Sunday, July 02, 2017

Nontraditional Intervention: A Police Strategy

This essay explores and details the rationale for police intervention in situations of continuing criminal activity where traditional police tactics cannot be applied or have been but have failed to abate the problem.  The rationale is a keystone in the tactics of the Anti-Crime Team but provides a format for routine patrol force suppression of these nuisances as well.

Examples of these situations can include locations where fencing, prostitution, gambling, and narcotics may be conducted.  The current “rock house” phenomenon where several of the above vices may be practiced simultaneously is the most onerous and demanding scenario.  Varying degrees are likely but community concern clearly indicates the need for police action in all cases.

The precursors for these tactics will usually be situations where, for instance, the Narcotics or Ice (gambling, prostitution) or Commercial Squads have recognized a target but have not been able to enter an agent or informant to create the usual access, a search warrant or arrest warrants or both.

Other situations where repeated police attacks have been frustrated by the use of proxies operating the illegal operations, against whom “dominion and control” or proven “intent to possess” cannot be established, will also warrant intervention.  Clearly the mid and upper level criminal actors have learned that the use of these expendable proxies creates an excellent buffer, insulating them almost entirely from routine police attack.

With the evolution of the “rock house” syndrome, the sheer number of targets, up at least fivefold from recent indicators adds to these dilemmas for the police.  The follow up units recognize they have limited impact for this reason and generally endorse the patrol suppression of those locations which are beyond their control.

Although prosecutions may not be obtained in many cases, the retrieval of weapons and stolen property and the intelligence gathered which may enhance other investigations is of significant value in the whole sense of the police mission.  And restored public confidence is of inestimable worth.
The tactics, then, evolve from the recognized restraints upon civil liberty which are inherent in social situations.  The classic example is the reasonable and necessary restraint upon free speech which precludes a citizen from falsely yelling “fire” in a crowded auditorium, possibly triggering a stampede to the exits in which others are injured or killed.

In the same sense no one would argue the right to set up a target and practice with firearms in a crowded shopping mall, as an activity permitted by the Second Amendment.

And no reasoning person would suggest that the police ignore either situation.  They would be outraged, in fact, if the police did.  Other such necessary restraints would come to mind as each constitutional guarantee was considered.
And in addition to such passive responsibility, other active imperatives upon the citizenry come to mind, many of which are required by ordinance.  Among these, the requirement to assist police officers upon request, to control one’s animals (leash laws, etc.), to operate motor vehicles properly, or to remove hazards or attractive nuisances from private property, are clear indicators of the precept of “civil responsibility,” as it were, which must be met if there is to be a viable social climate.
Extending this principle, then, to the homestead is imminently reasonable, proper and necessary.

With the surety of freedom from unwarranted intrusion, seizure, and deprivation of liberty, or lawful property, defined in the bill of rights, come certain incumbent responsibilities for the citizen in his homestead.  One may not, for instance, leave minor children unattended and hazardous materials about, such as fuels or poisons or firearms, which these youngsters may obtain and misuse, possibly injuring themselves or others.  And one may not leave a recreational fire unattended which may imperil the property or that of others.  No one has such a “civil right.”

And in such instances, the responsibility of police and other officials (Fire, Public Health, CPS, etc.) is clear.  To respond quickly and abate the threat by necessary means.  This may include the removal of the children or other irresponsible parties, removal of the hazards, and securing the premises if a responsible party is not located to accept custody and prevent occurrence.

This leads reasonably and conclusively then to an imperative for the police where the aforementioned circumstances obtain.  Flagrant, continuing criminal activity, which has not yielded to the other police tactics, defined by public complaint, police observation and often information from confidential sources, demands an intervention.
The tactic is straightforward.  Uniform police go to the premises, announce and identify themselves and their purpose.  Demand a tenant or owner come forward.  Specify exactly what the concerns are (trafficking, fencing, gambling, etc.) and request an explanation.  Solicit an invitational entry and question any apparent contraband.  Request the cooperation of all present, including the surrender of any suspected stolen property, firearms or other means of criminal conduct.  And in cases where no one comes forward as a tenant or owner, request the departure of those suspected of conducting the unlawful activity.  Seize the contraband if it represents a hazard to the public (drugs, firearms, etc.).

And document the incident in its entirety with a major incident report, making the number available to all present.  And, if necessary, secure the premises to prevent resumption of criminal activity until some responsible party is forthcoming.
These actions predicate upon the obvious need to defeat such criminal endeavor, which makes a charade of the sanctity of the homestead.  The demand of the police is to document the fair and uniform application of these tactics.  And never to use them as a subterfuge to enable prosecution or arbitrarily interrupt the conduct of private lives.
This strategy has brought credit and respect and renewed cooperation to those who have employed it.

It is a dynamic effective proper alternative to the frustrated acquiescence that has so limited police effectiveness in recent times and its result, the abatement of this activity, goes to the most sacred police duty, simply, the prevention of crime.

Copyright June 1986
Sgt. Chuck Pillon
Seattle Police Department

Thursday, April 02, 2015

So Finally...O'Toole

In this post I offer the final chapter to The Seattle Situation: A City Adrift. Things often go very wrong in police departments before the media take off the rose-colored glasses and come close to effective reporting. The media overlook or obscure indicators of potential problems that may result from decisions made early in the tenure of new police administrations. The honeymoon period has become sacrosanct. Newcomers are treated as special people by Seattle media. This default position is worthy of some conversation later on.

By the time critical reporting begins (if ever) it can be too late to correct the course. That has been the case at Seattle PD for thirty or more years. Here we take a look at a new police command in its first year - the “Early Katie O’Toole” - based on a growing record of her actual decisions and utterances. My observations about the history of the decline in police management are not intended to imply that there can be no quality administrators imported from other Cities, nor that O’Toole is flawed because of her membership in this class or because of her gender. Initial contacts with her were positive, but the “honeymoon” had to end and real measure necessarily commences. Failure has been a constant over far too many years hereabouts. Only a harsh light will reveal the cracks in a new regime while there is still time to recover.


Katie O’Toole is the latest in a line of imports to the position of Police Chief here in Seattle. She represents yet another player in the Seattle edition of the modern era of  police management. Over the past half-century many cities have taken to a ritualized national search for the best available candidate when replacing a departing chief. Local talent is marginalized in many of these cases. The best available standard is often farcical. It may have less to do with actual expertise than certain other “desirable” but subjective factors. For instance, a city that has had noticeable racial strife can almost certainly be counted on to select a minority as the new Chief. Women also bring to the process a certain novelty that has political value but may have far less practical effect.

Women and persons of color have provided high quality service to police agencies around the country. I don't imply that their novelty lessens the quality of leadership, but rather that the media become so fixed on that novelty that they blind themselves, and the public, to early problems that may fester and worsen because of the fog in which the media wander. The results of this "best available" process are mixed at best.

To understand what confronts O’Toole, and thus be able to measure her progress, one must accept that Seattle is in serious straits and that O’Toole inherited a calamity. No other perspective can derive from the well recorded history of police command failure here. And to understand O’Toole further I am going to reflect on her early decisions against a backdrop that the media can’t seem to grasp or are unwilling to confront.

But first… Seattle is in the toils of the “Federal Adoption process” that I mentioned earlier. The systemic failure that set that process in motion cannot be attributed to any cause other than the failure of management at SPD that began with Patrick Fitzsimons back in 1979. My observations are backed by that well-recorded history. I add that fact here because of my personal “collision” with Pat Fitzsimons back in the mid-80s: I confronted him publicly about TOLERANCE OF DRUG-DEALING in inner-city Seattle neighborhoods. Some will say that conflict alone motivates me to haunt Pat with criticism. (Look forward to a post in the near-future entitled for the actual details.)

The first of the "special travelers" - Patrick Fitzsimons

Fitzsimons, in his paranoia about “corruption,” curtailed drug enforcement and crippled Civil Abatement, a patrol division program for confronting and shutting down the “crack-house” scourge that had many Seattle neighborhoods in a state of siege. Fitzsimons cryptically blocked an invitation by the DEA for two patrol sergeants, the principal architects of this very effective strategy, to address a DEA Seminar in San Francisco…such was the degree of his spite. Note here that Fitzsimons was not invited, nor was his Narcotics unit Commander. It was clear to the DEA and other agencies that these two were actually dragging SPD out of the regional drug enforcement effort.

A perspective on this mysterious withdrawal can be found soon in this blog. Also, on the last Sunday of December, 1985, the Times finally did a rare front page review of Fitzsimons’ destruction of the regional anti-drug effort. Well worth reading…especially for doubters of my criticisms here. It serves as both a measure of police management and an indicator of what the media COULD do if politics were put aside in the interest of public safety.

On to California Dreamin' or the Reign of the Norman (Stamper, that is) King.

Next came Norm (“make no waves”) Stamper, who wanted the “seas to remain calm around City Hall” at any cost! Don’t wanna waken his Honor the Mayor, now do we? So dedicated was he to the illusion that all was well if the cops stayed away that Norm let the WTO demonstrations get completely out of hand with enormous property damage, injured cops, and disgrace for the SPD. So long Norm!

Now comes NO FRILLS GIL, The Man from Myopia

Next came Gil Kerlikowski…Gil from the same mold as Norm “no waves” Stamper. But Gil took hands-off policing to another level. One Fat Tuesday Eve (a big Mardi Gras-like celebration in Seattle that had become increasingly ugly in those recent years) Gil so restricted police intervention in an out-and-out riot in Pioneer Square that a horrible event occurred: a savage beating death occurred with cops held in check, literally watching from across the street.

Gil knew that the Mayor wanted the big celebration to go off without any police-related incident. So when a band of savages set upon innocent revelers on First Avenue he ordered the cops to stay out of the fray. Gil was taking all this in from the safety of a parking garage across the street, and some thirty feet overhead from the squadron of cops who were literally screaming for permission to intervene.

"Stand down!" came the order from above, and THE COPS DID SO! Remarkable, no? That default will be further reviewed here in time as well. So the savages set upon any and all at will. Then it happened - one heroic young man, Kristopher Kime, went to the rescue of a young woman who had been beaten down to the sidewalk. For his effort Kris was also savagely assaulted and was to die of his injuries. By the Grace of God the young woman survived.

The Mayor awoke the next morning primarily content that his police chief had not precipitated any uproar. A tragic preventable death as a consequence? Shit happens! Right Gil? But several of the cops who had been restrained at least spoke out publicly, and donated to the funeral fund for young Kris. Too little too late though…even if nobly done! Gil hung on for a time. In this interim he launched another “jewel of command wisdom.” He set the working shifts up so that the troops were only marginally under the purview of their supervisors. Some days for an hour or two, others not at all. People wonder then about patterns of mistakes by cops that grew in this vacuum?

The Feds properly made much ado about this absurdity - lack of first-line supervision - and it is finally going the way of other folly at SPD. Gil hurried off to become the National Drug Czar for some myopic president. Via Con Dios. There was a brief intermission for a hometown boy, John Diaz, but his was a rather unfocused tenure as Seattle continued to decline. John stumbled along as disoriented as his contemporaries at SPD. All had been crippled by the mismanagement styles they absorbed under the unholy three just mentioned.

Back to the unfolding O’Toole chapter

Here again I have to interject an update! I began the narrative below with the note that about six months had passed since O’Toole arrived. Some more weeks have passed and certain more recent events need entry at this time.

O’Toole has been busy at her musical-chairs command game, importing command-types from elsewhere, putting her team together, getting her ducks in a row, so she says. She has also mentioned again that she is hard at work on a computer purchase ($11,000,000) that will track citizen concerns about cops and policing. This is all part of her intensive effort to please the Federal Monitor. And she has taken a few definitive disciplinary steps as well. Jolly good show!

In the meantime, out on the streets, public safety itself is still very much in question! The hard fact is, what they bring into focus is that O’Toole continues to take refuge in the fog of that Federal Process. She has yet to sustain improvements in police presence and public safety. SPD IS STILL ON AUTO-PILOT!

Downtown is getting some attention…a little more foot patrol…but there is a dirty little secret to that. A forthcoming piece on The Great Labor Day Parade will make it clear that O’Toole did not show any initiative here until “motivated” by an old cop’s foot patrol demonstration that just happened to catch her eye.

Also significant is a news item from KOMO featuring Dave Meinert, a tavern owner on Capitol Hill. Last summer, Meinert with colleagues and other merchants, staged a public meeting to call out for more police presence, primarily foot patrol, to put an end to assaults and robberies and other mayhem they suffer along Broadway and sidestreets. Mind you, this all plays out within eyesight of the SPD East Precinct. And 12th and Pine!

SPD (O’Toole) responded with the requested increases, but only for a time. So there was Dave Meinert on the tube again the other night, praying that the City would go proactive  this year and step up the police presence BEFORE THINGS AGAIN GET OUT OF HAND!
KOMO went on to say that the Mayor ("Special" Ed Murray) had promised that patrol presence would be increased! INDEED! But there was no mention of O’Toole! No indication of interest or intention about the problem! And no KOMO comment to that point. Remember that O’Toole visited that Capitol Hill group last year…and acknowledged that she recognized their fears. But now she is absent? Oh the mystery.

It is as if the media and “Special” Ed have given O’Toole a pass. It seems that as long as she makes the occasional cameo announcing some type of bureaucratic move, she can delay her entry into the real arena - the cauldron of public safety - as long as the public allows. The backdrop is filled out by the news that Magnolia and Ballard are now on the verge of joining other districts hiring off-duty cops to have at least a minimally effective police presence. SO AGAIN, KATIE…WHERE THE HELL ARE THE COPS? You have a force of over thirteen hundred cops and you can't even mobilize half that many to get out on the streets and prevent more of the crime that people suffer?


Almost eleven months have passed since O’Toole took the helm. She was treated to all the ceremonials that befit the latest “special person” to enter the Seattle scene. All of her extensive police credentials were well published and received by the “special folks” hereabouts. Members of the media practically prostrate themselves at her door. But it was clear that her greatest merit was gender. That should not remain the major measure of her efforts, but it can hardly be any other way in Seattle.

Being “special enough” quiets more objective measures for quite some time. In some cases, quiets it, period. Point of fact, there is some incipient irony in this with respect to “Special” Ed Murray, who arrived just before O’Toole and in fact hired her. Ed arrived touted as Seattle’s “first Gay Mayor.” That aura has already affected coverage of his performance. Much as with Nick (“the Black Guy”) Metz, Ed may forever be seen through a different lens as a result of the agenda of some in the Gay community. It is a millstone he may not be able to shake.

Not a long tenure for O’Toole yet, but certain events to date seem to indicate what her style and priorities will be. Unfortunately, in spite of early indicators, she appears to have been caught off guard by the political firestorm she encountered. It will be difficult to regain her equilibrium and balance the political with the practical.

I made an overture to O’Toole soon after she arrived and settled in. I invited her to meet with a few of us retired cops. With collective experience of decades of policing in Seattle, extending back 60 plus years, we felt we could bring the Chief up to date on the mistakes of her predecessors and provide a perspective on some better moments in SPD history that no other group could. Some success to build on.

The initial response was encouraging, but we were not to hear from her for several weeks until she came to a luncheon we hosted. It was worth the wait. In her comments we could see that some of what we offered had impressed her. O’Toole noted that she had taken a hard look at the danger and disgrace that afflicts downtown Seattle and she confirmed the situation was unacceptable! That raised hope that she would promptly act to bolster police foot patrol to reduce the danger, both to the residents and business folk, and certainly the cops who work down there, always undermanned and at all the more risk as a result. But the first sense of doubt of her grasp of the needed measures began to emerge even as the lunch rolled on.

One of our first suggestions had been to adapt existing manpower to bolster the patrol forces. Based on our extensive experience we indicated that several dozen more cops could be mobilized by having the non-uniform personnel, detectives and actual command staff, work a day or so in uniform each week and “walk the beat” with the regular patrol forces wherever chronic problems arose.

But lo…O’Toole announced that she had had someone “survey the department staffing” and that she could only find SIX officers, out of approximately 700 non-uniform personnel, that could be so utilized. That is preposterous …and shortsighted. Hell, the command staff alone would provide at least sixteen more-or-less able bodies. And the exercise would do them good! I later asked her who had done that “survey” and offered to do another one for her. No response.

At a meeting soon after, O’Toole was asked by a distressed Rainier Valley resident just how manpower assignment decisions were made. This raises another issue, based directly on an early decision, of O’Toole’s competence. Clearly this resident had a sense that more troops were needed on the streets all over town. She remembered the days when there were more uniformed cops deployed to very good effect in Rainier Valley, which has always been “tough turf.” O’Toole’s reply was remarkable. She indicated that she was actually seeking a “consultant firm” to advise her on assigning officers. Two of her command staff were present and they tacitly endorsed her plan. They said not a word.

Then it was that I began to see more of the same old “special person chief” posture emerging. Can anyone possibly explain why an experienced Police Commander, accompanied by two veteran command staff, has to hire a consultant to figure out where to assign the cops? Collectively, O’Toole and her “commanders” have at least fifty years such experience. So what could be at work here?

What first comes to mind, when an apparently experienced person sidesteps so relevant a question, is that ineptitude or political concern is the factor. Politics seems far more likely, based on additional indicators of O’Toole’s disposition. Consider the uproar when an officer wrote a significant number of citations for smoking marijuana in public. These tickets were written in downtown areas where the smell of burning weed is constant, primarily as a result of inconsiderate and disruptive behavior, and primarily by a regular gaggle of young or homeless people who plague public areas like Westlake Park. Their antics also shield a lot of sometimes vicious criminal behavior.

These citations have merit as one aspect of a police effort to discourage the rowdies from interrupting normal social activity and causing a lot of ordinary folks fear and distress. Seems like some good police work. But…the cop in question made a couple of irreverent notes on these tickets lampooning the City Attorney Peter Holmes, since Holmes is an avowed proponent of legal marijuana possession. The cop may have felt that some extra signal to Holmes might alert him to the very anti-social results of the MJ legalization.

Sure enough, Holmes takes exception, raises the matter with Special Ed and O’Toole, and the Seattle Times makes the expose of this cop’s “heresy” FRONT PAGE NEWS. This doubtless alarms Special Ed at City Hall. So something clearly has to be done…don’t you know?

Sure enough, the cop is hauled up on notice to O’Toole’s office and leaves chastened and apologetic. But the master stroke is O’Toole’s decree that those citations will all be cancelled because they were written for the wrong reason. The wrong friggin' reason!

So the questions must land on O’Toole’s desk! Chief, given that countless folks in a city like Seattle receive citations for some misdemeanor or other every day, how then will you decide which were written for the “right reason” or not? Will you attend to the concerns of any emergent “special” group of people like Special Ed did for Harriet Walden when she demanded that her new “special category” (Black guys) be exempt from routine handling in personnel assignments? Will you polygraph cops who seem to pay special (maybe excessive?) attention to certain groups of people, such as transvestites on Broadway to see just what motivates them?

What about the cops who specialize in DUI enforcement? Here is another very important public safety problem, impaired driving, and there are a few cops that really excel here. Will you accept questions of their “motives” from defense attorneys and drag those cops through the mill and subject them to public criticism?

It has to be said, Katie…you threw in with Special Ed and Pete with this sort of "PR sop”…and it will come back to haunt you. When you let special interests…or a petty minded City Attorney…dictate enforcement, you have crossed the sort of bridge that ALWAYS crumbles behind you.

As to the suggestion that you mobilize more cops into uniform to confront the runaway uproar and violence downtown. In the military they call this a “SURGE”…and they clearly work. On the one hand, you seem to get it: But on a recent weekend there were at least two more violent shooting events downtown. And you have publicly confirmed that you know this is an ongoing dangerous outrage.


After a “Holiday Parade” (a “one old cop” foot patrol demonstration) I conducted back on Labor Day you actually did marginally increase troop-strength downtown. More confirmation of my point that this is the solution. But here is the rub! .The violence continues, maybe even worsens - more strong-arm robberies, more drug dealing - so clearly you have not done enough! How can you now not put more boots on the ground? Do you dare wait until the bullets flying again kill some innocent?

Early decisions indicate that O’Toole, in the face of what she has herself described as an ugly and dangerous situation the heart of Seattle, declines to sufficiently bolster certain important enforcement (foot patrol - which are the scourge of drug use and dealing) and fails to employ available manpower to restore some equilibrium (safety) for the beleaguered folk who must live and work there. Everyone okay with that?


Here is the real grim possibility that may explain the disconnection that O’Toole herself has recognized. But reader beware…these facts are as politically incorrect as they are pertinent. It is clear that much of the violence downtown, in fact virtually all gun violence, is at the hands of Black males, young men who prey on one another  almost exclusively when it comes to the shootings, but prey almost exclusively on non-blacks when it comes to the muggings and other street crime they account for. Keep that in mind here as we examine the downtown situation in a more definitive light.

Recall the demotion of Nick Metz by Jim Pugel, which was reversed later by Special Ed (who is Pure Seattle when it comes to yielding to pressure from voices in minority sectors). Can the tolerance of so much of the downtown uproar result from some additional unholy concession made to those voices? A few strident voices in the Black community raise all kinds of hell when they feel some sort of “profiling” is occurring, when young Black people receive much attention from the cops. This is in fact one of the central complaints that brought the Federales riding into town. It is the most common stock-in-trade of police critics.

So polarizing and politically potent is the profiling rap that even any modest evidence of focus on young Black men by the cops can cause a near hysterical reaction from some in the “community”! The history of actual abuse that begot legitimate concern about “profiling’ in the Black community is not to be forgotten or excused. Time was that Black folks, not just young Black men, were in real danger in some parts just for being in the “wrong part of town.” But that concern has long been addressed with increasing integration (affirmative action) of police forces and education of all the cops about the unintended consequences of what may be reasonable actions in a given moment over forty or more years.

Now any youngster is as likely to earn the attention of cops as not, BECAUSE YOUNG PEOPLE ARE THE SOURCE OF THE BULK OF STREET CRIME. But…no matter to the “voices.” Seen in this broader perspective one has to admit that it isn’t just black youngsters that are being paid close attention. "It ain't the color…it’s the neighborhood…STUPID.” So it is that any other “color” young man who fits the general description of individuals or groups that are causing significant crime and uproar in any area can damn well figure to be confronted by the police in certain circumstances these days, and necessarily so.

But in Seattle and many other towns the cops can find themselves under not-so-subtle pressure…even to the point of not broadcasting the race of suspects of immediate crimes, if the suspects happen to be Black. This inanity (I call it cowardice) satisfies the ego of the few "Black Voices" but has an incredible price for the greater Black Community. It is in the shadow of this “protected status” that the incredibly destructive subculture of violence has engulfed many young black men.

But to settle the immediate question, which we leave with Special Ed, "Petey" Holmes, and Katie O’Toole: Has some “Devil's bargain" been struck here? Have you agreed to keep the cops’ attention off young Black men unless they are found directly involved in some violent incident for fear that they might feel “Profiled”? Is this why they are free to smoke dope, and in fact sell it, right out in the open in this city? If you doubt this, you ought to take a tour downtown. Do this with a police escort. I suggest you look up Officer Randy Jokela; he knows that scene pretty damn well.

The situation in Seattle begins more and more to resemble other cities that have gone into a spiral of decline. And it impacts most certainly inner-city and neighboring environs. There the greatest price is paid by good Black folk who live in a sea of crime, exacerbated by befuddled civic authorities and police command who read too much into the uproar caused by activists who use hysteria and dated history to stifle intelligent consideration of the problems suffered by the community.

In hard point of fact, young Black men, sheltered by the timidity of the Mayor and others at City Hall, are wreaking havoc and killing one another practically at will as police commanders look away from any but the most unavoidable confrontations. Can’t have anybody feel “profiled” now, can we?

Another anomaly in “early O’Toole” catches the eye as well - the announcement that all of her command staff would be required to “sit at their desks” and write some mysterious essay to justify their retention of command assignments. How curious? This charade opens all subsequent command assignments to a measure based on what? Poetic skill? Creative writing basics? Personal connections and allegiances? This again is one of those “early decisions” that has received absolutely no follow-up notice by the media.

So we have the specters of “police command by consultant” when it comes to line (street) assignments and “command assignment by default” when it comes to the command ranks.
I realize that these observations…criticisms…ain't exactly “Seattle Nice” and are bound to raise some hackles in the “special crowd” that doesn’t want any rain on the (extended) coronation parade.

But lace this subtle-mystery-method of command placement with the earlier signs that race (e.g., the Nick Metz affair), among other subjective factors, has apparently become a consideration in the management of civic affairs, and then have a look at another O’Toole maneuver - the exception of one Carmen Best (recently appointed Assistant Chief) from the mystery-method approach. What in the hell is going on here? Who is Carmen Best…and what qualifies her as the exception?

To be “sitting at the right hand of the throne” as a troubled police department seeks to “pull out of the dive”…would one not expect to find a veteran commander? Someone experienced in crisis confrontation and personnel allocation? What would come to mind for a candidate here?

It is important to provide a little insight here. Her colleagues generally think well of Chief Best. She is personable and presentable. She is well remembered in public thought, to anyone paying attention, as the “attractive face” of the Seattle Police department. Carmen served for some time as the media spokesperson. With numerous television appearances under her belt highlighting this crime investigation or other, Carmen joins the ranks locally of Sheriff John Urquhart, Ed Troyer down in Pierce Country, and others here and there who have become better-known to the public than even the various Chiefs they work for. Such is the power of video media.

However, a look at Chief Best’s actual police experience, especially in command roles, does not tend to “flesh out” the profile one would expect for the second in command at this time (or any other, for that matter). Yet…here she is. And because these are such critical times at the SPD, I have to touch again on the question: Does race matter in the civic world of “Special" Ed Murray? As onerous as it is, if there is to be real restoration of public safety in Seattle, these are the sorts of “early decisions” that demand more scrutiny.

Chief Best has very little operational command history. Hers have been those assignments generally associated with ascension up the “special ladder” in police departments. As much public exposure as possible…and usually little “combat command.” She served as South Precinct Patrol Captain for a brief three months last year. That’s it! No one has seen, or been offered, any more detailed history. Is anyone in the media, or at City Hall (the Public Safety Committee of the City Council maybe), asking why more “vetting” has not been done? Not a chance!

What could be the consequences for this situation at SPD? Troop morale and operational competence are already in a tailspin, but...what the hell? Again, the “Murray moment” here in the Emerald City poses real questions that, like previous chapters in the decline of SPD, has been insulated by adoring media from these sorts of questions. Whatever her level of choices here, O’Toole will pay the price for the uncertainty this all creates. In this silence, the working cop is left to wonder, are "special credentials" paramount at SPD? Were more competent commanders passed by to satisfy the need for “special imagery” in Seattle? For the unhidden fact is that Chief Carmen Best is Black…and she is a woman! There it is, Ed…there it is, Seattle…there it is, media…the very sort of unholy question no one wants to hear. Yet a question demanded by the earlier capitulation to artificial racial  concerns in the Metz matter. Is Carmen Best just another convenience in the campaign at City Hall to keep the Rainbow shining…at any cost? Is gender now a prime qualifier?
There may be holy hell in some precincts for even raising such issue. Just not “Seattle Nice” is it? But posturing along such lines (if it is in fact the motive here again), catering to strident voices without reason, is a distinct part of the recipe for urban decline in this country. Both the Seattle Police department (with all its diverse collection of faces) and Carmen Best deserve better. 

And where does this all land? Oh…the toils of Katie O’Toole!

If Carmen Best is the preeminent candidate for second in command, more power to her! If she is not, explanation must be sought. And if anyone wonders at my motives here (an old white cop who won't go away) in raising this disturbing issue, I am going to add a personal note. Read Shootouts in the Ghetto for some insight. You will see why I present myself as distinctly qualified to raise this critical issue in the moment here. And Carmen…I hope you can find the time to read it, too. Regards…Chuck Pillon.


In the final measure here it is up to O’Toole to grab the reigns and run up against the bewilderment at City Hall and the conflicted voices of “community spokespeople," to tell the Federales  to take a deep breath and put the cops back on the corner. Don’t let these political cancers grow! Further, she is going to have to be a lot more transparent. Don’t leave these early decisions to swirl in a mysterious cloud. If certain quotas or personnel expectations have been imposed, either by the Feds or Special Ed, out with it! For the good of the City…and the Service.
Things looked good in the beginning but the political winds have shifted and O’Toole’s sails seem to be going slack. In a telling utterance after a wringing-out in the Federal Court recently, O’Toole remarked that she “thought she finally had her ducks lined up” in her effort to please the Feds. Enough already!

Time to regain command of that adoption process. The “friendly Feds” can’t be allowed to do more harm than good. Cooperation shouldn’t lead to surrender to that unquestioned process. And there the media have set up SPD to fail as well. They should be doing more incisive reporting on the problems in “adoptions” elsewhere.  The old bromide about ignoring the lessons of history hangs over all of this like an anvil teetering on a ledge. Katie…I hope you reconsider and find some time for us old troops. “Special" Ed, Merrick Bobb, Bernie Melekian, Judge “Roy Bean” Robart, no one at City Hall…none of them are going to be able to tell you about the effort to bring the Anti- Crime Teams into being, the advent of the K9 Unit, the once-grand Block Watch Program, the outreach to the original Youth Service Bureaus and alternative school programs. They know virtually nothing of these stellar moments. Just ask them. They are simply voices in concert with the Federales, joining in blind obedience to a process that, while it has some marginal merit, has crippled the very institution it is supposed to be improving. Have you asked Merrick Bobb what brought him to conclude that there is DE-POLICING going on in Seattle? If, as it seems, you are going to stay in lock-step with them, you will be letting the danger you have publicly recognized grow even as the Federal Charade continues to sweep you along.

You may not be mindful of the observations of another recent candidate for the job there at SPD, a guy named Rick Braziel out of California (COP in Sacramento) who declined to even take the test here when you did because of the contradiction and incompetence he observed in his preliminary visits to City Hall. He made it clear that the mess would make it extremely difficult to right-the-course at SPD. HELL! We veterans could write a book on the subject. The pretenders and partisans at City Hall have long been a serious factor in the decline of this City. Those observations are worth remembering. Braziel’s credentials are substantial, like yours, and we know that things haven’t gotten better at City Hall. That ain’t the Mensa Society meeting at Fifth and James! Let your allegiance be first to the folks in this City. Let Special Ed and the Federales take their proper place in line. And let folks hear from you on this subject.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Night I Met Jesus...And He Was Black

Continuing commentary on the decline of public safety in Seattle is my primary purpose at this time, but I a bit of inspirational illustration of my time at SPD is important, too. My previous story Shootouts in the Ghetto told of the gathering of young cops and central area kids in the gym up at 17th and Fir. But it wasn’t bullets flying…it was basketballs.

What I am recounting here illustrates another remarkable moment, adding to scores of others, to give you a sense of the treasure of human experience I gathered over those many years.

A few short years into the “mission” (my police service), we faced the first rioting over civil rights and anti-war issues. That a “country kid” from Eastern Washington, then east Renton, was caught in disbelief at these developments is an understatement. I came to the cop car life with an arcane notion that the good folks would love us and the crooks would “take it on the lam”! One night, as we stood in a hailstorm of rocks and bottles and a bullet or two, I was finally shorn of that innocence. For good!

The important message here is the rich and unexpected blessing that followed. As the rioting up at Garfield High nearby slowly dissipated near midnight, I took a sentinel position at 23rd and Spruce Street. That watchfulness has always been an instinct with me.

There were passersby, good folks, mostly Black, making their way around the scene down the street. I greeted them with as much reassurance as I could. Several stopped to talk with me. I took from that the sense that decent conversation was always valuable in the face of such strife. There is far less that divides us, even when racial tension seems like a runaway train, than most people might believe.

Now to my meeting with Jesus.

Most folks had passed by as midnight arrived, but I felt a presence behind me. I was about to turn when I felt a hand softly on my shoulder. I glanced that way to see an elderly black man in a preacher's frock.

I was a little startled at first but then remembered that there was an old church on the corner. It may have been the calming of that gentle touch, but I was momentarily speechless. Before I could react the old man spoke. "Son, be patient with these children. They are angry tonight but they will need you tomorrow." I am seldom speechless; most people think I talk too much. But it was a moment before I collected my wits. Then I turned to thank the old man, BUT HE WAS GONE!

I walked around that old church, found not a door or window ajar, no fresh footprints on the lawn or steps. Not a sign of the old man. But I continued to ponder the nature of the greater sign here: how had this happened…and why?

Just a few nights later, when I and my fellow cops gathered for a “post-riot debriefing” (a few beers and other spirits), I spontaneously uttered the words…LET ME TELL ABOUT WHEN I MET JESUS…AND HE WAS BLACK. This crew included several Black cops as well. We were well integrated by then.

I am the perpetual “class-clown” sort…and the crew literally burst out in laughter. I enjoy my own work as well. I was laughing, too. But later it began to settle in, as it has to this day. I believe those moments were out of the ordinary. Both that hand on my shoulder and that surprising utterance at the “debriefing” the next night.

Something happened there that I can still only ponder. As much as I will say for certain is that it fits into the many blessings I enjoyed by the grace of many old Black folks I was to meet and know in my days as a cop in the central district!

Soon I will tell you of Big Momma's Coffee, Sarg's Barbecue and others.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Shootouts in the Ghetto

A Cop Car Cowboy Tale

In the last post I left off with the promise that a more definitive analysis of the early tenure of new Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole would follow here, as a continuation of a more general examination of the decline of the Seattle Police Department and the safety and dignity of the City as well.

However, in that last post I also took a very direct look at some companion factors of decline in and around City Hall and SPD: Race (not to be confused here with RACISM), gender, affirmative action, none of which come without a price. That “price” is the  “uncomfortable little topic” the media and civic leadership are loathe to discuss realistically.

As long as “the conversation” remains confounded by this pointless barrier it is going to continue in futility. I intend to change that. In a future post I will isolate the toxic issue of RACISM itself for more definitive consideration.

At this point, because I am determined to forge blunt conversations, I am offering something of a portrait of my experiences that illustrate why I claim standing to drag these “sensitive matters” out in the open. Me, the old white cop.

I am from that class of people who pay most of “the price” of social change. My point is not to undo that social change but to explain to the beneficiaries that it would have been and even tougher climb were it not for our goodwill and patience. Especially with “affirmative action.”

I have never had a person who  benefited from the gains of the last half-century come up and thank me for my forbearance. Never even heard anyone acknowledge that we accepted personal sacrifice for the most part with dignity and fair good humor. In that vacuum is a subtle inference. Some clearly just thought we “had it coming” because it was “white guys” that had heaped all the grief on minorities to begin with.

In that thoughtlessness they were trampling us with a stereotype even as they fought to escape the stereotypes that had been used by some in white society to hold them in bondage to that sort of quiet tyranny. Sort of the same way battered people may become batterers themselves in time.

Ironic that it is necessary, in a discussion about critical social/political issues, for a “minority” to have to prequalify himself to join the forum. But minority I am: an aging white male with a “privileged blue collar” background. And, worse, your basic battle-toughened "Ghetto Cop”! Hell, in many minds that makes me the “problem” and hardly a likely contributor to the solution.

But my other credentials will surprise some of the critics. If they have the integrity to pay attention they may understand better what I say, and understand that I am saying it from a unique perspective. If some still object to my “forced entry” here that ought to disqualify them, not me. I will get to those other “credentials” in time if it becomes necessary.

The conversation I mention above has been the near-exclusive estate of the other more-apparent minorities - people of color or other more chosen status and the “inevitable aristocracy” - the political class who rely on the hysteria these issues generate to maintain the divide between us. In that divide they find their fortune. Little place for white commoners at the table.

I want to get right to the title theme here because it will lift this lament back into positive territory. But take note of what I have said here. The longer we who have been scapegoated and ignored the poorer the conversation!

SHOOTOUTS IN THE GHETTO! I was in many “shootouts” in the inner-city precincts of Seattle over my many years there. Yes, shootouts.

Conjures up a lot of grim imagery, doesn’t it? Quick-triggered cop(s) gunning down anyone who in the least aggravates them. Oblivious and immune to the consequences to the given community they prey upon, especially young Black men? That is the stereotype, promoted and used by the self-serving few who stir this “fog” around us. But the truth is otherwise. The “fog” arises from the mistakes, or malice, of a very few of us. That point needs regular repetition.

Now, back to the “shootouts.” I did spend years in the company of youngsters we were supposed to have “preyed on,” kids who were mired in the pathos of those neighborhoods. Kids caught up in crime of serious sort. Kids who sometimes committed vicious street-robberies, random assaults, burglaries, sundry other crimes of opportunity, and some of a very determined nature.

And I never once had blood on my hands. Shot at, spit on, cussed and kicked, and never any blood on my hands, which was a journey shared with almost all of my partners.

But with my troops I chased those kids down night after day. Chased them down whenever necessary, put them behind bars, and haunted them when they were back on the loose after brief -always brief - periods of incarceration. I took away their loot, their guns, their cars, even their shoes on occasion. It shouldn't surprise the cynics that I and my troops were in a lot of shootouts with those kids then…right?

Hate to disappoint the cynics who can scarcely imagine the absence of bloodletting in this cauldron. But, you see friends, it wasn't bullets flying, IT WAS BASKETBALLS! Basketballs flying in any court we could find. How’s that for a spin? We took our case to the basketball “court” instead of the Juvenile Court whenever we could.

We diverted these kids, took them, virtually “shanghaied” them in some cases, under our wing and showed them a world they could hardly believe. Those young kids and our young cops met head-to-head- in situations where the kids could not express themselves as bullies, thieves or other destructive types.

What they could do, however, was imagine themselves as equals in a way they had hardly ever experienced. Maybe even better than equals. If they played hard and smart, they could even WIN, “kick the cops’ butts” for a change!”

This “crowd of gunslingers” (the cops) we put together to take the game to these kids was a true “Rainbow Coalition” too. About a dozen cops from the East Precinct at the time, all inspired by the near immediate success we had in turning these kids around. White…Black…Asian…the whole “Rainbow”. And it wasn't lost on these kids the fraternity we shared.

There was Billy (captain) Edwards, Don (coach) Huston, Bobby (world’s fastest Puerto Rican hub cap thief) Garcia, Kirby (whoosh) Leufroy, there was Gary, Charlie, John (the politician) Manning, Jerry (Kung Pau) Fernandez…The list can go on, but I crippled here by my aging memory. You brothers I have failed to mention will forgive me I trust.

Then there was the beginning of a softball challenge at the old Judkins Rejected Playfield up off of 23rd and Jackson, put together by Don (the Lt.) Marquardt and Capt Dean (the machine) Olson. Friends, we were on the way to a magical tour of this City that would engender understanding and connection with communities the whole city over, not just the “Ghettos”.

John Manning and the late great Mark Sabourin put together an exhibition challenge match with a team put together by Slick Watts and Sonny (killer of six) Sixkiller. We played at Eckstein Jr. High in the north end. Have to say it- cops won 77-76 before an astonished crowd . No truth to the rumor that we put the handcuffs on Slick at halftime either.

What we envisioned was a sort of athletic outreach all around town based on the early unqualified success and goodwill. There were a hell of a lot of very good athletes in the police ranks and our games were in earnest. Some of the kids were just amazed and all the more motivated - we never had to “let them win.”

Dean Olson was also arranging for our women officers to engage the “Girls from Garfield” that same year. Imagine the effect on the young girls who were, in growing numbers, dropping out for the street life, suddenly in the friendly (but competitive) company of young women they might hope to emulate in time.

Many older folks in the “ghetto” were profuse in their appreciation and encouragement. The kids were so engaged that for a while you couldn't slow a cop car down in parts of the “ghetto” because the kids were crawling in the windows, turning on the lights and siren, and demanding a ride past “Tyrone’s (pick a name) house” so they could light him up!

But the “game” was not to continue, the opportunity squandered by a few “police administrators” who had a different agenda, who simply looked away with an indifference I have yet to understand.

My great sadness remains. We were on this roll just as the first California gangbangers hit Seattle, bringing on a game of their own. They were to prevail, and our games passed into little noted history, with few ever to ponder what what might have been.

One truly memorable footnote: Our partner Charlie Allers took three of the most troubled kids on a camping trip over in the Olympics. He was an inspiration for other cops here. Those kids were transformed, at least for a while.

You can’t understand the magic here unless I confide that Charlie…well I don’t want to say he was a “REDNECK”…but the rumor was that some folks in his clan were so far right that they thought John Wayne was Gay! Go figure.

And I can't forget “Manny and the Amigos,” a group of young Latino guys who we  “gunned it up” with many Saturday mornings at the old Public Safety Building gym. Manny’s wife Lydia worked at “the Greeks” at 9th and Madison, poured a lot of coffee and good humor for us cops in her day.

As I said, all the grief we endured - losing partners to violence, witnessing every sort of savagery including homicides and horrific other assaults, the inhumanity - took a heavy toll on all our souls. But seeing that magic, those SHOOTOUTS  be let slip away because of a failed command staff is probably the worst sadness of all.

There are other great memories to relate in time, others that had an equally blessed effect on my soul. One day I will tell of the “night-life” I drew my young cops into, when “Big Momma” had “the coffee” (shop,that is) down on Yesler and Old Sarge” had “the barbeque” up on 20th..

I will relate in time as well the make-up of my family as well. Suffice it to say, we are white, black, Asian, Native American, and none of the above (me) I guess. Most of my kin have yet to really figure me out…me included.

If anyone still wants to question my “standing” to speak to these challenging issues, look me up. That needs to be a personal conversation.

I hope I have accomplished some of what I set out to here. I don’t want to be the “intruder” but I damn well intend that the viewpoint of my colleagues and I be heard. Without us the “conversation” is crippled!

Monday, February 02, 2015

The Seattle Situation


If you want a “PERFECT STORM” to inflict upon the cops in a city, to demoralize and endanger them even as you expect more and more of them, you need look no farther than Seattle.

The reality here, described as DE-POLICING by Federal Monitor Merrick Bobb, is evident in the actions and utterances of many of Seattle's Finest. Many have confirmed the case in conversations with folks around the City; significant numbers of police commanders say it as well. As you will see…you can’t blame them.

De-policing is a defensive posture in which cops seek to minimize their engagement with the public to avoid complaints and other consequences developed in a fire of criticism and hostility that has been fueled by the selfish or simply stupid interests of a few politicians, so-called community leaders and very certainly the media.

Who can blame the cops? They face danger on the streets while feeling the "heat on their backsides" from an ill-defined "REFORM PROCESS" poorly managed by a Federal cadre that is hearing too much from the wrong people, to the exclusion of temperate voices, thus crippling the very reform they contend they are dedicated to.

Make no mistake...there have been failures at SPD that sorely need repair. Look at the cop stomping the man who was down and cuffed in one incident, or the cop who ran into the downtown convenience store and started playing "Karate Kid" on a suspect who was clearly not aggressive at the time. Look at the horrible "execution" of the woodcarver  John Williams by a terribly misguided cop who was in no danger whatsoever at the time. This is gross, even criminal, misconduct. There are other such incidents, to be sure, but no epidemic.

Management failure in the far greatest part has led to this state of affairs and to the Federal presence. Management failures that have taken root after twenty-plus years of inept leadership by this or that "special Chief of Police" brought in by "special people” at City Hall in league with "special people" from community groups. They have failed repeatedly over thirty-plus years yet they go unchallenged.

This "Inevitable Aristocracy" that all cities produce too often displaces voices from the wider community when these "special selections" occur. This needs to be a conversation all by itself in the near future. The cast of characters needs to change.

It needs to be said here that the new Chief, Kathleen O'Toole, has generated some initial encouragement in the ranks of retired cops like me. But she has to directly and publicly - and soon pick up the pace of real leadership at SPD and overcome the impression that she has first and foremost to "dance to the Federal Tune." More on that to come.


There is plenty of blame to go around. Time to look at the most troubling examples. But first we need to promptly dispose of the cancerous notion that there has been major misconduct and abuse by a significant number of cops anywhere in this City that legitimizes the magnitude of this Circus. Even the most strident critics of SPD officers have never made that case because it is not the truth, but hysteria and prejudice substitute well in their minds.

What we are treated to by our local media, whose job is to open civic issues to intelligent examination, are endless repeats of the unholy footage of a few cops in glaring examples of misconduct and unquestioning repetition of the exaggerated claims of the critics.

It is actual mismanagement by some at the high levels of SPD that has precipitated need for "REFORM," but the efforts should be measured and focused on that failure and not become this  "Barnum and Bailey Extravaganza" feeding on hackneyed footage of a few cops gone wrong.

It is at that level (management) where the problem of poor training and discipline originate and it must be fixed first. And then effective responses to the occasional misconduct by a few cops will follow in a proper manner.


THERE IS A PATHETIC AND WELL RECORDED HISTORY of the origin(s) and perpetuation of this malaise. It reaches back to several Mayors and cops. With that said...and leaving it to further scrutiny when that might be appropriate...lets pick up the trail with the past year's drama. Let’s look to "Special" Ed Murray:

Ed rides into office with no claim whatsoever to understand policing and cops in any but the most abstract way and quickly announces that POLICE REFORM, not police service, is an absolute priority. He gathers "advisers" and community voices and the impression is promoted by the media that the new Mayor is obviously "in command."

Ed soon looks in on "Acting Chief" Jim Pugel, who was appointed by Mike McGinn a short while before. Pugel has already impressed Merrick Bobb at the Federal office by making a determined effort to set the real needed reform(s) in motion at SPD.

Special Ed joins in that endorsement and the cops begin to hope that some stability is at hand. But Pugel, acting with the necessary resolve, demotes three top commanders as part of the revitalization all agree is needed at SPD command. But...not so fast here....

One of the "demotees" is Nick Metz, who is now said to be "the Black Guy" by longtime "community voice" Harriet Walden who has has had a longstanding presence in public conversations about the police department. Note here: Nick Metz never to my memory made any issue of his race. 

The gist of it is this: Pugel never condescends to publicly rationalize these moves. He acts as a responsible commander should, and not the least of his concerns is that anyone subject to such movement deserves some dignity and privacy and absolutely should not be stigmatized or diminished by unnecessary disclosures.

Yet, without a moment hesitation, Harriet cries out to the media something to the effect of "That's right...BLAME IT ON THE BLACK GUY!" Harriet offers no evidence or even argument that Metz is being singled out as a fall guy here. Metz alone wasn’t reassigned! Two “WHITE GUYS” went with him!

Harriet didn’t even need to offer any evidence that Metz was singled out. Special Ed immediately responds to this blatant "race card" play. He sacks poor Jim Pugel, a shattering blow to the "stability" the cops had come to hope for and an unholy precursor of folly to come.

Moving to further placate Harriet (and God only knows who else), Special Ed rounds up recently retired Harry Bailey (an even Blacker Guy?) and installs him as Acting Chief but on condition that Harry foreswear any appetite for the position permanently. Special Ed doesn't seem to see the significance of his “limitation” here. He seemingly tosses Harry out as a sort of token, apparently to further placate Harriet, et. al.

Harry is well and affectionately held by the cops across the street, with whom he served for thirty-plus years. This "limitation" further signals that "stability" may never be taken for granted in the realm of Ed Murray. (Interestingly, even a few "journalists" have remarked on occasion that Ed is a little "mercuric" when confronted.)

Within a few days the hapless Harry steps in to resume some of the work Pugel had started, cleaning up some disciplinary problems that had festered far too long in the dysfunctional mess that was command at SPD.

Knowing that such uncertainty is destructive of morale, Harry settled the cases (none of which involved any "high crime or misdemeanor" against the public) and sought to move on to the work at hand. But...not so fast...

Minor incidents that should be promptly dealt with are the very choice fodder for the "Hyper-Critics" of the cops...who exaggerate such modest matters into their inflated tirades...and like Harriet with her "BLAME IT" tirade. Murray soon heard from these folks...and once again he chose to cut-and-run!

Murray initially endorsed this "house-cleaning" by both Pugel and Bailey but now he had to scurry. So he runs Harry up on the gallows (the good old press conference) with his "Machiavellian" mystery adviser Bernie Melechian nearby in the background. Harry has to eat humble pie, recanting Pugel's practical decisions that he had in turn endorsed.

Harry deserved better. This matter should have been resolved quietly, with the media aware but not agitated by the theatrics. Special Ed lost even more "cred" with the cops, and the Mayor's Office didn't have much in the bank to begin with.

So, in one bold capitulation, Special Ed establishes a brand new standard for personnel management. What “classes of city employees” can now expect such political filtration of their assignments, Ed? With the passion for special classes here in Seattle it is likely going to be everybody…but white folk.


Swirling around all this melodrama in real time, the City Council has maintained its own "Special Place" over on stage left, not much to mention beyond the predictable meandering they present about this critical sort of issue. They add little in the way of focus here, and can only be counted on to provide the "dignified aloofness" that is a Council specialty.

But fear not, there is another actor at City Hall that more than makes up for the vacuum the Council serves up...our stalwart City Attorney Peter (PETEY?) Holmes. Here is a guy who would walk on hot coals before he would miss a slap at the working cop.

We don't even have to present the list here. Petey won’t let anyone forget his wretched campaign to demean and hinder the working cops in Seattle. In this he serves as a priceless megaphone for the garden variety "cop-bashers" that infest so much of the public discourse here in the Emerald City.

Let me say again here - there are very real problems at SPD. No one knows it better than the cops and they want these problems fixed. But constantly and indiscriminately kicking them in the teeth when they are caught in such a political crossfire is unbecoming of a City Official who is himself sworn to the public interest. Has he no sense of the demoralizing effect he has? Will nobody inform him?


Look now at the Federal apparatus. Inevitable tensions in the police - community relationship in cities like Seattle lead in many cases to these "Federal Adoptions," virtual takeovers of police departments on the marginal premise that they have become so corrupted they are a danger to the very public they serve.

This "Adoption" exercise has literally become an industry with outside advisers and monitors plying their trade whenever the Federal system chooses. Money is made here, and the longer the "adoption" period, the more money to be distributed. That former "police administrator" types join this industry in significant numbers raises questions that no one has even asked with any clarity, what needs to be done and who is folowing the money? One such fellow in Oakland managed to bank about a quarter million before he was located.

The common litany of offenses identified in “the profiling” of the given police agency becomes rather standard stuff, guaranteed to stir the radical heart. EXCESSIVE USE OF FORCE... PROFILING... SELECTIVE ENFORCEMENT ...for starters. The menu is rounded out with real or imagined specifics from city to city.

In point of fact, most of these "sins" are occasionally committed in the routine of policing in most cities and towns. Once upon a time there was very little accountability, but social pressures (from the sixties on) pushed this unholy situation out into the open and much has been done to correct the problem in the interim, even if the “cop-bashers” marginalize it to keep things stirred up.


The emergence of the Internal Investigation process in police agencies, which is by no means perfect and in fact has become a problem itself for the public, has been improved by increasing civilian review boards and committees. It is this latter process which must become the final mechanism for review and resolution of  police / community concerns and conflicts. This evolution will free up cops currently maintaining appearances in the Internal Investigation Division to go back to productive public safety efforts at a time when they are sorely needed.

Meanwhile, the Federal process is free to move along unfettered for the most part by recognition of these earlier but ongoing efforts. The Feds initiate entirely subjective “indictments” from that list of generic elements but with very little specificity as to how many incidents of, say, excessive force have been identified, and even less specificity about how many and particularly which cops might be involved.


Make no mistake…this is where the demoralization of the working cop begins. They are all stigmatized by this “shotgun approach” even as some may well have intervened to put an end to such abuses they see very few of their fellows practice. While cops generally have a subtle feeling that the great number of folks they serve do not prejudice them so, there is a paranoia nonetheless, never knowing when an opportunistic critic may be around. That paranoia is one of the basic fuels of the DE-POLICING that Federal Monitor Merrick Bobb notes in his public utterances. Bobb needs to answer the question: isn’t this “de-policing” a predictable and common consequence of these “Adoptions”and the pall they cast? Shouldn't he utter some words to quiet this fear from time to time?

There are other support players in this Federal cast. Recently departed U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkin was always available for a chorus of essentially-marginal police department bashing. She will be missed at choir practice.

The principal other is Federal Judge James Robart. who has been assigned to enforce the City adherence to the federal demands. He has been a stern task-master. His orders and demands are well recorded in the media, as have been the responses of the City and notably in recent months of Katie O’Toole (which we will come to in a moment). But an extremely telling utterance from Judge Robart came as a result of a complaint by a significant number of SPD officers that the new “use-of-force-mandates” were too subjective and in fact would place the officers in danger if not modified to reflect the realities they face on the street all too often. With little apparent objectivity, not even allowing the complainants to produce witnesses (notably retired veterans cops and including a number or retired commanders), he tossed the troubled cops out on their ears with the comment that "WE ARE NOT GOING BACK TO THE GOOD OLD DAYS!”

“WE ARE NOT GOING BACK TO THE GOOD OLD DAYS” INDEED! Could there be a more telling indictment, a more telling expression of prejudice, a more telling exposure of the failing of this "Federal Adoption" process than to have the very arbiter, the master of the art, publicly declare over one hundred cops guilty of an attempt to return to some vague past where (he cynically suggests, if not states) they were in league in a practice of brutality and abuse of authority?? What else could he have been inferring?

Judge Robart needs to explain this. Yet who will ask him? The mayor has not! Chief O’Toole has not! Merrick Bobb has not! Jenny Durkin has not! AND THE MEDIA CERTAINLY HAVE NOT!
This sort of prejudicial expression (condemnation!) is precisely the sort a proper Judge would never allow in a proceeding in the Courtroom. If attorneys tried to slip in so improper a remark they might well hear a contempt warning, at least, from the bench.


I might stop here but there are a couple more players who need mention:

Over time I have canvassed the streets of business zones and adjacent residential areas, carrying the challenge to step up and lobby City Hall and SPD to re-vitalize operations with a return to a greater public uniform presence…with an eye on preventing more crime and restoring a sense of safety and dignity to our public places.

The essence of that effort would be to place more of the non-uniform personnel in distinctive garb…either the regular uniform or a distinctive blazer...and have them join the patrol forces in public wherever trouble can be anticipated. This is covered in this Blog in an entry called WHERE THE HELL ARE THE COPS??

Scores of people in downtown businesses and neighborhoods have been the primary focus, given that the very heart of this City has been plagued for shameful years with street crime and outrage. From the high-end bistros and boutiques to the hot-dog stand on the corner, countless contacts and never once a negative response to the idea of more “cops-on-the-corner”! Civic organizations like the Downtown Seattle Association, the Chamber of Commerce, the major media houses…you name it…are all in agreement expressing momentary enthusiasm.

But then??...Silence! No challenge to the media to do more than ex post facto obituary-writing (the next horror story of an assault, rape or homicide; the drug sales and every sort of thievery, with film-at-eleven). No call for a TOWN MEETING, no HELL-RAISING AT CITY HALL, just a seeming acquiescence until the next outrage occurs to rattle them and their colleagues. Civic Seattle has all the hubris but none of the guts to take a hand in the recovery of this beautiful City where they make their considerable fortunes. They serve their gourmet plates, pour their Micro-Brews and fill their publicly funded Stadia with instant millionaire sports stars, then quietly stroll past the ubiquitous mayhem all around them. Enough said about “Civic Lights”!


One has to mention that “local heroes” are thankfully always around. Their efforts in service and community organizations can’t be discounted. But it also can’t be “counted on”…expected to overcome the problems the civic establishment tolerates and exacerbates. They can’t be expected to take on the whole City.

An example is the movement(s) in neighborhood/community areas to reach into their pockets and fund increased police patrol presence (off-duty SPD officers) for the added protection of themselves and certainly their neighbors. Their determination may have hoped-for results in their neighborhoods, and more power to them. Four such efforts are already in motion in Madison Park, Windemere, Laurelhurst the Whittier community in Ballard.

But there is a downside here: The threat of the City becoming even more polarized along the have-vs-have-not barricades. Not all communities are coherent or wealthy enough to take these measures. And to the degree that City Hall encourages this all…it has a hand in the further decline of safety and civility in Seattle. Has anyone heard a word from “Special Ed” about this?

TO BE CONTINUED with narrative regarding Katie O’Toole and her early efforts.