The Seattle Police Department's public relations campaign to "reimagine policing" in Seattle boils down to a monochrome webpage and a stilted video. Neither the webpage nor the video offer a ~*detailed plan*~ for "re-envisioning public safety," and neither acknowledge the reasons the public is calling for change to come. They're merely the latest pieces of copaganda in SPD's growing misinformation campaign about policing in the city.
This nonsense comes after a summer of spin from SPD Chief Carmen Best and Mayor Jenny Durkan. Delivered by a multi-racial group of officers, the message in the "Bridging the Gap" video is meant to placate public concern and to distract from critiques of the department as the city considers serious cuts.
Let's dive in:
The video starts with scenes of cops killing Black men in other cities. Then, a diverse cast of officers, including some of the Hot Cops who appeared in 2018's lip sync video (more on that later), start empathizing hard with the public as an ambient soundtrack slowly begins to swell. They talk about their "progressive, community-based police department" while whitewashing police killings as "unjustified fatal incident[s]." Meanwhile, it's the first time some of us have seen them without their riot gear in ages. And did you know, sometimes police officers wear t-shirts?
"We acknowledge the reprehensible acts by some police officers in our country, and we are just as disappointed and disgusted as you," an SPD officer says in the video, following several jarring clips of police brutality from across the nation. That's all well and good, but what about SPD's own "reprehensible acts?" Where are the tears for the babies who got tear-gassed in their cribs? The lamentations over the free speech stifled by flash bangs and pepper spray? The people who police killed?
Angelica Chazaro, who works with Decriminalize Seattle, a group that is advocating to defund SPD, said she was surprised to see how the video began with "images of cops brutalizing people," and then "spent the rest of the video trying to humanize cops rather than dealing with police violence and taking responsibility for police abuses." The video's agenda, she added, "is to claim that civil dialogue will get us to a different police force, and to distract from the actual violence that SPD continues to enact."
The video demonstrates that SPD still thinks Seattle protests—which are still happening, every day—are only about George Floyd's tragic murder, and not about the violence the SPD has inflicted on the community it claims to protect—from the senseless deaths of people such as Charleena Lyles and Che Taylor to the protesters gassed on the streets not two weeks ago.
The ad is a study in contradictions. Cops need "morals" and "emotional intelligence," another cop says in the video. "If an officer does not meet these standards they do not deserve to wear this badge." And yet, the cops who killed Charleena Lyles still wear their badges. Meanwhile, as of last year, we're still awaiting inquest hearings on five shootings involving Seattle Police officers.
Killings aside, there's also no mention of other recent bad-cop behavior at SPD. Like that time the department tried to get the cop who punched a woman in his backseat back on the force; or that time a cop's lie partly led a man to commit suicide, according to an investigation from the Office of Police Accountability; or that time that cop spent his days repeatedly making "derogatory and discriminatory remarks."
SPD also forgot to include video footage of the cop who continually punched a protester who was on the ground during a protest, the cop who put his knee on the necks of two protesters downtown, or the protester who had multiple seizures while detained by cops and who didn't get medical attention for over 18 minutes.
Yet another officer in the ad claims "a lot of us grew up here... a lot of us live in the city." However, data from 2014 shows that only 12% of SPD officers lived within city limits. Even though "a lot" don't seem to live here, they sure do want to influence elections here. Last month, several officers were caught registering to vote with their precinct addresses instead of their home addresses, the South Seattle Emerald found.
Furthermore, the video intercuts news footage claiming that SPD had satisfied the rules of the consent decree, but it conveniently leaves out any news coverage of a federal judge finding the department out of compliance with that same decree after their union contract got them out of several federally mandated accountability measures. Furthermore, following SPD's actions at the first George Floyd protest, City Attorney Pete Holmes withdrew his request to terminate part of the consent decree this June.
The video implicitly argues that the Seattle police force is full of young hot cops of color, which, if true, is a recent development. In 2019, SPD hired 108 new officers, and 38% of them were non-white, which was a record. Back in 2016, their force was 9% whiter than the city of Seattle—and that's a hard stat to beat. The backstory they’re getting at here is that some of the younger, newer, Hot Cops in the video could be the ones to lose their jobs if the city ends up defunding the police. (The Seattle City Council added amendments to their budget proposal on Wednesday that would cut around 100 SPD positions through layoffs or attrition.) Best and Durkan have said that their hands would be tied when it comes to laying off officers "out-of-order," or not based on seniority, to prevent inequitable losses. It's clear, however, that Best and Durkan are using those officers as a shield against budget cuts right now. Council members say all Best needs to do is make a request to change the way layoffs are done, and the newly hired cops of color won't be disproportionately let go. Best and Durkan probably know that. They're just trying to trick Seattleites with Black Lives Matter signs stuck in their mansion's front yard.
Before this summer, the worst instance of copaganda was 2018's cop lip sync challenge, set to Macklemore's "Downtown." (Speaking of which, where has Macklemore been in all of this?)
The glitzy, thinly veiled marketing effort to weave SPD into the fabric of the Seattle community was hollow when it first aired. As SPD's actions have harmed citizens and radicalized regular-ass Democrats, the lip sync has aged like sour milk. While it's embarrassing, SPD's marketing efforts have gotten a bit more... insidious.
Back in June, SPD "leaked" a message from Best to the "SPD family." In that video, she spread lies about the Capitol Hill Organized Protest and shirked responsibility for the decision to vacate the East Precinct.
Mixed into the fold are the SPD press releases about protesters hurling "incendiary devices" that turned out to be candles, excuses for gassing an entire neighborhood for 10 days in the middle of a pandemic, Seattle Police Officer Guild President Mike Solan's Fox News guest spots, and Best's continued misinformation regarding the city council's SPD budget cuts.
"The ultimate protection on how to stop police violence is having less police," Chazaro said. "The video shows SPD is going to resist that fully."