Well, this is timely: Remember back in June, a million years ago, when the Seattle Police Department said that protestors were shaking down local businesses on Capitol Hill? Well, at long long long long last, SPD has confirmed that they had not received any actual reports of extortion at the time, and they still haven't.
It was on June 10 that Seattle Police Assistant Chief Deanna Nollette said, "We have heard anecdotally of citizens and businesses being asked to pay a fee to operate within this area. This is a crime of extortion." I filed a public records request the next day, asking for any records relating to extortion in the area around the East Precinct. And now, today, seven months later, they’ve responded.
The response: “SPD does not have responsive records to your request.” Okay, cool! So what was Nollette talking about?
“The purpose of the press conference referred to was that SPD was hearing of reports that people were being extorted and they wanted people to come forward if they had been,” explains Lara Malanca of the SPD’s legal unit. “The reports were anecdotal and not actual reports SPD had received.”
That’s basically what then-Chief Carmen Best said a day later, clarifying that the “reports” were simply rumors and that they wanted any victims out there to come forward. This update basically confirms that nobody did.
What DID happen in May was a huge surge in fraud reports, while all other crimes actually declined over the summer, as reported by the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog.
What’s going on with that bump in fraud? Hard to say for sure, but that was when SPD reported a spike in people committing unemployment fraud. Those reports were confirmed by Washington State’s Employment Security Department, so at least this time it’s not just another case of a cop hearing a rumor and repeating it as true without evidence.
So where does that leave us? Well, for one thing, it’s nice to know that life in Seattle isn’t as scary as the police might have you believe.
And while I wouldn’t call the false narrative around extortion helpful, it’s at least a useful lesson in who you can trust. For example, KOMO repeated Nollette’s claim, without checking anything; so did KIRO and MyNorthwest, along with conservative jerkoff sites like Fox News, The Daily Caller, The Police Tribune, and Town Hall. Obviously, you’re smart enough to know that you can’t believe everything you read; but the next time you’re wondering if you should believe anything you read in a particular outlet, consider how they handled this little saga.
The same goes, of course, for the SPD.