- Via Seattlish
The tumblog Seattlish—which is one of the most fantastic things in Seattle right now—got its hands on some long-awaited records from an internal Seattle Police Department complaint last year. The complaint filed by an SPD sergeant alleges Ron Smith, who became head of the Seattle Police Officers Guild this year, threatened two employees. The police guild represents about 1,200 cops and has opposed reform for years (in court, labor complaints, propaganda, etc.). Smith allegedly made a menacing comment on Facebook directed at two pro-reform employees in the SPD's media unit.
The comment was about how Ed Murray, once elected mayor, would eradicate the pro-reform pillars of the SPD's press office—and the transparent, relevant culture they promoted. That culture included handing out Doritos at Hempfest with a label about the new rules for legal pot, a hilarious Twitter feed, and blog posts that mainstream outlets followed religiously. Smith wrote that after Murray took office, the pro-reform employees "will then meet their destiny."
Keep in mind, certain names are redacted in this complaint, but as I reported and the Seattle Weekly reported prior to the release of this document, Officer Smith is the one behind the comment. The folks behind the complaint—the targets of his alleged threat—are Sergeant Sean Whitcomb and former Stranger writer and current SPD media guy Jonah Spangenthal-Lee.
What should infuriate Seattle voters: Smith was right.
Right after taking office, Murray appointed a passel of union cronies to the top ranks, pushed the pro-reform leaders out of the SPD, Sergeant Whitcomb was removed from the media unit for several months, and the Twitter feed was muted. In the end, the SPD's bureau that investigates internal complaints, the Office of Professional Accountability, ruled this complaint unfounded. Why? OPA director Pierce Murphy dismissed the matter because the officers were "not in uniform," and and it was "not duty related." Instead, it was permissible as "political union talk." He also deemed the comments were not a violation of SPD policy because they concerned "the changes Senator Murray would make if elected mayor."
I'm sorry, but "political union talk" that pretty clearly threatens to eradicate pro-reform factions from the department sure seems "duty related." In my opinion, this was a thuggish political threat to undermine someone's job as part of a union's agenda with the mayor—the union that endorsed Murray's run for office, donated $5,000 to a PAC to support him, and then got exactly what they wanted.
But I'm not surprised: This was a typical strong-arm tactic by the union and another weasel move by Murphy and the OPA, which contorts reason—beyond any smell test—to routinely let bad cops off the hook or give them light punishments. The union has admitted to spending most of its time to fighting misconduct complaints, apparently cowing Murphy and the OPA into submission. Lots of folks have commented on the SPD's broken accountability system. This complaint is just another example—but it's now out in the open.
Mayor Murray did cave to the anti-reform union. He's doing better these days, hiring a new chief who shows some promise, but Murray has a lot of work to do to make things right. Most of all, Mayor Murray and Chief Kathleen O'Toole must articulate that both of Seattle's police unions are political enemies that need to be forced into cooperation, instead of political allies to be continually appeased.