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Dangerous Disconnect

Part 2: Controversial History of Officer Greg Neubert

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Less than a week after The Stranger published a report about the work history and reputation of Officer Greg Neubert, one of the two Seattle cops involved in the May 31 Aaron Roberts shooting, both The Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer followed suit. On July 4, both of Seattle's daily papers featured write-ups of Neubert's career. However, there was a big difference between the dailies' findings and our findings.

And it's no wonder. While the two dailies relied solely on the Seattle Police Department's file on Neubert, we compiled our report by looking through court documents arising from Neubert's arrest cases and by talking with Central District neighbors. (Neubert, 35, has worked the Central District beat for most of his nine-year career.)

Our reporting ["Court Documents Reveal Officer Greg Neubert's Controversial History," Amy Jenniges, June 28] found an alarming picture of an officer who physically and verbally bullied civilians, gave faulty court testimony, and--similar to Neubert's current account about being dragged by Aaron Roberts' car--complained that civilians were attacking him.

"Neubert is the one we know most about," Lonnie Nelson, an activist with Mothers for Police Accountability (MFPA), told The Stranger. MFPA keeps files on citizen complaints against police officers.

In contrast, the Times and P-I's July 4 articles offered glowing accounts of Neubert, featuring commendations from police supervisors and letters logged in police files from happy Central District business owners.

To be fair, both the P-I and Times ran earlier articles giving the microphone to some of Neubert's critics. However, these "critical" articles (like the Post-Intelligencer's "Officers involved in fatal shooting bow out of awards program") featured several positive accounts about Neubert (some of which were repeated in last week's articles) and included minimal testimony from Central District residents. Also, both articles gave the last word over to Neubert's supporters. "These officers [Neubert and his partner, Craig Price] have a great deal of respect for... the African American community," the P-I article quoted an anonymous SPD officer as saying. "They work down there, they care for the people, and that's the bottom line."

Unfortunately, while these "critical" articles seem to have gone out of their way to water down the negative aspects of Neubert's record, last week's pro-Neubert articles (the Times story was headlined "Two officers' files full of praise") did not provide any opposition to the SPD's rosy point of view.

"If somebody reads that article," complains Robert Daniels, a hair-cutter and cosmetologist at Mana Beauty Supply on 23rd Avenue East and East Union Street, "they're going to think the police were upstanding, just doing their job. That's not the whole truth."

While it's annoying that neither Times reporter Ian Ith nor P-I reporter Vanessa Ho appear to have headed into the neighborhood to look beyond the police's own internal account ("My editor told me to just write up the police reports," says P-I reporter Ho), there's something more troubling at play here: Why is there such a disconnect between what the SPD thinks about Officer Neubert and what people in the neighborhood where he works think of him?

Cheif Gil Kerlikowske did not return our calls, but Central District neighbors were happy to talk.

"I thought it was absurd to see how much he [Neubert] was praised here," says Guy Thomas, weekend night manager at Philly's Best Steaks & Hoagies at 23rd and Union, pointing to the Seattle Times write-up of the SPD's records. Thomas, a tall 33-year-old black man, adds, "What I've heard from customers is not the same picture. It's not a good picture."

"I have friends that have been arrested by Neubert," says Kisha McCraney, an 18-year-old black woman, as she gets into her car in the Philly's parking lot. "One of my friends got pulled over by Neubert for no reason at all. He wasn't speeding or anything. This was just a couple of months ago. He was on a back street, and when he saw Neubert he went onto a bigger residential street because he knows how Neubert is. Neubert came over, dragged my friend out of the car, and handcuffed him."

McCraney's friend Evonne Stout, a 28-year-old black woman, thinks she knows why there's a disconnect between the cops' vision of Neubert and the community's version. "Of course the police are going to be on Neubert's side," she says. "They need everybody to look at the police as 'gentlemen.' They need everybody to trust the police." Does Stout trust the police? She rolls her eyes. "Just because they're police officers doesn't mean they're nice."

josh@thestranger.com

 

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