With the City Council's inevitable confirmation of John Diaz as Seattle's newest police chief just weeks away, the city of 600,000 will get two things: An honest and experienced cop at the top and nonreform.
In April, when an officer was caught on video roughing up and berating a robbery suspect with racial epithets in Westlake (the officer actually stomped the prone suspect's hand back down after the suspect moved it) the officer was administratively reassigned and the Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) began an investigation of the incident. Then, in June, an officer responding to the rampant jaywalking occurring outside Franklin High School, was accosted by a woman trying to stop the officer from citing the woman's friend. The officer responded by punching the woman in the face. That too, was captured on video. The OPA is investigating this incident as well and the officer in question is working with the training section of the police department to review the tactics he used.
When the OPA finishes its investigations, which won't be for a while and by then public furor over the matters will have long since dissipated, its recommendations to Chief Diaz, we'd be willing to bet, will be no more than a slap on the proverbial wrist.
At what expense would such weak punishment come? It would come at the expense of a continued rift between police and underrepresented citizens of Seattle. When April's robbery suspect (police later learned that he had nothing to do with robberies earlier that evening) finds out that the officer who roughed him up got a punishment of temporary reassignment, will he feel justice has been served? How about the jaywalker? Unlikely.
And even though Diaz has already begun the laudable Neighborhood Viewpoint campaign, a neighborhood-by-neighborhood survey of how citizens feel about Seattle Police and how it can better serve the community, such an effort would be erased by citizens confronted by video of police behaving like agents of terror, unless Diaz takes a visible stand between justice and perceived cronyism. It is a very fine line to walk as being a police officer is often a thankless job and fraternal trust literally becomes a lifeline. But no position or semblance of brother- or sisterhood, especially one funded by and subject to taxpayers' scrutiny, should be deemed above the law.
If a true partnership between the citizens of Seattle and its police force is to flourish, as Diaz says he wants to see, then he needs to show us the justice by properly penalizing officers who disrupt that partnership. Otherwise, it will be business as usual.[[In-content Ad]]