News Jul 1, 2015 at 4:00 am

Police Chief Katheen O'Toole Says She's Willing to Dismiss Problem Officers. One Big Test of That Willingness Is Coming Right Up.

Chief Kathleen O'Toole says she has “no trouble” with the idea of firing bad cops. The proof should arrive this month. Alex Garland


In her defense, maybe she is waiting for the police accountability reform Ed Murray is supposed to be proposing? What's the point of firing any of them if they're just going to get back their jobs (and back pay for not working) later? To make a point? The only point that would make is the futility of the action and her own impotence.
While I agree that the Discipline Review Board needs to go, and SPOG members are given too much influence over their own performance assessments and discipline via their contract, I find the following statement reflective of The Stranger and very concerning:

"Even in circumstances that seem unambiguous and offensive to the average citizen, officers can appeal their firing through the union and get their jobs back."

That sounds like mob rule. Take a poll and register the public's sentiment of the moment, likely based on incomplete information, and "off with their job (head)!" Even when based on largely complete and accurate information, individual officers, or any government employee, is still a citizen and has a right to the protections of the rule of law. They have a right to rely on, and be judged by, the laws and employment rules in place at the time, not the prevailing public sentiment of the moment, or a premature rush to judgment.

Martin Luther King, Jr. fought hard to make sure that black citizens got equal protection under the law, not the treatment of the majority that disregarded law, rules, and procedure when it suited their sentiments or emotions. That work is not finished. The principals he fought for are very important, and need to be upheld, particularly when the person or persons being evaluated and their race or beliefs are not popular with the public passions of the moment. Some version of Jim Crow and mob "lynching" does not become appropriate just because decades later the perpetrators of mob rule and the victims may start to change. What King was fighting for was the rule of law for everyone, not just the racial or other majority sentiment of the day.

For fellow citizens that get their livelihood at the pleasure of a government employer, the absolute, (not relative to the public opinion of moment) standard is the RCW, SMC, workplace policies, and the precedent how they were applied to other employees in similar facts and circumstances. They have right to rely on that. It is not what "seem(s) unambiguous and offensive to the average citizen (mob)." And what if the issue isn't as it "seems"?
It makes absolutely no sense that we hold our cops to a lower standard than other professions. If a teacher picked on student because he or she was special needs that teacher would not be allowed to teach. If a doctor let his or her patient die because of the color of their skin that doctor's privilege to practice would be stripped. We just want to remove the public defenders who are the worst examples of humankind and are dirtying any good reputation SPD still possess. Why is that such a radical request?
@2 I can see where you're coming from, especially considering the painfully biased way many articles on the stranger are written, but in this case I interpreted that as the standard "what a reasonable person would consider," which tends to be a benchmark for many things that don't require beyond the shadow of a doubt. And when you are talking about whether a person keeps their job (not whether they go to jail), I think that is a reasonable benchmark. Especially when you're talking about complaints from people against those officers, not charges. So your suggestion is that police should get the benefit of the doubt all the way up to beyond the shadow of a doubt, just in case people are already feeling anti-police (which, in Seattle, is reasonable, especially considering the DOJ findings).

Instead, police officers, knowing the current anti-police sentiment, should be going out of their way to be professional because they should feel their jobs are on the line if they don't JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER SERVICE JOB.
Police officers are granted the benefit of the doubt because we ask them to do all of our dirty work and many of them are tasked with patrolling some extremely dangerous areas doing things most of us would never be able to bring ourselves to do.

On top of this, our country is obsessed with making sure any criminal can have as many guns as they want, either by our actions or our own inactions.

That we will trust their word is part of the coin we pay them with when we task them to do their jobs.

That being said, while I do not begrudge any workers who forge a strong union for themselves and the union for protecting its members, the days of having to rely on one side of the story every time are over, and the perniciousness of the blue wall of silence is becoming untenable.

A bipartisan, representative, and independent civilian review board is the only way I can see to solve these issues and respect the role of officers, and their unions. Let the board decide what happens, and let the union present a case before it.
There's some strict sense in which @2 is right; the simple fact that something "looks pretty bad" may not be sufficient to tell the whole story. The problem, of course, is in reality many, many cases of police abuse of power really pretty much is as simple--and bad--as it looks, and pretending the situation is far more complicated than it looks is a crucial tactic in evading responsibility. Bad cops rely on your attitude to get away with what they do.

@5 I don't begrudge the police (or, really, any group of workers) a strong union. I want the police well paid, with excellent benefits, and with a significant say over a variety of details about their job. But giving them a say in excessive force hearings--not just a set of procedural rights but the right to be their own judges--is so obviously and straightforwardly a conflict of interest that it should never have been even considered in negotiations.

(Ansel, your work on this topic continues to be outstanding and badly needed. Keep it up.)
I hope the good cops (probably well over 95% of SPD) can realize how much bad cops hurt the reputation of the entire force. Right now SPD has very little credibility, and SPOG seems like an enemy if the citizens of Seattle. If good SPD officers step up in the union, and back getting rid of some if these guys, public perception will change overnight.

As it is, I hope my 911 calls go to King County Sheriff.
I'm wondering when the Stranger will just be open about their position that the Officers' Guild should be eliminated. In other words, union busting.
"Unions are good"
SPOG may be a union but they call themselves a guild. A guild traditionally has two aspects: Making sure its members are treated fairly and making sure they maintain high standards in the conduct of their profession. If they don't do the second part, they shouldn't whine about the first part.
@9, yes, but when you're so lovingly employed by Tim Keck's org, no unions are needed here.
Dear Chief O'Toole: inaction in these cases only pushes more and more upstanding citizens into the ever-growing group of people who are realizing the cops can't be trusted. Sure, there are plenty of good cops, but if I'm wondering whether I should trust any random cop, I have to consider the worst case. I'm not a black male, and I'm generally not the type of person who's going to mouth off and get my ass beat. But if "Diamond Don" showed up at my house to respond to an incident (say, to take a burglary report), I'd personally be nervous and I don't know if I'd let him in. The fact that such a piece of shit not only got his job back but got back pay basically amounts to "misconduct gets you a $75k paid vacation and an assurance that you're untouchable." This is extremely bad news for anybody in Seattle who ever needs a cop. Do you think Officer George's behavior gets better or worse over time when there are no consequences for misconduct? Do you think this helps or hurts the public's willingness to cooperate with and trust the police? I don't know what mechanisms to correct this problem you have, but the current situation where SPOG effectively gets to veto any disciplinary action is a feedback loop leading to very bad police behavior. Everyone except bad cops should be crying out for a fix for this problem.
I really feel for SPD Chief Kathleen O'Toole---like President Obama, she's got a lot of shit to clean up! It's obvious that the Discipline Review Board and SPOG are shamefully ineffective, serve only the most corrupt of bad eggs within the system, and need a serious overhaul.
Where are the morally decent, non-corrupted Seattle cops? Are they being silenced or held at gunpoint by the kingpins in charge?

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