OPINION - Deflated and Saddened

I went to the meeting in the Council Chambers last night. I came away deflated and saddened.

There were the usual strange people there. One man was "saluting" the Council members with the German Heil, mein Führer!" and another woman had flyers with the names of "innocent people" that Seattle Police have "murdered".

The OPA Review Board was there. The CPC group was there. (Why do we have them?) Why is it that a member of that "team" - a "community team", does not even live in our "community?

I signed up to speak for an allotted 2 minutes. I followed everyone else. I came away wondering why I bothered. I recalled a recent meeting here in West Seattle where Ron Sims asked me why I felt "invisible", why I felt like no one was listening - or worse yet, cared about what I had to say. There was no expression on any of their faces last night. No reaction to anything. Nothing I had to say then, was considered....I know that. I think those meetings - to get public opinion for the Chief search, were just for "show".

Isn't that pathetic? Sad?

These are people who make decisions for the Police Dept. that can effect an Officers life. In fact, their decisions effect nearly every Officer every single day. The Officers are brought down. A cloud has been cast over the Officers of our Dept. A dark, ugly cloud.
I wonder what it would be like to have a job where you have to watch every word you utter, every move you make, smile when you are cussed at or spit at, expect to solve arguments and still remain calm, watch children abused and die - all with an inhuman façade, with no venting of anger at the injustice of an innocent life lost. Officers are asked to walk among the criminals and have no tools to combat it. They are continually abused by the very public that they are paid to protect.

It was a rainy night a few years ago. Rival gang members, well-known to Seattle Police, were racing down a dark street in the North End. Misjudging the approaching curve in the road, one of the cars ran into a pole. I don't know why or how it happened, but one of the car's occupants had evidently had their arm out the window at the time of the crash. When the Officer first arrived at the scene, he saw the severed hand several yards from the car. He approached the car and found a young man screaming in pain in the car. His hand was gone. This alone would be hard to witness, but the gang member, who recognized the Officer from many incidents prior, reached his remaining hand out to him, pleading for help. The Officer reached down and held the young man's hand until medics arrived.

This supposedly biased, abusive, profiling cop, held the hand of a man who had probably spit on him in the past.

This doesn't make the news. Most probably because this is just "part of the job". The typical Cop would not broadcast to the public that he'd comforted the victim of a devastating crash - let alone the fact that the "supposed victim" was well-known to the Cops in our City and was racing to leave the scene of his most recent crime.

And speaking of "sad", I have had the opportunity to be speaking with a member of the press at two different occasions recently. I inquired as to why there are no investigations into why there is so much "anti-police" sentiment. Why are there no "pro-police" news stories? Why does the News continue to cast a dark cloud over the Seattle Police Officers?

On both occasions I was told, "controversy makes news. There is "no story" in positive news."

Now, THAT is sad.

One night, just before shift's end, a call came out of a "deceased person". When the Officer arrived at the modest home of an elderly couple, he knocked on the door. A very distraught gentleman answered. He had tears streaming down his face and was in a state of shock. Earlier in the evening, he had come up from the basement to go to bed and found his wife of fifty years "asleep" on the sofa. Trying to wake her, he discovered that she was not asleep, but had passed away.

The moments must have stretched on for eternity while he waited for help. And now, his one connection to the "outside world" where bad things like this don't happen, was standing at his door. The Officer came in and for the next several hours - well beyond his nightly shift's end - he comforted this gentleman while they waited for the Coroner to take his beloved wife. This couples only son lived hours away. It would be early morning before he could be there for his Dad. The Officer would not leave. He stayed with this grief-stricken man until his only family arrived.

Did you read this in the News? No. And, if you have decided to believe that these examples are, in fact, isolated incidents, don't go there. They are not. Compassionate, caring Officers "roam" our streets every night, holding vigil over the unappreciative citizens of this City.

I had the opportunity to speak with an new recruit to SPD. He was from California and had come up here to apply for a Dept. He said he had "ridden along" with Officers from more than ten Depts. in the area and not one of them encouraged him to "go with Seattle". They told him that no one supports the Officers, their hands are tied and they cannot do real police work. He couldn't believe that all of that could be true. He went with Seattle. Hmm..I wonder what he is thinking now? And what is it that all these local Depts. know that is not being told?

Little by little, the very tools that these Officers need to protect the members of our community are taken from them. It would be like a football player being sent out onto to the field with no helmet, shoulder pads or for that matter, no football. They would be left standing around the field wondering what they were supposed to do with no equipment, no protection and no ball.

One Officer told me recently that he was frustrated because he knew that, with all the recent changes, beginning (and prior to) the DOJ reform issue, the public in Seattle are less safe now. The "statistics" are skewed to say that "crime is down". Really? Statistics don't lie, they say. Well, anyone can twist the facts to make them look like however they choose and this is what has happened in our City. I recall a "news story" about a year ago where a reporter was "riding" with an Officer in Rainier Valley. They interviewed a "person" well-known to police who insinuated that the City "doesn't know what is happening out here". He that it was funny!

The recent directive that took away the Terry Stop was the final straw that came as a crushing blow to the Officers who are struggling to do a job with "no equipment". The public is getting more and more confused and angry that Officers are not taking care of their requests for help. Have you listened to a scanner recently? A night does not go by where you would not hear of an Officers telling "radio" that "due to the new policy" they cannot respond - there is nothing that can be done. Our Dept. has decided that abolishing this police policy (for the most part) is a good idea while departments all around us have recognized that the Terry Stop is a valuable tool that helps to fight crime. Our Supreme Court of the land has ruled that the Terry Stop is legal.

I spoke with a bike Officer the other day. What are THEY supposed to do now? Most of their job is "viewing suspicious nature".
A local store has had shop-lifts every night for almost a week. They give very unique descriptions of the suspects. The Officers see them , know it is most likely them. But there is nothing they can do. Sure, they could go back to the store and get a witness ( although, the witness' can rarely leave work to go with an Officer to identify a suspect) . The suspects would no doubt be gone before they came back. Or maybe they COULD detain them. Then later, they could spend 5 hours doing the now-required paperwork, detailing the arrest or lack thereof. Five hours that could be spent on the street, protecting our City. Now, don't laugh at the five hour reference to paperwork. This is COMMON now! Overtime is frowned on, of course, and so now, the Officers are frequenting the computer terminals in all the Precincts, filling in forms and typing up all kinds of extraneous information on every call - another wonderful result of caving in to the DOJ.

Did the "new" commission for the "Community" ( CPC ) come up with this idea? I was told that they did. I am not aware of the person on our Dept. who felt it was a good idea to sign off on it, however. Other Dept's in our area are laughing and scratching their heads at the "lack of sense" that directive makes. The Terry stop is NOT against the law. Why are we opting to tie our Officer's hands by taking this valuable tool away?

Is the Dept./City just a political wheel anymore? Is there no one who is willing to stand up for what is right? To stand behind the cops who are risking their lives daily for them?

I have read all the objectives for the Chief search. I have read OPARB's requests for changes. I have heard the new CPC's recommendations. I hear NOTHING about the need to protect our Officers, the need for their safety, the need to support them. I heard last night, a woman on the CPC who professed the need for an Officer to be "accountable on or off duty". They are expected to be inhuman.

I think that every member of OPA, the OPA review Board and the CPC should have to go through the Academy, taking shooting lessons and take the "fire/don't fire" test in that RV out at the Range. They should have to don riot gear and stand side by side next to an Officer when they are trying to protect our City from violent Anarchists. They NEED to feel the fear, experience the skill that is required to make the split second decisions. They need to know a little bit about what goes on "before" the incidents that they are critiquing instead of criticizing the actions of every Officer who makes one. It is so easy to cast blame when you've never walked in another's shoes.

They need to understand that a college degree does not make them an expert nor give them the right to be in charge of rule-making for those whose job it is they do not understand.

I am so weary of the attention that is paid to the "squeaky wheels", the special interest groups and those who are so loud to scream brutality and yet are the first to complain if nothing is done.

The Seattle Police Department used to be a place where men and women were proud to work, proud to wear the badge and represent our City. Now, it is embarrassing.

It is indeed sad. I am sad. I would think that each and every one of you would be sad as well. But I know you aren't. I wonder if anyone really cares.

But somehow I don't think they do.

Debbie Smith
West Seattle

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