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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 20, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 08
Tough words from Seattle Police Union President to cops
Section One
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Tough words from Seattle Police Union President to cops

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

I know I'm not the only one that thinks, 'Why did this person become a cop in the first place' whenever I read about or see on the news yet another officer from the Seattle Police Department under fire for bias policing. It is tiresome. And people are, most certainly, tired of it happening, tired of nothing being done about it, and above all - tired of the Seattle Police Union defending them.

A police force is a constituted body of persons empowered by the state to enforce the law, protect property, and limit civil disorder. Cops are paid through taxes. The police force is supposed to be made up of individuals that are, in fact, members of the very communities in which they police. While some corruption is expected, it is also the expectation of the public that bad apples be dealt with swiftly and with a heavy hand. After all, most people believe that the worst people who break laws are those who took an oath to uphold laws. Nobody is supposed to be above the law - especially the people we entrust to enforce it.

So it is unfortunate that, in Seattle, officers that should be fired, aren't fired, and officers that should be brought up on charges for everything from violating someone's civil rights to corruption, aren't charged with a damn thing. In some cases these officers are promoted. They are 'spoken to' by a supervisor - again and again and again. They are sent home, with pay, while internal investigations are performed and nothing ever really happens in the end.

And at the forefront of standing up - or sweeping under the rug (depending on how you look at it) - for these rogue officers is the Seattle Police Union, otherwise known as the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG).



Every now and then though, something or a sequence of things happen and there is little that can be done to erase it. An educated public is a danger to anyone that is up to no good. These moments change the way people look at cops and the power they wield. Socially, anger begins to rise and the calls for justice become so deafening that the embattled are only left with the possibility of capitulating. Supporters of police reform got a gift in the form of a racist named Cynthia Whitlatch who stupidly and loudly marched around - on and off duty - showing her true colors. The ignorant police officer took to Twitter calling the people protesting in Ferguson racists and more. And after video surfaced of her wrongfully arresting a 69-year-old black man for walking down the street and using a golf club as a cane, more and more people continue to come forward with their own unpleasant interaction with this unpleasant person issued a badge and gun for over a decade. Although Whitlatch sits at home under investigation and no longer wears a badge or gun, she continues to collect a paycheck. The results of the investigation into her conduct are expected - nobody knows when.

Whitlatch is most certainly not the only racist person with a badge and she, unfortunately, will not be the last. In fact, after allegations of her racist tweets made headlines, another SPD officer was sent home under investigation for the same thing. Obviously a genius, right? According to SPOG President Ron Smith, police officers who don't understand racism - or any negative-ism for that matter - have no place in the department.



It all started with a Facebook message. Last week a post on SPOG's Facebook page read, 'Times have changed and we must also change to adapt to societal expectations.' If you instantly thought, 'Somebody must have hacked the SPOG account' you aren't alone. Surprisingly, nobody hacked them. The message was authentic and it came from the guy at the top: Smith.

According to comments Smith made this week to the Stranger, he's repeatedly told some of his members that complain, 'You applied here. And you have to treat people all the same. You have to serve the community. If you don't like the politics here, then leave and go to a place that serves your worldview.'

He also said he tells them, 'They hired you because they thought you were going to be able to work in a diverse community. And if you can't, well then, I guess there are still places across the country that aren't diverse, so go work there. But those won't last forever.'

According to Smith, he doesn't know why anybody that isn't tolerant would ever even apply to work at SPD.

'There are more than enough places across this country that are hiring law enforcement that have a different political landscape than here,' he said, adding, 'And I don't know why they don't just go there.'

Seattle police officers need to 'check their bias at the door' when they walk into work says Smith. SPD officers went through bias-free police training last year and Smith says, 'Hopefully we have some more of that [training] this year to really strike home the concept of getting rid of those biases.'

'We need to treat everyone the same. Regardless of race, gender identity, economic class - all the same,' he continued.

'I'm going to try to do better on things,' he added. 'I stand firm on the fact that if you don't like... the political environment of the city, then go someplace else... You gotta change with the times. You gotta embrace what we have here.'

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