Privately, a mayoral aide says, Mike McGinn has all along asked what the hell was Seattle police officer Ian Birk thinking when he tossed aside


Mayor Mike McGinn Speaks Softly, Carries No Stick, in Responding to Police Shooting Case

Privately, a mayoral aide says, Mike McGinn has all along asked what the hell was Seattle police officer Ian Birk thinking when he tossed aside his training and marched within a few feet of a man with a knife, then in four seconds shot John T. Williams to death? Publicly, the mayor has been less outspoken, and yesterday, sitting uncomfortably at a table in the middle of a City Hall meeting room, for the most part disadvantaged--having to look up to questioning reporters and Williams supporters--he seemed passively resigned to the news that Birk would not be charged with a felony.

He was frustrated, McGinn said, but there was a process, a disciplinary procedure, and "we will follow the rules." Well, should Birk be fired? someone asked. "You know, I'm not allowed to answer that question" legally, he said. The process, you know. "Oh my God," a Williams supporter mumbled.

She and others clearly wanted to hear the Irish mayor slosh his pint and say he was outraged. Stand up from the table, say this whole thing stinks, and you're going to kick some ass.

"I wish," said the supporter, "people in your position that we vote in have the courage to know right from wrong . . . you are a man of leadership, we are looking for you to tell us right from wrong . . . the police union . . . is stopping you from telling us what's right from wrong."

The mayor, composed, in a soft voice, said "We will follow the procedures and you will have a final answer from me and we will make sure that we make a decision that sticks because it follows the rules, and that's what we will do here."

A woman said she wanted to hear outrage, see passion, from the mild-mannered first-term mayor.

"I'm not going to sit here and yell and scream about it," said McGinn, an attorney. There was due process to follow. Someone else asked him to be honest about his feelings. "Are there any other questions?" the mayor said.

"We need your help now, we need your courage," a Williams supporter said. The police guild was calling the mayor a socialist. Why, asked the supporter, can't the mayor speak out just as boldly? And what about the "systemic" use-of-force incidents caught on video? "The whole system is broken . . . and you need to take hold of the reins and do something now because we don't trust the police."

"I hear you. I hear you," the mayor said evenly. "You will have our decision on Ian Birk in two weeks. Any other questions?"

Do you feel shame? someone asked.

"As a person," the mayor said, "I feel sad, very sad, about where we are as a community."

Facing dismissal, Birk resigned later in the afternoon. Effectively, the process was complete. McGinn, by late in the day, could finally speak out. He issued his statement on his web site. It said:

While Chief Diaz and I both said today that disciplinary decisions would have to wait for a final review by the Office of Professional Accountability, it appears clear that Officer Birk saw the writing on the wall. He could read the same Firearms Review Board report that the rest of us did. His resignation is effective immediately. The final OPA review will continue, so that the Department can properly close the case and recommend to the state whether Birk should be allowed to work elsewhere as an officer of the law.

Oh my God.

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