Congratulations to the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department and the Seattle Police Department on finally solving homelessness this morning. It turns out this whole time, all they had to do was chase those unhoused people away—because if you can’t see them, they don’t exist. Anyway, now everyone can look forward to seeing more tents than usual at night in front of storefronts all over the city. A job well done.
To be clear, today’s sweep was done at the behest of the parks department, SPD says—the cops were merely there to “support” them. I’m not sure which is braver: Showing up in riot gear to destroy what little shelter a person has, a week before Christmas, or claiming that a park maintenance worker made you do it.
Anyway, this is just the latest in a long line of brilliant innovations by the SPD, who have worked tirelessly over the last century to make Seattle a better place for all. A few examples:
Surely you recall the 1901 arrest of Horace R. Clayton, the founder of Seattle's longest-lived African American newspaper, the Seattle Republican. After he published an article criticizing the corruption of police chief William L. Meredith, cops arrested Clayton and refused to let him see a lawyer or present bail. Clayton was eventually acquitted; Meredith tried to murder another of his accusers, but was instead shot and killed himself.
Oh hey, remember the SPD's payoff scandal? Cops would demand bribes from gay bars, and if the bars didn't pay them off the police would raid them, ruining their business. They also went after gambling establishments. The Seattle Times exposed the system in the late '60s, and by the mid-70s, the whole department had been reorganized and various figures were convicted.
Oh, wait, maybe you're thinking of one of the OTHER Seattle Police payoff scandals. Back in the nineteen-teens, Mayor Hiram Gill worked alongside cops to smuggle liquor into the city, installing a crooked chief of police named Charles "Wappy" Wapperstein, who also shook down local sex workers for regular payoffs. Wappy was eventually sent to jail; Gill was disbarred and died in 1918.
Then there was the ongoing years-long fight between Seattle police and the Wobblies, which is to say members of the Industrial Workers of the World Union. After a violent skirmish in Everett, Seattle police arrested 74 Wobblies; they were all eventually released.
Oof, what is there even to say about a headline like that. Ludicrously, this article blames violence on a street dance (!!!) when in fact the protests were in response to a judge sentencing three people to jail for staging a sit-in at Franklin High School. Police stepped up harassment in the Central District, hovering overhead in a helicopter (huh, weird, I wonder if they still do that kind of thing?) and firing tear gas (same question). Eventually, the police raided the local office of the Black Panther Party and arrested two people there for having a stolen typewriter—for which they were later acquitted.
And hey, did you ever hear the one about how Seattle cops used to send plainclothes officers to shake down citizens over minor traffic fines?
Or how about this fantastic 1915 headline about how it's an open secret that police are getting bribes from gambling halls?
Or how about the time the SPD harassed their first openly gay officer (who also, incidentally, created SPD's bike program) until he resigned, then returned under the condition that he did not have to work with the chief of police anymore?
Anyway, let's all give a hearty salute to the SPD, which has been solving homelessness every day for 120 years, as this 1899 Seattle Post-Intelligencer article indicates. "Police say that life is made too luxurious to the parasitic element in this vicinity," the P-I wrote. What a familiar tune.