If someone did approval polling about what Seattleites think of the local police right now, chances are it would be pretty ugly. As an example of what the negative press has done to the city/police department dynamic, veteran reporter Rick Anderson wrote this week about the tiff between Mayor Mike McGinn and former U.S. Attorney Mike McKay, who toldThe Seattle Times that SPD Chief John Diaz was engaged in a "full-blown cover-up" over the John T. Williams shooting. That's when a reader offered a somewhat contrarian, but altogether reasonable, assessment about why SPD needs some serious changes in leadership.
The reader, aptly named "Time for a shakeup . . ." wrote:
I don't think that the senior command at SPD is disingenuous--I think they're completely incompetent. Officer Birk is a loose cannon who very clearly is not cut out for law enforcement. He should be held accountable (inasmuch as that is possible under the constraints of the statute); but he is certainly not the sole perpetrator. For a patrol officer in that precinct to have no clue of who John Williams was, which is obviously part of Birk's trigger-happy response, is a catastrophic failure of training and command. Williams was a well-known figure to *civilians* in the area; unconscionable that a cop shouldn't be familiar with him and his behavior.
It all comes back to the command. Diaz was a good choice for the Guild and for the political status quo, but a bad choice for Seattle.
It's a good point. Several officers have talked about how Williams was a familiar face to them, but Officer Ian Birk said he didn't know him at all.
An officer who gets to know a community is in the best position to police it. And when you're talking about a habitual street drunk like Williams, for a downtown cop not to know him seems bizarre to the point of being unbelievable.
Birk's failure is indeed SPD's failure. But, as the commenter says, it's not necessarily because the cops are evil, trigger-happy racists--it's more likely because they're untrained and incompetent, which at least is something that can be more easily improved.