Joel Connelly mounts his high horse today and launches some invective at anyone and everyone who’s been pointing fingers at Chief Kerlikowske over police oversight issues. Josh Feit has already responded, easily swatting down Connelly’s lazy accusation that The Stranger has been hypocritical when it comes to dealing with the accuracy of police reports. But the real hypocrite here is Connelly, who actually writes the following two paragraphs in succession:
The loudmouths should allow Hizzoner’s panel to do its work. Our 1960s-era activists should recognize that “this due process thing” (as a media colleague calls it) applies to police chiefs, even to police officers.
Overseers of our law enforcement agencies ought to appreciate the requirement that complaints get acted upon quickly, or dismissed. Our cops have a pretty tense job, filled with judgment calls. It makes no sense to leave a line officer, working under pressure, hung up in the city’s preoccupation with “process.”
So we should recognize that due process applies to police officers, but when dealing with police officers, we shouldn’t be preoccupied with “process?” Huh?
I caught a lot of grief for my post last week calling for Kerlikowske to resign. Since then, another group, the Minority Executive Director’s Coalition (MEDC), has also called for the chief to be replaced. And James Kelly of the Urban League, who was originally defending Kerlikowske, now also agrees that the chief should be explaining himself in writing when he fails to act on the recommendations of the existing police oversight panel.
The evidence that there’s a problem with oversight at SPD has been pretty substantial since the beginning of this story and has been well documented by both The Seattle Times and The Stranger. So when Connelly invokes the idea of this just being about “1960’s-era activists”, that’s when I tune him out. As someone who was born after the end of the Vietnam War, I don’t carry any of that baggage. Instead, I’ve seen a different set of civil rights issues – the Rodney King trial, “Driving While Black”, record numbers of African-Americans being hauled off to our prisons, many of them for doing things that well-off white kids get away with every day. In my lifetime, I haven’t seen the racial divide in this country disappear as much as I’ve seen it ignored. Progressives proclaim that affirmative action is saving the black community but then bury their heads in the sand about why we have 6 times the percentage of African-Americans in jail than South Africa ever had of their native population under Apartheid. And some of the worst states in this trend are blue states like California, Illinois, and New York.
As I mentioned in last week’s post, according to a survey from 2000-2001, Seattle’s racial disparity in drug arrests is higher than any other city of comparable size in the United States. It shouldn’t be a surprise then that this case is focused on two cops (one with a long history of problems with the black community) who made a drug arrest this January of a black man in a wheelchair who claims that the cops planted drugs on him and later roughed him up while in custody. After video of the arrest surfaced showing some inaccuracies with the officer’s report (and not showing any clear evidence that drugs were taken from the suspect), the charges against the man were dismissed. This case, and the way that both the chief and the mayor have been quick to defend the police involved, have been at the heart of the calls for Kerlikowske to resign. There simply isn’t an excuse for the mayor and the chief to be so incurious as to what really happened to George Patterson that night.
Newark, NJ mayor Cory Booker, a Rhodes’ Scholar who came into office determined to fix the endless violence that has plagued that city, is now pointing his finger at the drug war and calling it an economic genocide against black communities. But here in Seattle, where the black community has less clout, the mayor and the chief happily continue the war. This case obviously goes well beyond just drug law enforcement, as The Stranger continues to find new instances of general police brutality against people of color here. But the guise of keeping drugs out of the black community is the mandate that problem officers like Greg Neubert have in order to treat every person in the black community as a suspect. It’s a recipe that begs for situations to escalate.
Connelly ends his column by making a comparison to the oversight of road repair and wondering why people who are angry at the Department of Transportation can’t stir up the kind of shitstorms that people who are angry at the police can. I’ll explain that to him in more detail the next time I see him at DL, but it helps to look at the very last paragraph:
Leaving rubber behind on Second Avenue, a fiendish thought flashed across my mind: “If only I were a street drug dealer, protesting a bust, I could raise hell in this town.”
He’s referring to Patterson, the man arrested in January. There’s only one problem. Patterson insists he’s not a dealer, and the charges were dropped. And basic common sense tells you that a man in a wheelchair isn’t a very effective person to have as a street dealer in a business where people steal from and shoot each other. But for Joel Connelly and much of Seattle’s “progressive” community, due process may not be for everyone. And sometimes, the relationship between Democrats and the black community can be eerily similar to the relationship between Republicans and the military.