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Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Council Member's Reaction

Today the Seattle Post Intelligencer ran an article about how some people in Seattle are more at risk for being falsely accused of "obstruction" (otherwise known as "Contempt Of Cop"), which is often a cover for police brutality, as part of it's ongoing series called "The Strong Arm of The Law".

It was a pretty damning piece of investigative work that, as usual, resulted in police guild members and other officers circling their wagons to pretend that nothing is wrong and how they just don't need any oversight.

Seattle City Council member Nick Licata had his own take on the article in his "Urban Politics" newsletter, part of which I've decided to post here.

"...In the Post-Intelligencer this morning there is a special report titled: "Obstructing Justice - Blacks are arrested on "Contempt of Cop" Charge at Higher Rate." A trio of investigative reporters reviewed tens of thousands of pages of use-of-force reports, internal investigations and internal memos. Also more than 300 Municipal Court obstruction cases as well as civil suits against the city were reviewed. The picture that emerges is not a pretty one.

It asks, if not screams out, what is to be done? Seattle, unlike some other cities, does not track obstructing and similar arrests as a way to help identify problem officers. Why not? Is it because the result could be disciplining some officers? And if that occurred it would have to be negotiated with the union, the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG).

The City is currently trying to get SPOG to agree to the Mayor's Police Accountability Panel recommendations for greater police accountability to the public. SPOG's leadership apparently turned down an offer to buy these accountability measures from the union through a compounded 23.8% wage increase.

It is a situation that can breed cynicism about achieving a civilian oversight system. I try to keep my spirit in believing that we can achieve a fair and equitable system for both civilians and police. But when I read these reports it shakes my resolve. I want to believe that we can achieve justice, in Seattle, in the U.S. and even in Iraq. It certainly will take hope but it will also demand leadership. And leadership should not come every four years or just during election season.

I hear a call from the public whether it be national or local, for our elected representatives to stand up for principles; the principles that make our democracy a truth and not a lie. It is not a time to be timid. My hope is that our elected leaders hear that refrain and have the will to rise up and meet that challenge both in Seattle and across the country."

Indeed, many of us in Seattle can only hope and pray that the mayor and council have the courage and strength of character to continue the effort to bring a working system of accountability and oversight to the Seattle Police Department despite the constant efforts of the Seattle Police Officer's Guild to fight by using threats and scare tactics against the will of the people, transparent government, and the fair application of law and justice.

For some of us... especially those of us who have suffered unduly at the hands of unaccountable police officers... accountability reforms are the only hope we have left to feel safe in our own community once again, to walk with our children in our own city without fear, and to have faith again that those sworn to protect us won't harm us instead.

Please... don't give up on the idea of hope, don't give up on our hopes, the hopes of this city... lest we are forced to give in to fear.

*bumped because I thought Licata's statement was so well put.

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