“As I say at every new-hire orientation session ‘you do not give up one single constitutional right when you pin on your badge’” (The Guardian, June, 2013). Sgt. Rich O’Neill, President Seattle Police Officers Guild.”
Note: The following article represents my own views. I do not speak for anyone other than myself.
What follows is a little allegorical vignette, done in short story form, intended to convey the feeling many officers have regarding what the DOJ, and the City of Seattle in its complicity and lack of defense, have done to the good men and women of the Seattle Police Department.
First, an appropriate little tidbit from the man responsible for implementing the results of the DOJ’s flawed findings:
Chet Decker, Editor, The Guardian. “Q: Many officers were very shocked by the DOJ investigation and the finding that 20% of the time force is used it is unnecessary and/or unlawful. We understand it is still very early in your monitoring duties, but have you been able to form an opinion on that 20% figure?”
Merrick Bobb, Consent Decree Monitor. “A: Whatever the correct figure might be, it is not relevant to our task today. This is not the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s. The feud is over, and past disagreements must not impede current progress. What I know for sure is that the settlement agreement embodies best practice in policing and that it is to the SPD’s and Seattle’s benefit that it be implemented regardless of what led up to it” (Bold: Author emphasis).
(No, the above is not an excerpt from George Orwell’s 1984 or Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged; this Q and A excerpt is part of an interview published in the most recent issue of The Guardian, August, 2013).
Tales from Seattle:
Logic, Justice, and Other Notions our Leaders find Useless.
The corrections officer rapped at the prosecutor’s office door. A shrill voice from within directed the officer to enter. The officer escorted a handcuffed Melvin into the room. The prosecutor sat at his desk. The defense attorney leaned against a wall.
“Melvin?” The prosecutor began, with a bright white, ear-to-ear, though insincere, grin. “These were some very serious allegations lodged against you. A combination malicious harassment, fraud, and rape is quite rare.”
“Yes, Sir. I know—and ridiculous,” Melvin began. “You lodged them, but it’s obvious to everyone that I didn’t do it—well, almost everyone.”
“Well, that’s the funny part, Melvin,” the prosecutor said.
“Yes, I’ve actually got some good news for you.”
“Really?” Melvin smiled wide. “What’s that, Sir?”
“We know you didn’t commit those crimes. A local scientist proved the prosecution’s evidence completely false.”
“Oh, Sir. That’s fantastic! So, I can go home now, right?”
“Well, not so fast there, Melvin.” The prosecutor scratched his grizzled jaw. “That’s not how things work around here anymore. And besides… no one listened to that scientist, anyway. He was just a nuisance.”
Melvin’s smile faded. “What do you mean?”
“We’ve already announced that you did commit those heinous crimes, so we’re kind of stuck here. And you’ve probably committed some other violations we don’t know about—so there’s that too.”
“What do you mean, probably? What do you mean, stuck?” Melvin asked. “I didn’t do it! Shouldn’t I be free to go home now?”
The prosecutor grew a serious expression and said, “Oh, Melvin! Perhaps in a perfect world, but let me ask you. Does this look like a perfect world around here lately?”
Melvin, incredulous, shook his head. “What are you saying?”
“Bottom line,” the prosecutor continued. “Regardless of what led up to this, you still need to go to prison, but if things go well, it’ll only be for a few years.”
“But you agreed that I didn’t do it!” Protested Melvin.
“Yes, but basically it’s a done deal. There’s nothing anyone can do. If you don’t believe me, just ask your own attorney.”
Defense attorney Paul Gill pressed away from the wall where he’d been leaning, listening to his client’s pleas.
“Mr. Gill?” Melvin looked as if he’d lost his best friend. “Is this true? Are you buying this? You know I didn’t do it. They know I didn’t do it. They even admit it, but I still have to go to prison?”
“Look, Melvin. Our hands are tied. There is nothing we can do. The judge is holding to the prosecution’s initial, although I do concede, false findings.”
“But they’ve been proven wrong!” Melvin’s voice was set at a profoundly sad near-whisper now. “I didn’t do it!”
“Yes. I just said that, but it doesn’t matter now. What I’m recommending is that you just go ahead and do your time quietly so that you can get it over with as soon as possible. Maybe if you are well behaved and do what you’re told, you’ll even get out sooner than you think.”
“But I am innocent.” Melvin tried once more, confusion clearly welling in his eyes.
“Don’t take that tone with me! Don’t you know how freakin’ scary that judge is? He told me if you don’t go to prison, he would… well… he’d… ummm… , well, you can be sure it would be pretty danged bad—for us. Look at it this way: Take some satisfaction in this fact— and everyone agrees: You didn’t do it.
This is how enforcing the DOJ’s consent decree based upon proven false conclusions feels to many cops. Cops are in the business of justice (equal justice) and they know it when they see it when justice is subverted.