The Seattle Police Department's media relations unit has lost two officers who were—in my humble opinion—a couple of total jackasses. Detective Jeff Kappel and Detective Mark Jamieson (but mostly Kappel) were truculent, defensive, and opaque. If they bothered to pick up the phone, they withheld information like it was their job. Kappel had been a lapdog to the right-wing-union-beloved, totally-bumbling interim chief, Harry Bailey, who will be replaced by a permanent chief soon. In a statement released yesterday, the SPD wished the pair the "best of luck" after transferring them to the criminal investigations unit.
Nobody will miss them.
The biggest problem at the SPD for the last five years—besides needlessly beating people, which led to a federal court order to cut out the excessive use of force—was the SPD being opaque when it needed to be transparent. Calling the media office was like playing roulette: Sometimes you'd get the outstanding Sergeant Sean Whitcomb, who would pull up incident reports, put you in touch with the right officers, and find answers to your questions. And sometimes you'd get one of these two clowns, who acted like they were professionally playing 20 questions. That problem got worse a few months ago when Sergeant Whitcomb was put on ice during a bullshit personnel dispute between himself and the right-wing cop union president, so Whitcomb wasn't even in the media office—instead it was like Russian roulette with six bullets in the chamber.
A toxic media bureau is not not just a problem for insidery reporters who deal with spokespeople (and I've heard lots of reporters lament Kappel, in particular). A poorly run SPD media office means that the general public gets news stories that are incomplete, skewed, and otherwise tarnished because the spokespeople refuse make the department transparent. Sometimes the media office created a total clusterfuck on major criminal cases. In the last few years, that eroded public trust when the SPD needed it most.
But things are turning around—Whitcomb is back this week and these guys are gone. This is the first bright sign of turnaround under the Murray Administration. Kappel and Jamieson have been replaced with Officer Patrick Michaud and Officer Drew Fowler. Welcome, guys.
UPDATE: Sergeant Whitcomb just called, and, because he is a consummate gentleman, he stood up for the two cops who are leaving his division. Referencing this post, he said, "I would object to the tone, and I value the contributions that Mark and Jeff have provided."