Monday, July 7, 2014

"perfect" policing

I recall some years ago reading the “police blotter” that used to be printed in one of the local weeklies. The writer described an incident in which Seattle police officers were “scoping out” a parking lot at a North Seattle club when they spotted a suspicious thing: A black teenager with a backpack, walking around rather nervously in the lot. Being black (or Latino) is suspicious enough in North Seattle, but there was obviously something about to “go down.” Finally a gold Cadillac pulled into the parking lot, containing two white “kids,” and the black youth proceeded toward them; this had obviously been a planned meeting. 

The officers decided to intervene at this point, with one officer cutting off the black youth before he reached the Cadillac and complete the transaction, while the other officer engaged in conversation with the two white youths. Found in the black youth’s backpack was a small quantity of marijuana, and he was duly cuffed and arrested; the white youths in the Cadillac, however, were allowed to leave unmolested. The writer ludicrously noted that the officers acted “appropriately,” and this was a “perfect” example of how police work should be done. I couldn’t help but to observe that far being “perfect”—let alone “just”—this was more an example of what is wrong with how the police operate, and how racism plays a part in police work and why minorities are more likely to have police records than whites.

Of course, questionable behavior by the police isn’t confined to the SPD. For nothing, you can read eight pages of “news” each week in the Kent Reporter, especially if you are interested in the latest goings on in local law enforcement. I haven’t read anything about these new high-speed cameras that I saw a Kent motorcycle cop using, which he used to record the license plate of a car driven by a brown-skinned male, probably to check later to see if there were any warrants on him. Let’s see: The Robert E. Lee Building (which, of course, wasn’t named after a former police chief who wasn’t named in honor of the Confederate general), is—despite its rather new appearance—is now insufficient for the requirements of police on their donut breaks, or planning sessions on how to enlarge their profile while they profile. 

The city council voted to approve the sending a referendum to the voters to raise property tax rates to pay for a new police outhouse; a residence assessed at $300,000 would see an increase of $57 in tax. A $60 car tab is just too much to accept to maintain adequate bus service, but I’m sure that Republican Kent will see clear to make their police happy, so they can do their jobs.

So, what are they doing? The Reporter has its own “police blotter,” and what do we find? Police arrested a male who “head-butted” his sister at the Kent Transit Center while she was “screaming” at him. The 15-year-old girl was attempting to run away from home because she didn’t like being “disciplined” by her mother; frankly, one senses a certain “dysfunctionality” in this home. The girl was allowed to leave with her mother who was at the scene, despite the fact that she told police she would run away again—which she promptly did.

Under the heading “malicious mischief,” a man was “cited for investigation for malicious mischief” after he broke the window of Mexican restaurant with his fist; police excused this by claiming he was intoxicated. The owner of the restaurant was told that the man would pay to replace the window, and when he left with friends to a bank ATM machine, he “decided” not to pay for it after all; obviously he had just told this story to get away from the police. The police also claimed that he was “too drunk” to be sent to the city jail, so he apparently was allowed to go home (presumably). Not mentioned was whether the suspect was white, which should have “upgraded” malicious mischief to a crime motivated by hate. 

It is perhaps useless to mention that I find the activities and motivations of police often rather arbitrary and difficult to understand. Cest ’la vie.

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