June 15, 2020 at 3:57 pm #980882
Last week, I received a heart-rending letter sent to family and friends from a young woman I’ve known and loved since she was a toddler. She was raised here, and she and her husband lived in West Seattle until just recently. They were both very active here in civic organizations, she as a social services director and he as a cop.
We’re grateful to have had peaceful and meaningful demonstrations of community support for the black community here in West Seattle. But there has been violence elsewhere in our city. My friend feels that folks are not getting any perspective on SPD, and what the force and their families are going through. A number of you might even know and respect this couple from their community work, but I’ve omitted her name to protect them. Her letter follows. It’s long, but worth reading.
I am asking that you please take a few minutes to read this. After days of violence in Seattle, I feel it is important for you to hear my perspective as someone who is both an advocate for social justice and wife of a Seattle Police Officer.
We are locals but I met my husband while working as a teacher in South Central L.A. When I heard that he wanted to be a police officer someday like his father, I probably cringed inside. At the time, I didn’t personally know any cops and believed the stereotype (that many have right now) that people often become police officers because they are power hungry and corrupt.
As I got to know him better, I learned about the role his father played with the Seattle Police Department helping victims of internet crimes against children. My respect for my future father-in-law grew as I realized he was fighting to keep some of the most marginalized and vulnerable populations safe. His job meant he had to see and deal with horrifying situations that no one should have to deal with, a sacrifice he was willing to make to help get a child out of a sexually abusive situation or a young teen out of human trafficking.
When my husband started the police academy and then eventually became a police officer, I got an insider’s view of the complicated roles police officers play to protect the public and also ensure that they can go home safely at the end of their shift. I also saw the numerous trainings, the high level of accountability, and the scrutiny cops are under daily while doing their jobs in the city of Seattle.
For several years, I worked at a social service agency and my husband worked at a precinct right down the street. He spent a lot of nights doing community talks in local neighborhoods to create trust and build relationships amongst the community and police. He often referred community members who were in need of resources to my organization. We spent a lot of time talking about the deep-rooted systemic problems within our society and what part we played in making progress in the right direction. I think it was around that time that I truly fell in love with him.
Becoming part of the Seattle police family completely changed my perspective on police officers. The Seattle police force is a diverse mix of people from different races, sexual orientations and backgrounds. I have never experienced such a cohesive group of people who are authentically themselves and respect each other and their diversity. It is almost a model for how the rest of the community can build diverse relationships. I’ve learned how the Seattle Police Department has been a leader in police reform for over a decade: they must follow very specific protocol, and have oversight from a variety of community groups while maintaining a high level of transparency with the actions they take every day.
Throughout my husband’s career, he has put his life on the line again and again to arrest individuals with extensive violent criminal histories. These are dangerous people in the community who have committed heinous crimes like murder, rape, and running organized prostitution rings. My husband now works as a bicycle officer in downtown Seattle. As a bicycle officer, he has been a part of hundreds of protests in a city that has demonstrated national leadership in peaceful protests.
I have never felt more worried in my life over the current status of things in our nation today. The death of George Floyd was disturbing and immensely sad. My husband was upset and angry when he heard about George Floyd’s murder. He knew it NEVER should have happened and the cop should be charged with murder. Seattle police officers were outraged along with the community and nation.
I expected protests. I didn’t expect what they would evolve into night after night after peaceful protesters went home. For many nights my husband and his fellow officers had to endure conditions that are unacceptable. SPD cops are human, therefore not perfect. But they have shown remarkable training and restraint under very trying conditions.
In the evenings, individuals in the crowds have carried baseball bats, wood shields, metal poles, sticks with screws, large rocks, cinder blocks, bricks, fireworks like M-80s, Molotov cocktails, improvised explosives, lighter fluid, and frozen water bottles to name a few. They have written signs and graffiti that say “Kill Cops” and “All Cops Must Die.” Their rhetoric has consisted of things like, “Take your gun and shoot yourself in the head.” Some council members validated that message by saying their anger was justified.
My husband has been punched in the head. He’s been hit with rocks, gallon milk jugs, and numerous other objects. He’s been sprayed with bear mace. Fellow officers have gone to the hospital from having explosive devices and objects like cinder blocks hurled at them. He has personally removed hammers and knives from individuals. Another night my husband told me his job was to locate a group of individuals and remove their homemade explosives. My husband has been told by multiple people that they are going to look up his name and track down his family to kill them. My husband has asked me to deactivate my social media pages because people are threatening to follow cops home and kill their families. Some are looking to social media to gather details on family members.
One night my husband’s precinct was greatly outnumbered by a crowd trying to break into his precinct to light it on fire. That night I felt sick to my stomach when I briefly talked to him on the phone while he was inside the precinct. I could tell by his voice that he was concerned for his safety and that of his fellow officers. The night before, multiple rows of fences were set up around the East Precinct. People cut the last fence and created sharp objects facing the police and then moved the other fences. The police were told to stand down. The East Precinct is now boarded up and empty. What happens when the people of this community need a police officer to protect their safety? It could be you and they won’t be nearby. [NOTE: SPD is still responding to 911 calls in the area.]
All I hear from the media, mayor, and city council is how police were inciting crowds and instigating violence. Some city council members are now asking to dismantle the Seattle Police Department because of their actions during the protests. Often, using flashbangs and gas was the only way to disperse the crowds. Police are being told to no longer use gas. Yet it is a useful tool to protect themselves and disperse crowds in the least violent way, often hours after a set curfew and many reminders from police to leave the area. They have only used gas once crowds have turned violent and it becomes a public safety concern. Ask yourself honestly if you could withstand the abuse, tension, long hours and the danger without having recourse to some defensive self-protective actions when safety becomes an issue. Then ask yourself honestly if you would ever in a million years take this extremely risky and unappreciated job in the first place.
My husband has worked 17-hour days for days on end. Yesterday he worked from noon until 6 am this morning and has only had a day off to work from home to catch up on paperwork. His father, who had been working from home as part of the vulnerable Covid population, was called in to work 16-hour days amongst thousands of people when the riots started. The Seattle Police Department is already understaffed and crime rates have risen in Seattle over the last few years. There aren’t enough officers for 911 calls as it is. My husband is called in frequently on his days off because the department is so understaffed. If the city defunds the police department as Seattle City Councilmembers are now calling for, crime will only get worse and the safety of our community members will be more in jeopardy. Many good officers are looking to leave the department because they are doing their best but feel little support from leadership or the community they have sworn to protect.
Why? Because these conditions are unacceptable for our public servants and the narrative most are hearing about the Seattle Police Department is extremely misleading. It amplifies fear and anger at our police officers and creates more division within our community. Not all police departments across the country are the same. The Seattle Police have been at the forefront of change and they keep working at it. My husband is frustrated that years of work towards reform and building trust in the community has been completely lost.
I see systemic racism in all facets of society and law enforcement is one of them. I understand why people are upset. As a community we are crying out for peace, love, and equity. We all want change. I just wish people were getting the message that our local police officers want it too. Friends, please realize that you can be an advocate for Black Lives Matters and change, while also supporting our local police. We are going to have to solve these issues together! If I hadn’t met my husband or his father, I might not know or understand this myself because that story is not out there. That’s why I am reaching out to tell it.
Nothing justifies what was happening night after night to our local officers, who were doing their best to balance the civil rights of peaceful protesters, curb violence, protect citizens, property and themselves. Our city leaders need to hear you tell them that. Please take the time to contact them. Thank you.
Mayor Jenny Durkan
Lisa Herbold-District 1
Tammy Morales-District 2
Kshama Sawant-District 3
Alex Pedersen-District 4
Debora Juarez-District 5
Dan Strauss-District 6
Andrew Lewis-District 7
Teresa Mosqueda-City Wide
Lorena Gonzalez-City Wide & Council President
Lorena.firstname.lastname@example.orgJune 15, 2020 at 6:20 pm #980905
1) You cannot in good faith judge protesters by their worst element and then argue against judging cops by their worst elements. And that is what this statement does.
2) The majority of police, once defunding is explained to them, are for it. Why? In the words of the Dallas Police Chief, back in 2016, “We’re asking cops to do too much in this country.” Once you explain that defunding means letting police focus on policing, rather than tending to lost dogs or noise complaints or mental health crises, police are all for it–because it narrows the focus, something that will help with the very real issue of over-worked cops that you mention.
3) Defunding police departments is one of the best ways to help police. Read more:June 15, 2020 at 7:32 pm #980910
heartless. Re:#2. I’m betting police would LOVE not having to respond to the non violent issue’s you list. I doubt they asked to be social workers on wheel’s. My guess is they have to do it because nobody else will. Do you believe that now you’ll find people that want careers dealing with all the homeless, mentally ill, domestic abuser’s? How will these new city employees make things better? Will they make these social problem’s decrease? Will society really be “safer? Re#3. If we defund now will all the people that want that to happen be available to defend their demands if it turns out it didn’t cure everything they promised it would?June 15, 2020 at 8:26 pm #980911
I find it telling that you doubt there are people who want to deal with “…the homeless, mentally ill, domestic abuser’s[sic]”. Not only are there people who want to deal with them, there are people who already willingly do it for far less than police are paid. The police do NOT fill these roles because nobody else will–they fill these roles because that is the way the system is currently set up.
“How will these new city employees make things better? Will they make these social problem’s decrease? Will society really be “safer?”
How will they make things better? They will be trained to specifically address different issues. Specialization is a good thing! Who would be better equipped to deal with a stray dog chasing people through a neighborhood: police, with less interest in animals and marginal at best training in animal handling and welfare, or people whose entire job is dealing with animals? And who do you think would RATHER deal with animals?
Let’s continue: Who do you think is better equipped to deal with someone who is mentally ill? Someone with years training in social work and someone who is not seen as an authority figure, or a cop who has almost no training in the matter and who so many of the mentally ill fear?
Answer those questions, and try to answer them honestly, and then ask yourself if society wouldn’t be safer.
“If we defund now will all the people that want that to happen be available to defend their demands if it turns out it didn’t cure everything they promised it would?”
Honestly, I don’t really know what you were trying to say here, it came out rather garbled. If you care to try your question again I’d be happy to respond, but, really, that question makes no sense to me, and suggests you might not actually understand the mechanisms behind defunding and systemic change.June 15, 2020 at 9:27 pm #980915
If defunding and reimagining SPD makes thing’s better i’m all for it. I’m not an expert.My concern is that the new way turn’s out to not be the cure that people think it is. If it is I will be happy to say “I was wrong” If it isn’t who will take ownership and accept responsibility? We want thing’s to be better-not just different.June 15, 2020 at 9:53 pm #980916
I hear you. I’m not sure anyone sees these changes as a cure, anymore than removing a spear from someone’s body is a cure. Maybe think of it, instead of a cure, as just a step in the right direction?
That said, we’ve tried the current system for what, a hundred years? And it’s not working. So I’m thinking a new approach might be worth a go. And at the very least it will take a lot of pressure off of our police force, relieving them of tasks that they were never trained for, and never really wanted to do in the first place.June 16, 2020 at 8:31 am #980933
Thank you for sharing this letter on the blog. I had tears in my eyes by the time I was done reading it. I was raised to always respect police officers, to do what I was told and not ever be disrespectful to them. Why? Because they put their lives on the line for us every single day. Yes, there are some that are bad, the majority are NOT.
I pray that your friends husband remains safe.June 17, 2020 at 7:22 pm #981053
Dave Chapelle “8:46” youtube.com
One thing I got from his words that I hadn’t thought of was the need for change within the police departments to allow fellow officers to speak up and step in when a fellow officer is out of line. Retaliation amongst the ranks keeps many from stepping in. I have to believe that is why fellow officers stood by with their hands in their pockets for 8 minutes and 46 seconds as one of their own had a knee on George Floyd’s neck.June 17, 2020 at 9:16 pm #981065
I mean, look at what T Rex wrote about how so many people have been raised–you respect the police, you do what they tell you, and you are never disrespectful to them. If you’ve been raised to believe all those things, and then you go and join the police and one day you see a fellow officer doing something you KNOW is wrong, it’s going to be REALLY hard to speak up and stop them. It’d be really hard for ANYONE to do that. So you don’t say anything–because you’ve been trained to not disrespect them, and because you fear (rightly!) retaliation, and because of peer pressure, and because of the power of the situation. This is (part of) why the system is so broken.June 18, 2020 at 9:06 am #981104June 18, 2020 at 10:14 am #981109
It’s very much worth reading, but to summarize, it demonstrates how the system within the force is engineered to produce and encourage bad cops.
A quote from the essay:
“And that’s the point of what I’m telling you. Whether you were my sergeant, legally harassing an old woman, me, legally harassing our residents, my fellow trainees bullying the rest of us, or ‘the bad apples’ illegally harassing ‘sh!tbags’, we were all in it together. I knew cops that pulled women over to flirt with them. I knew cops who would pepper spray sleeping bags so that homeless people would have to throw them away. I knew cops that intentionally provoked anger in suspects so they could claim they were assaulted. I was particularly good at winding people up verbally until they lashed out so I could fight them. Nobody spoke out. Nobody stood up. Nobody betrayed the code.
None of us protected the people (you) from bad cops.
This is why ‘All cops are bastards.’ Even your uncle, even your cousin, even your mom, even your brother, even your best friend, even your spouse, even me. Because even if they wouldn’t Do The Thing themselves, they will almost never rat out another officer who Does The Thing, much less stop it from happening.”June 18, 2020 at 10:46 am #981110
I often hear that the whole cop issue is complex. It isn’t.
We, as a society, grant a great deal of power to the police. We grant them the power to question, to detain, to arrest, confiscate, kick down doors, and incarcerate. Further, we arm them against us, we armor them against us, we grant them the power to use violence to assert their authority and will through a variety of means. We grant all of these powers and tools to the police with remarkably little oversight, other than themselves, little training, no real vetting, as compared to other nations, no real education requirements and virtually no real accountability.
What does society really get in return? According to the FBI police solve a mere 46% of violent crimes and 18% of property crimes. Police largely don’t prevent crimes because they aren’t omniscient or omnipresent. I’ve seen police completely uninterested in a report of my wife being assaulted with a car by a teenager in front of our house. I’ve called 911 and it took 30 minutes for the police to show up. I’e been handcuffed and bodily hurled into a police car simply for yielding to a cop with his lights on. I’ve been hurled onto the icy ground, in subzero temperatures, wearing only shorts and no shoes or socks with a foot in my back in my own front yard. My personal list goes on and, according to the news reports, my stories aren’t even the tip of the iceberg.
I am not sympathetic to the plight of the cop. It’s a thankless and dangerous job but it’s also one that cop’s are not compelled to keep. Most jobs are thankless and many are dangerous that have no ‘hero’ status attached to it.
Cop’s have the power to improve their standing as well. They could choose to do things differently, to hold one another accountable and to a higher standard. But they don’t do that. The close ranks around one who has transgressed. Cops could have improved their image on their own but they didn’t which required the intervention, in Seattle, of the Federal Dept. of Justice. That still hasn’t worked, so now we, the people want to take back the power we granted. Alas, it’s harder to take back than to give.
So, no, I don’t have any sympathy or sorrow for the cop. It’s their own damn fault. Instead of being those who protect and serve they, as an institution, chose to go the other way.
June 21, 2020 at 3:18 am #981327
- This reply was modified 2 years, 3 months ago by mark47n.
the author of this letter, if they even exist, is disingenuous at best. theres no evidence of all these weapons shes claiming protestors are armed with. her husband is getting tons of overtime pay for this horrible thankless job hes forced to do every day. Oh, my bad. Shes painted him out to be a hero cop… all the dangerous criminals hes protected us from!
this is bootlicking copaganda, and it makes me sick. Defund and Demilitarize the police.June 21, 2020 at 2:29 pm #981333
It is not the Police, it is the poor leadership in Seattle!
I truly support the Blues!!May 17, 2022 at 12:53 am #1034681May 24, 2022 at 2:44 am #1035281
Recently, I am writing several studies that address various social problems that arise in our society. In particular, these are problems of police brutality or racism. At https://graduateway.com/social-issues-essay-topics/ I read some analytical articles on this subject that help me write my research.May 25, 2022 at 5:21 pm #1035398
I will never forget how these police were acting way back before they were being investigated and had light shined on them. I realize it has been sometime now and alot of those officers arent there anymore, but it is still the same department and i just dont beleive much can have changed since thenMay 25, 2022 at 7:36 pm #1035404
Yeah… Youre wrong. People adversly interact with the police when they are engaged in law breaking OR adjacent to law breaking and being problematic.
Don’t want an adverse situation with police? Don’t break the law. Don’t associate with law breakers When questioned BY police, comply. Take notes. Videos. Witness accounts and sue later (if you’re wronged-but most often you’re not).
Realize that cops are people too. They want to hug their families too.May 27, 2022 at 1:32 pm #1035530May 27, 2022 at 7:54 pm #1035554
cheeseWS777.That sounds terrible!! Please elaborate. Clearly you have some examples of people being “taken”May 28, 2022 at 7:27 pm #1035631
Lynwood pr once made me to go stand handcuffed in some sprinklers or else they were going to pepper spray me. Sure i was guilty of shoplifting but that doesnt justify how they bullyed me with abuse of power. Another time i called an ambulance for myself and they took me to jail for being drunk. Want some more examples?May 28, 2022 at 7:27 pm #1035632May 29, 2022 at 6:19 am #1035644
Cheese, please do provide more examples. They tell quite a different story than the one you’re trying to sell, but they’re absolutely hilarious. We could all use the laughs.May 29, 2022 at 6:20 am #1035645
Enamor us with your legendary stories of law breaking. And then tell us how law enforcement (kinda perfect descptor ofvthe job) “bullies” you.
By the way “bullying” IS a despicable societal occurrence and you using it to describle lawful enforcement cheapens the word.
Stop breaking the law and stop being “bullied” by the police. It really IS that simple. 1+1=2May 29, 2022 at 11:58 am #1035655
Yes – please regale us with your fantastical stories of law breaking.
Your use of the word “bully” in conjunction with your lawful arrest for unlawful activities cheapens the word. There are people who ARE actually bullied, and your lackadaisical use belittles them further.
Don’t want to have dealings with law enforcement? Don’t break the law. Don’t associate with law breakers. It really IS that simple. 1+1=2
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