oversee the Police) that give Police officers more rights than civilians.
These immunities and impunities must stop as must all training that creates a false sense of blind force-loyalty that drives fellow officers to stay silent when they see excesses being done by other Police officers.
It needs to be made clear that while the lives of Police officers are precious, civilian lives are equally so and that the Police is there to serve and protect…civilians!
It remains to be seen whether the courts will follow “normal” routine and sign off, leaving SPD much the same room without ever addressing the root causes of problems or, the Judge will actually require material changes. There is no backbone in the City Council, the Attorney or the OPA and no Police can be expected to correct itself without external supervision and pressure.
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