This is some pathetic news right here. Ron Smith, the veteran Seattle cop who represents about 1,200 Seattle police officers as the head of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, believes the federal government is waging a "war on cops."
On Sunday afternoon, someone from SPOG posted a link on its Facebook page to a video of commentary by Fox News contributor Kimberly Guilfoyle, who says, "The White House and this administration have created a war against police officers in this country with their allegations [and] false assertions that there is widespread and pervasive racism in the United States of America that lives in the heart and minds of the men and women in blue." SPOG added the caption, "Truth." It garnered 50 "likes."
Smith has since confirmed that he was the one who posted the link and wrote the caption. After I asked Mayor Ed Murray about the post, Smith (or someone) deleted it today. Murray said he strongly disagrees with Smith and said it "isn't a good sign" for reform efforts.
When I asked Smith via text message about his views, he tried to keep our conversation off the record, but then changed his mind: "Yep! The Administrations message has fueled the war on cops!! Quote me!!" Our full text message exchange is below:
I followed up with Smith over e-mail yesterday, asking him to more fully explain what he means by "war on cops." If there's a war being waged by the federal government, and SPD is under a Department of Justice consent decree, what does that look like? How are police officers fighting back?
But Smith said he doesn't want to "get into the weeds" about it. Now that SPOG has deleted the Facebook post, I sent Smith a message asking whether he's retracting the statements. No response.
"I absolutely disagree with his characterization," said Mayor Murray. "If anything, this president has helped lead an honest conversation about racial justice, not just about policing.
"I think it was wrong for him [Smith] to post it," Murray continued. "I'm a little taken aback that he posted to it, because he's said some fairly progressive things to you and to the media in general. He's been willing to step up and talk about how the police need to change their behavior on a whole series of issues."
Indeed. Smith told me in February that Seattle has a more progressive culture and that police officers should accept it or go somewhere else: "You applied here. And you have to treat people all the same. You have to serve the community. If you don't like the politics here, then leave and go to a place that serves your worldview." The message resonated nationwide, and Smith was hailed by some for breaking away from the insular and conservative culture that characterizes many police unions. But within his own union, he faced a backlash and calls for his resignation.
His present-day, apparently unapologetic belief that the Obama administration has created or is fueling a war on police departments across the country raises the question of whether Smith is really as progressive as he's presented himself. And it raises the question of whether Smith is actually changing SPOG's backward, conservative, circle-wagoning mentality—as does his strong defense of Officer Cynthia Whitlatch's conduct.
Murray, for his part, was endorsed by SPOG in his mayoral campaign and has dragged his feet on police reform. Both he and Chief Kathleen O'Toole have repeatedly praised Smith and called him a partner in the reform process.
But in the wake of these comments, Murray said Smith has "made the my job and the chief's job a lot more difficult... I've gotta find a way to bring this union along. But this is not a good sign. I have no positive spin that I can put on something like that. I think it sets us all back, and I don't think it can help us with the federal monitor or the federal court."
When I interviewed King County Sheriff John Urquhart earlier this summer, he said there's a "good ol’ boys network" at the Seattle Police Department, and that it needs to be done away with. In the absence of fundamental change within SPOG, or a direct and public challenge to this culture from Chief O'Toole, it appears that's not going to happen.
Here's the Fox News clip that Smith posted to SPOG's Facebook page:
"The White House and this administration have created a war against police officers in this country with their allegations [and] false assertions that there is widespread and pervasive racism in the United States of America that lives in the heart and minds of the men and women in blue." –Kimberly GuilfoyleSee more from tonight’s discussion here: http://bit.ly/1cqYcKM
Posted by The Five on Monday, May 11, 2015
This post has been updated.