Seattle Police Department officers have the right to publish incendiary screeds against the city’s program on racial profiling, call the people who lead the training “the enemy,” argue they should use words like “n***a” and “bitch” on patrol, and joke about shooting African American leaders who support civilian oversight. But that doesn’t mean the city takes it lightly.
“I just don’t think there is room for in this city for police officers who think issues of race and social justice aren’t important… and who think addressing the issues of race and social justice is unwarranted,” says Mayor Mike McGinn.
“After the recent incidents—the stomping, the use of racist words, the shooting of John Williams, and other incidents—it has raised question about how the police officers view and treat minorities,” McGinn says. “People have asked the question: Is this the case of an isolated incident or a broader culture in the police department?”
"But when you see what we see in the Guardian—that training designed to improve how police work with minorities is inherently wrong and that the people who promote that training are 'the enemy'—it would tend to confirm those concerns of the minority community and others that the police department is guilty of giving unequal treatment based on who they are," he continues. “It raises concerns that it’s in a newspaper that purports to speak on behalf of police officers."
So does McGinn—who appoints the chief and oversees the police department—plan to do anything about these concerns?
"I’m the one who is held accountable to the public for the actions of the police department—that is my job," McGinn says. He's spoken to the chief about articles in the Guardian. But he doesn't offer any course of action. "We have to be clear in what our values are and be diligent in pursuing them."
“We are employing those people," McGinn adds. "And it’s one thing to question whether training on race and social justice is done well, but it is not okay to say that people who train on race and so justice are 'the enemy.'”
The mayor is careful to note that he doesn't know if these beliefs are held by only a few officers or by many officers. "We have to be careful not to paint with a broad brush, because there are police officers who do great work on behalf of the community every day. We also have to understand, be aware and be concern that there is a broader cultural issue in the police department and we have to address that. The culture doesn't spring into being overnight and it’s not going to be changed overnight."