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  • De-Policing

    Found on the Seattle Times website, and posted here for lively debate.
    ----------------------------

    Tuesday, June 26, 2001 - 12:25 a.m. Pacific

    Wary of racism complaints, police look the other way in black neighborhoods

    By Alex Tizon and Reid Forgrave
    Seattle Times staff reporters


    HARLEY SOLTES / THE SEATTLE TIMES
    Seattle Police Officer Tyrone Davis draws his gun to back up a fellow officer on a home burglar-alarm call. Davis, who works the Central Area, said police are hesitant to use force for fear of igniting a confrontation.


    The cops on the street have different names for it: de-policing, selective disengagement, tactical detachment. They even joke about it, calling themselves "tourists in blue."

    Whatever the term, rank-and-file officers in the Seattle Police Department say it is a spreading phenomenon in the city's black neighborhoods, and a logical reaction to chronic charges of police racism.

    De-policing is passive law enforcement: Officers consciously stop trying to prevent low-level crime and simply react to 911 calls. Many officers, wary of being labeled racists or racial profilers, say they hold back or bypass opportunities to make traffic stops or arrests of black suspects.

    Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske acknowledged yesterday that "some officers are being particularly cautious" in black neighborhoods because of the uproar over the police shooting death of 37-year-old Aaron Roberts on May 31. But Kerlikowske said he has seen no evidence that the trend has reached crisis proportions, or that it is even prevalent.

    Black community leaders said yesterday they won't accept lax law enforcement; the police are paid to protect the public, even when it means taking heat.

    But several officers said caution on the streets is inevitable and will hurt black communities the most as crime increases in their neighborhoods.

    "It's real. It's happening," said Eric Michl, a Seattle patrol officer for 17 years. "Parking under a shady tree to work on a crossword puzzle is a great alternative to being labeled a racist and being dragged through an inquest, a review board, an FBI and U.S. Attorney's investigation and a lawsuit."

    Not limited to black areas

    Michl and other officers say they now question whether certain stops or certain tactics are worth the potential consequences. Such caution isn't limited to black neighborhoods. He described an incident Friday night:

    A car turned left into oncoming traffic in the Crown Hill neighborhood, nearly causing an accident, then sped away. Michl said he stopped the car; the driver was a black man who acted very nervous and showed signs of being high on cocaine. The man carried no identification and no car registration, and he couldn't remember his birth date.

    "Something was very suspicious," said Michl, who is white. "If he were any other race, I would have probably arrested him on the spot. But then I started thinking, 'What if he's on cocaine, what if we get in a fight and he dies, and then we find out he's only guilty of a suspended license.' I don't want to see my name in the papers."

    Instead, Michl left the driver in the car while he walked back to his police cruiser to run a background check. The check revealed that the car was stolen. But the man, in the meantime, ran away. He eventually was captured, but Michl said it was distressing to go against his own police instincts.

    "There are a lot of us who are extremely frustrated about this," he said.

    Switch to 'reactive mode'

    Last week, Officer Al Warner, a black officer assigned to the Central Area, stopped in front of Deano's bar on 20th Avenue and East Madison Street, where four black men were smoking marijuana in a car. The men accused Warner of racially profiling them.

    "It's the catch phrase now," Warner said. "If I were an African-American drug dealer here, that's the way I'd play the game. It intimidates officers."

    Warner said police in the Central Area have been less aggressive since the Roberts shooting and have switched to "reactive mode," focusing on serious crimes.

    Roberts, a Central Area resident, was shot dead by Officer Craig Price after allegedly dragging Price's partner, Greg Neubert, with his car. It was found later that Roberts was wanted for escaping a work-release program. Price and Neubert are both white.

    Capt. Nick Metz, commander of the East Precinct and an African American, defended his officers this weekend in a Times story, saying that the shooting was not racially motivated. The police account of events is being questioned by a woman who says she witnessed part of the incident.

    It was the latest in a string of incidents that have put police at odds with some in the black community.

    In April last year, David John Walker, an African-American man with a history of mental illness, was shot dead by a white police officer near Seattle Center; Walker had shoplifted at a Queen Anne grocery, fired two shots and skipped down the sidewalk waving a knife. In January 1996, a police officer accidentally shot and killed Edward Anderson, an unarmed black man, after a chase in the Central Area.

    Of the 31 people killed by Seattle police in the past two decades, nearly one-third were black. Community protests have intensified with each shooting. And some officers say de-policing has increased as protests have increased.

    Holding back at Mardi Gras

    Some officers, such as Michl, say police restraint during this year's Mardi Gras riots was an example of de-policing. Most of the suspects in the Mardi Gras violence were black, and police leaders, knowing the violence was being widely videotaped, did not want officers battling with black suspects on TV.

    "It wouldn't have looked good," Michl said.

    But as police held back, a young white man was beaten to death by a mob.

    Officer Tyrone Davis, who is black and works the Central Area, said police are hesitant to use any kind of force for fear of igniting a confrontation.

    Protesters have called police racists and murderers. Residents taunt the officers with names. One woman spit on Warner's police cruiser as she jaywalked.

    Despite those tensions, Metz said, the neighborhood around 23rd Avenue and East Union Street, which has had a long history of drug-related crime, was the safest and cleanest it had been in years, due in part to the work of Price and Neubert.

    Critics say it's part of the job

    Leaders in the black community said police must be able to take criticism, even when it's harsh and constant, and still do their jobs. Individuals who have the authority to arrest and the legal right to use deadly force must be subject to scrutiny, said the Rev. Leslie Braxton of Mount Zion Baptist Church.

    "If they're saying that public criticism impacts morale, then that's an issue that needs to be addressed inside the department," Braxton said. "But I expect them as professional people to do their job, without regard to what criticism they may face. That's the burden of the job. Join the rest of the world."

    James Kelly, executive director of the Urban League, said the recent outrage expressed by black residents in the Central Area must be understood in context. The anger, he said, is not about one shooting but rather about a long history of mistreatment blacks have felt at the hands of police and the criminal-justice system.

    Chief plays down problem

    Kerlikowske downplayed the problem of de-policing, although he acknowledged that officers have expressed growing concern over charges of racial profiling.

    But he said the "cautiousness" that officers have been showing in the black community and with black suspects is temporary; the same thing has happened in other cities and after other high-profile incidents involving police and blacks. The Rodney King incident in Los Angeles, for example, had a chilling but temporary effect on officers nationwide, he said.

    "We just want to make sure we're not doing something that will increase the tension," he said.

    Officers who did not want to be named said another form of de-policing which is harder to quantify is the exodus of veteran officers from high-crime, minority-dominated neighborhoods.

    Veteran officers with seniority request transfers to neighborhoods where racial profiling isn't an issue. The result: Those who patrol the highest-crime areas often are the officers with the least experience.

    Many officers see the racial-profiling dispute as a distraction to doing their jobs.

    "It's a ghost. It's a phantom," said Ken Saucier, a veteran of 16 years in the department. He is black. "As long as you can get people chasing the smoke, you won't have to deal with the real problem."

    Threat to black neighborhoods

    Saucier said the real problem is a thornier one, and lies within the black community. Police are deployed according to crime incidents. The more crime in one neighborhood, the more police. More police means more contacts with the public, and more potential for conflict.

    Saucier and other officers cite statistics that consistently show blacks commit a disproportionate number of crimes, especially violent crimes. Department of Justice studies show black males, who make up 6 percent of the population, commit 40 percent of the violent crimes. The vast majority of the victims are also black.

    Michl said the black community would be most affected by any kind of pervasive de-policing. He said most people don't understand that routine traffic stops, for example, play an important function, especially in high-crime areas. They show a police presence and spot the potential for crime.

    "We're telling the bad guys that we're here and we're watching them," Michl said.

    If that stops, Michl said, it's only a matter of time before drug dealers and gang members take control of the streets.

    Saucier's words of warning for Seattle: "Be careful what you wish for because you might get it."

    Seattle Times reporter Florangela Davila contributed to this article.


    Copyright

  • #2
    Officers who did not want to be named said another form of de-policing which is harder to quantify is the exodus of veteran officers from high-crime, minority-dominated neighborhoods.

    Veteran officers with seniority request transfers to neighborhoods where racial profiling isn't an issue. The result: Those who patrol the highest-crime areas often are the officers with the least experience.

    BTDT Why make yourself the sacrificial lamb????


    ------------------
    "Trust me. I'm from the government, I'm here to help."
    "Trust me. I'm from the government, I'm here to help."

    Comment


    • #3
      I cannot recall (in my nearly 7 years of law enforcement) of a time when I have stopped a black person and not been accused of being a "racist." I think there is a class given by the NAACP or ACLU that tells blacks to begin shouting loudly and calling the police racist every time they are stopped.

      This is a phenomenon that has been going on for quite a few years. Seattle is just a most recent example of the trend. It hurts to say this, but I totally agree with the actions of these officers. Your #1 priority on this job is your safety and well-being. If they want to criticize the PD and riot every time some jackass punk gets dumped by a cop, let them.

      I said it before and I'll say it again: *******s come in every size, shape and color.

      Oh no! It's racial profiling!! Look dear, the cops are after us! Why? Because we're black! [Cut to scene of hundreds of white police officers with batons and guns in hand, running after the lone black couple]

      I often think that is what these people want everyone to believe is happening out there.

      I just find it sad that a segment of society has such a crisis lack of humility or character. I know many good black people, and none of them share this mentality. I think you could literally write a book on this phenomenon.

      Saucier and other officers cite statistics that consistently show blacks commit a disproportionate number of crimes, especially violent crimes. Department of Justice studies show black males, who make up 6 percent of the population, commit 40 percent of the violent crimes. The vast majority of the victims are also black.
      I think when we stop being afraid of being labeled "racists" for asking the tough question of, "Why are so many crimes committed by black males?" then we can find a REAL solution to this problem. Until then, we will be forced to endure more of the idiocy that is plaguing Seattle.

      Officer, I borrowed these pants!

      Comment


      • #4
        Posted by Bonk:
        Not limited to black areas

        Michl and other officers say they now question whether certain stops or certain tactics are worth the potential consequences.
        Wow!!! That article has a lot of valid points. A lot of those things have already crossed my mind. I think we're inevitability going to see more of this type of mentality as policing becomes more and more political.



        [This message has been edited by me again (edited 07-03-2001).]

        Comment


        • #5
          Me Again,

          Quite frankly, I have wondered why it has taken some cops this long to say, the hell with it, my family and career are more important than some FBI and civil rights investigation.


          Retired
          Retired

          Comment


          • #6
            Alright, I admit it. I used what little seniority I had to leave the 'hood and transfer to a different sector. I now work the "whitest" beat in my community of approx. 300,000. It took some getting used to, but I couldn't be happier. It's so nice to drive through the tree lined streets of our ritziest neighborhoods and have the little kids wave at me instead of turning and spitting as I roll past.

            My first two years on patrol I worked one of the worst neighborhoods. I kicked a lot of @$$ and took a lot of names. I also got a little burned a few times for my trouble. Some other guys in my squad and in the sector got roasted by the powers that be. I saw what happened to them and got out.

            The fact is, my department was "depolicing" two years ago. I had many reasons for leaving my old squad, but one of the big ones was that I didn't want to be a party to the willful neglect of the honest people who had to live in that god-forsaken 'hood. We have basically abandoned the honest, hard-working minority poor in my city to the thugs.

            Although I now work where I'm appreciated, I can't really say that it's where I'm needed the most. Since I left that neighborhood, things have gotten a lot worse. Until the powers that be in my community and on the national level decide to grow a backbone and stand up to the self-appointed leaders of the minority community, the honest members of the minority community will be the ones who suffer.

            This is what they mean when they talk about "the soft bigotry of low expectations." Hey, 90% of black assailants assault, rape, rob, or kill black victims, so who cares? It has never been phrased exactly that way around here, but we have been told that perhaps we should let things get bad enough that "they'll beg us to come back." Pretty sad, but until we have some real minority leaders who advocate personal responsibility instead of blaming everybody else and who demand that all criminals, black, white, or green, be punished for their crimes instead of making scapegoats out of the police officers on the front lines, I'll be staying in my little corner of paradise where the kids wave at you and the complainants offer you lemonade while you take their accident reports.
            It is good to hate the French. -Al Bundy

            Comment


            • #7
              I fell prey to this problem early in my career until something impacted me in such a way as to cause a fundamental reversal in my views.

              But I completely understand this. It saddens me a great deal.

              I would say this to those black community leaders who DO suport LE and realize the importance of officers being proactive in high crimes neighborhoods, SUPPORT the police visibly and publicly when people start bashing them.

              DO NOT support those that spout the rhetoric and hate and stir up age old angers for immediate political gain.

              And to those citizens that wish the police to "do their jobs" I would say to them that you would be amazed at how much a simple, personal, "thank you" can do.

              And to the officers out on the street at night in these areas I would say that the majority of black people in low income high crime areas are good people that are sick of being held hostage. They DO support you, but they often have no voice in the media and they certainly may not feel that they can invite you in for a glass of tea. But they DO support you. You may never hear from them, but they are there.

              I've said it before and I have witnessed it...when members of the black commnity actually reach out to LE to help them and build those important bridges they will find that the vast majority of officers welcome it with open arms, eagerly.

              Words in print on this forum cannot express the depth of my emotions on this issue. It saddens me in a fundamental way.

              ------------------
              -Sparky
              -Sparky

              Comment


              • #8
                To ALL LEO's:
                Thank you!
                If ya'll were here, I'd bake some cookies or a cake for ya. Like I do for my local station.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Bonk:
                  Black community leaders said yesterday they won't accept lax law enforcement; the police are paid to protect the public, even when it means taking heat.

                  Leaders in the black community said police must be able to take criticism, even when it's harsh and constant, and still do their jobs. Individuals who have the authority to arrest and the legal right to use deadly force must be subject to scrutiny, said the Rev. Leslie Braxton of Mount Zion Baptist Church.
                  Leaders in the black community need to admit that not all enforcement action against somebody who happens to be black is racially motivated. Leaders in the black community need to admit that just maybe police do their jobs properly and must use deadly force against suspects who also happen to be black.

                  By playing the race card and stirring up the community --whipping it into a frenzy of anti-police mentality, they gain prestige and noteriety as "community leaders." They gain support of the community and in turn the prestige and media attention. I will sh*$ a brick the day Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson (or any of these "community leader" clowns) ever admit on television that a cop was justified in using lethal force against a black suspect.

                  I'd be more willing to accept the above quotes if these "leaders" ever supported the police in justifiable circumstances. Instead their "legitimate" criticism holds no water because all they ever do is complain. The police are never right in their world. Maybe they should walk a beat and enforce the law. HA!

                  ------------------
                  It may be a summons to you, but it's therapy for me.
                  I intend to go in harm's way. -John Paul Jones

                  Comment

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