Five Things We Should Do Right Now to Improve Police Oversight in Seattle

The Case of SPD Officer Cynthia Whitlatch Shows That Police Oversight in Seattle Needs to Be Radically Improved

Comments

1
The Police have lost touch with the community. It would be good if they got to know some of the community they serve. Maybe if the cops took the time to get to know some of us maybe they wouldn’t automatically assume that a minority with a hoody on is a “thug” and maybe if we got to know the cops we wouldn’t assume that every other cop is a threat to shoot and kill us.
Like back in the day there was Officer Friendly who would come to school and educate us about drugs, crime etc. Officers driving down the street would randomly stop and give away Seahawks, Sonics and Mariners trading cards to us kids.
If the Police got to know the community by being involved with the community that would be good.

2
We're still awaiting any hint of accountability for the officers, their partners, their supervisors, and applicable internal investigators who conspired to commit and cover up violations of the United States Constitution 20% of the time that force was used by SPD staff for many years. The U.S. Department of Justice found rampant violations of law committed by our public servants, but those people and co-conspirators have yet to be publicly identified, much less punished.
3
In older but related news - the SPD doing what they do:
http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/M…
4
When trying to get reform at SPD it is helpful for both sides to know the others language so they don't talk past each other.

RCW 9.94A.825"...a deadly weapon is an implement or instrument which has the capacity to inflict death and from the manner in which it is used, is likely to produce or may easily and readily produce death. The following instruments are included in the term deadly weapon: Blackjack, sling shot, billy, sand club, sandbag, metal knuckles, any dirk, dagger, pistol, revolver, or any other firearm, any knife having a blade longer than three inches, any razor with an unguarded blade, any metal pipe or bar used or intended to be used as a club, any explosive, ..." That is why the Assistant Chief and Captain refer to the golf club as such. They see anything that could be used to inflict serious injury or death as a potential deadly weapon. On any stop, no matter how minor they want to see the hands of the person they are investigating and make sure those hands are empty of anything that could be used as a deadly weapon. They live in a world where things go from routine to someone filling their hand with a deadly weapon and using it to effect before a cop can fill their hand with a deadly weapon of their own.

Where Mason, et. al. had a good case to make was the "manner in which it is used" language. Their argument, and those of other reformers, is that nothing in the video shows the golf club being used in a manner that would convert it from cane to a deadly weapon.

The whole case against Whitlatch hinges on whether Whitlatch, as she alleges under oath in her police report, saw Wingate swinging it her direction at any point or swinging it at a stop sign. The video does not capture that, but that could be because it occurred before the video is turned on, outside the field of view of the video, or where the camera's field of view, but not Whitlatch's, was blocked by cars. To make the case against her, for disciplinary action, or in civil court, it has to be more probable than not, based on evidence (e.g. she could not have seen what she reports to have seen because a building was in the way, surrounding business video does not show him doing what she alleges, when and where she alleges she saw him doing that, not just whether you subjectively believe her or not, that she did not see Wingate use the golf club in a manner that would make it a deadly weapon.

That does not mean that there aren't issues with Whitlatch or SPD's culture in general. To get past those to some real reform, it isn't helpful to have meeting where one side says, "He had a weapon in his hand" an the other says, "no he didn't". The might have gotten farther in that meeting had Mason et. al. said, "It could be a weapon, but can you show me in the video, Chief Metz, where it is being used in a manner that takes it from being a cane to a weapon as the statute requires?" "You believe your officer was mistaken when she states she believes the video captured the golf club being used in a manner that made it a weapon, and you believe your officer when she asserts that outside of what is on the video, that the club was used in a manner that made it a weapon. We don't because of our lived experience with the police and don't think the broader community does either."

It's really the last two sentences that are the issue and the Assistance Chief and Captain could not have disputed that. It is what Mason and those she represents believe. Then we can have a discussion about how to change that and SPD ought to recognize It is their interest to have the community believe something different.

5
Until the SPOG contract changes, nothing changes. The scope of OPA's authority is negotiated in that contract, so it's no surprise OPA has no ability to discipline, only report.

Murray is currently negotiating a new contract with SPOG. He needs to be held accountable for what he allows in there. We all need to be telling him (and everyone else we know) this.
6
The elephant in the room is that you, oh perfect little angels and saints, aren't exactly into the idea of signing up to become cops. Instead, the people you hate become cops. People who don't even live on The Hill, but from working class areas like Renton. Guys with TRUCKS(!) and who were probably in Amerikkka's armed forces. But not you. You're too chickenshit to do it yourself. So the question is how can we encourage the pansies to become cops and create a new police culture built on the principles of warm fuzzies, and no cold pricklies? Perhaps vintage police unis and Vespas instead of squad cars? ??

I mean are any of you going to sign up to put your life on the line, or shall we just be content to call up the fascist pigs to bail you out when you're in danger?

tl;dr "WE NEED BETTER COPS!" -group of people who would never, ever, become cops.
7
"all SPD employees, per department policy, have an "affirmative duty" to notify his office about any allegation of misconduct against an officer, whether the person making the allegation wants to file a complaint with the OPA or not."

The individual SPD officers all seem to be big giant pussies. It doesn't surprise me in the least that not even a meeting with Dawn Mason was enough to trigger an OPA report. Cops defend other cops for behavior that would get any other person fired or arrested. They are afraid of being called a snitch by their fellow officers, and they are afraid that they will eventually need the cover supplied by fellow officers when they fuck up. The thin-blue-line is the very definition of a good-ol-boys network.

IMO Metz and Davis need to have official Letters of Reprimand put into their files as punishment for the cover-up. And at the very least, Deputy Chief Carmen Best should have made an inquiry to make sure it was on OPA radar.
8
@6, Making improvements to oversight and accountability seem like a more appropriate response to a systemic issue than firing the entire force and replacing them with, uh, pansies, but it probably isn’t as rewarding as calling people chickenshit for expecting better of the police who serve them but choose not to change careers to become cops themselves. I mean it's a pretty dumb criticism if you think about it for a second, but considering this is not the first time you've said the exact same thing, you apparently haven't thought about it at all.
9
@2: Exactly, Phil... I pointed that out many times when it was first reported... how can the DOJ admit such a thing but then not prosecute them? And notice all the players in the Whitlatch saga who had an affirmative duty to report to OPA, who didn't... where's the discipline/firing for them? As long as SPOG and Satterberg have as much power as they do in this town, and the DOJ is not willing to do much more than demand reporting and logging, cops will keep doing things the way they want to. None of our elected leaders have the balls to speak out about what's really going on... it's all a big show.

Another thing we're still waiting for has to do with the crime-within-the-crime after Birk killed John Williams. Go back and read the stories about the inquest... you had SPD brass testifying in defense of Birk there, trying to do what they could to avoid any possibility of charges, and an inquest precedent SPOG/SPMA didn't want to see happen. And yet at the same time, the Firearms Review Board was working on their scathing report that said the exact opposite (i.e., the truth), to placate public opinion. But look how it was all orchestrated... one SPD group defends Birk at the inquest... then after a period of time, Satterberg refuses to file charges against Birk. Then, and *only then*, after he's free of charges, the FRB group releases their searing rebuke of Birk's actions to satisfy public opinion and sacrifice him.

Who arranged that contradictory and criminal two-pronged approach? How come no journalist or elected leader ever questioned it? Even Sawant isn't on top of these things like she should be. It's all a big farce... the criminals at SPD are still where they were all along, and everybody's afraid to upset the apple cart, or even to ask the hard questions.
10
This obscure, underfunded woebegottenlittle backwater of SPD might as well be called the Office of Police Non-Accountability. It has tiny branches nationwide.