Your new, reformed SPD

The 14-year-old son of a friend of ours – a straight-arrow kid who attends a prestigious private school – was out jogging around Green Lake this evening when he was “detained” by SPD for, well, being out jogging. He didn’t have any ID on him (he’s a 14-year-old out jogging, fer crissakes), but at least he knew “how to behave” – yes sir, no sir, etc. His mother had to leave a school function to go get him.

Did I mention his father is black?

This is the sort of incident that doesn’t show up on statistics; and if it happened to this kid, you can bet it happens a lot. Why? Because all the controversy over how SPD treats communities of color, the DoJ report, the consent decree, new monitoring provisions, all of it, has not filtered down to the officer in the field. At all. And that’s the responsibility of SPD leadership and City Hall – starting with Mayor Mike McGinn – officials who have loudly denied any problems with SPD policing and who have fought accountability and reform, tooth and nail, for years. The egregious incidents – the ones that make the papers – may cost the city money, but they’re applauded outside the public eye by a lot of the rank and file as well as by SPD leadership. They set the tone, and this is the sort of thing that results.

Our friend’s son is OK now. But when his mother – who is a bit sheltered about these things but tonight is understandably spitting mad – asked him what he needed to do, he had a succinct answer:

“Be white.”

Ladies and gentlemen, your Seattle Police Department.


  1. 3

    Deathfrogg spews:

    He’s lucky he didn’t get shot. Cops all over the country are realizing the law doesn’t apply to them, and in other cities, they’d have just shot the kid in the back and then figured out what to charge him with after the fact. It’s been happening in Chicago, New York City, Boston, Miami, Las Vegas, Los Angeles etc. Cities that have outsourced their hiring, screening, testing and training to private companies like Blackwater (whatever it calls itself now) and Corrections Company of America.

    Cops know they can commit cold-blooded murder on duty and no matter what, the Union and the Department will back them up. They might be chastised for it, they might even occasionally lose their job. But they’re never, ever prosecuted.

  2. 4

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @3 Not true. Some of the New Orleans cops who gunned people down during Katrina are in jail. It’s rare for cops to be prosecuted for unjustified use of lethal force, but it occasionally happens.

  3. 5

    John Ullman spews:

    You don’t have to be black to be profiled. And being stopped doesn’t mean you are being profiled. In the ’60’s having a beard was part of the profile. I was just starting mine, and in my second year at Reed College in Portland, when I was stopped and detained by an officer. He kept me in his car, we chatted, and then a report came over his radio that some other officers had chased a guy meeting my description out of a restaurant. The officer shooed me out of his car, and sped off.

    My son is half Asian, and he has been profiled by schools, store owners, and the police for years. He is a talented architect, and when he was in his twenties and working for Frank Gehry, he made his fashion statement by having his head shaved and driving old Cadillac beaters. He got stopped all the time, and was generally cut loose as soon as he opened his mouth and spoke good English. He thought it was all pretty funny until an officer started to draw his gun when he reached for his registration.

    There is a big difference, of course, being profiled if you have the privilege of education, if not wealth, than when you don’t. That said, I also know that police risk their lives for us, and we take that for granted. I’m not excusing the police for treating us badly. But I’m not going to excuse the wide spread attitude of demeaning and disrespecting the police either. If we want better behavior from police, we have to recognize the important role they play in society and treat them politely. Not out of fear, but out of respect for the difficult job they do.

  4. 6

    Deathfrogg spews:

    @ 5 JU

    That “respect” is something that needs to be earned. Every single day, we read in the news about Officers torturing people to death. We read about Officers murdering people in the streets, unarmed people, nonresisting people. People running from an armed maniac dressed like a homeless person, as was the case with Amadou Diallo.

    All they have to do is follow their “training” which includes screaming “STOP RESISTING” over and over and over while they’re beating, tasering and pepper spraying someone to death. That training includes using whatever force they deem necessary to escalate a situation from a minor infraction into a felony. I have seen exactly that, up close and personal with the goddamn Seattle Fucking Police Department.

    I was told, straight up and in no uncertain terms to stop calling 911 or I would be arrested, after reporting three fires (one fatal) and an attempted murder in my old neighborhood there. All while one cop had me backed up to a wall, and yelling in my face, while his partner was rifling through my apartment because I had called the cops for the 3rd time in 2 months.

  5. 7

    Liberal Scientist is a Dirty Fucking Socialist Hippie spews:

    Along the lines of the misapplication of police power….read this, from Digby.

    But setting aside the hideous authoritarian implications of setting up these para-military police forces in towns as small as this all over the country, you’d think we might be taking a good hard look at the costs of these things since we are allegedly in a debt squeeze so severe that we are thinking of asking the elderly, the sick and the poor and middle class give up essential services that will result in loss of life. They would seem to me to be at least as important as the non-existent terrorists of Johnston, Rhode Island.

    Part of owning the most massive military in history, and paying an outrageous fraction of our collective worth on it, and basing our relationship with the world on which group of brown people we bomb next, is the inevitable pollution of our freedoms via the militarization of our culture.

  6. 8

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @5 “If we want better behavior from police, we have to recognize the important role they play in society and treat them politely. Not out of fear, but out of respect for the difficult job they do.”

    There are three rules for behaving around the police:

    1. Preface your answer to every question with “sir.”
    2. Keep your paws where they can see them at all times.
    3. Don’t argue; disagree by saying “can I call my lawyer now?”

  7. 10

    Michael spews:

    Hell, here in Gig Harbor it wouldn’t have mattered what color the kid’s skin was. A teenaged male is bound to be guilty of something…

  8. 11

    No time for Fascists spews:

    @8. There is wisdom in those rules.
    And it is out of fear. They have guns and are allowed to use them. After all, they can always find you guilty of something.