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Seattle P.D. in the media crosshairs again

Post by Brian O'Neill on March 25, 2011 at 10:07 pm with 5 Comments »
March 25, 2011 10:08 pm

The Seattle Police Department must have the collective sensation of being a large blue media target.

One would think that the last few months of scathing news coverage would make everyone wearing the SPD badge take a deep breath and hide under water until all the reporters go home: the downtown shooting of a knife-wielding individual and videos of heavy-handed arrests and ill-advised comments. In truth, many of Seattle’s Finest are weary of the constant public lashing the 1,200 person department is taking based on the actions of a handful of individuals.

However, as many public and private entities can attest, when the media puts you in the crosshairs collateral damage is all but guaranteed.

Take the latest story of SPD’s DUI squad for example. Seattle TV and print media have reported that the unit’s sergeant and three officers have been reassigned pending an internal investigation into arrest procedures. This statement alone has created enough buzz that the city prosecutor’s office has placed a large number of DUI arrests in limbo. But the real issue behind this report, the violation of a superfluous policy, is exceedingly small and boring.

The Seattle P.D.’s DUI squad apparently requires the presence of the supervisor, i.e. sergeant, on scene to verify the probable cause for each DUI arrest. This policy can be a tall order for what is undoubtedly a very busy unit in a large metropolitan jurisdiction. But while the task may be daunting, policy is policy. The officers and sergeant should have known that a violation could put them in hot water.

By comparison, individual police agencies choose different methods for screening physical custody arrests. Some do not require their officers to notify their sergeants following a custodial arrest. Some require that a supervisor is notified, either by radio or phone, before someone is taken to jail. Until this report I was unaware that any agency required the physical presence of a supervisor during a custodial arrest. To be honest, this particular policy smacks of micromanagement.

Such differing policies typically reflect the geography and culture inherent to each police agency’s jurisdiction. The sprawling areas of some rural counties, which typically staff only a handful of deputies per shift, would make a supervisory visit to each custodial arrest virtually impossible. In addition, every department’s unique blend of leadership, history and tradition will dictate the degree of personal responsibility bequeathed to an officer.

To sum up this non-story, a small group of DUI cops who decided to ignore a cumbersome and micromanaging policy may face discipline. Hopefully,the Seattle prosecutor’s office will recognize that these issues have absolutely no bearing on any past DUI arrests.

Meanwhile, I’ll bet 1,200 cops in Seattle are waiting for the Seattle news folks to find another target.

Leave a comment Comments → 5
  1. Sobriquet says:

    So is Mr. O’Neill a believer that every employee of a public agency, police or otherwise, should be free to ignore any policy that they find cumbersome?

  2. Juneaunative says:

    Sobriquet, why don’t you just say you hate the police and leave it at that. Anything else is just feeble justification for your hatred. I hate to let the public in on this little secret but police departments are made of people just like them.

  3. lovethemountains says:

    Yes Sob, policy is policy and should be followed by the employees for whom it is written. Having said that, this is one policy that should never have been written and one that should be dumped. O’Neill is correct in saying this kind of micromanagement is ill advised and counter productive. It could lead, in certain circumstances, to allowing a DUI to remain on the street.

  4. There are a bunch of laws I feel are dumb too, can I just ignore them? LOL, if the procedures are dumb change them. But lets not pretend that the SPD isn’t ridiculously corrupt, and needs straightening out. The abuses within the dept are rampant, and the Seattle Police Officer Guild President O’Neill is an idiot. He takes issue with people videotaping the officers abusing people, and says the most ridiculous things on TV. He should work for the SIEU Union, versus a Police Guild. Dump him, clean up the department, restore the trust, get officers that are interested in serving the public, versus little men who need to use their nightsticks to make up for their lacking anatomy.

  5. TSkidmore says:

    It is probably a dumb rule made up to appeal to one of the many bleeding heart groups Seattle is cursed with but ya gotta admit the Seattle Cops show an “attitude” we don’t see here in Tacoma. Something is up!

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