Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ichiro: Is there a team that can spare a couple more years?

I admit that I’ve lost much of my enthusiasm for baseball since the retirement of RobinYount and the end of the “golden age” of the Milwaukee Brewer franchise. If the Seattle Mariners were my “home” team, I probably wouldn’t have been a baseball fan ever. This season the Mariners provided some vague interest outside diehard fans by making a run for the playoffs, right down to the wire. For the first time since 2009, they actually won more games than the lost, but it has now been 13 years since their last playoff appearance, and the manner in which they played above simple mediocrity carried the seeds of the same doubts of the past (poor hitting bailed out by the “odd” year of outstanding pitching).

It seems, then, that if there was any reason why anyone paid any attention to the Mariners outside the state, it was due to a few players of some consequence, such as  Ken Griffey, Jr., Alex Rodriguez—and Ichiro. Oh, yes: There are a few people around here who remember the name, even fond ones.  Not so much that he made a difference in the team’s fortunes on the field, but for those fascinated with statistics, there was always the expectation that Ichiro would pile-up the singles to the 200-hit plateau.

For ten consecutive seasons, Ichiro’s 200 hits was the only reason baseball even recognized the fact that there was a baseball team in the Pacific Northwest.  After a "rookie" campaign which was a large part of the reason that the Mariners stunned observers by tying the MLB record for wins in a season (116)—after which the team crashed and burned in the ALC—Ichiro soldiered onward, eventually tying the MLB record for consecutive 200-hit seasons (10), and more significantly, breaking the single season record (262) in 2004. 

But there were always question marks about his real value to the team, other than a publicity gimmick and the first position player from Japan to make a significant impact in the Majors, playing a mean right field (other than first base, the position that tended to be less stressful). Ichiro usually managed to put the bat on the ball, and sometimes where he wanted it to go. Although he didn't often strike out, it was also true that he rarely took a walk. This meant that his on-base percentage was never much higher than his batting average. 

Although he was known for running out grounders for infield hits, Ichiro only had one season where he stole at least 50 bases (his first) and four others with at least 40. In fact, it seemed that Ichiro was more tentative about base-stealing after his second season, when he was thrown-out a surprising 32 percent of the time, leading the majors in the number of times being "caught" stealing a base.

But more disconcerting was his lack of power, not necessarily his homerun production, but the fact that he was almost purely a singles hitter, with even doubles more a matter of outfielder mistakes. Even the most notorious singles hitters in recent baseball history, like Pete Rose, Rod Carew and Tony Gwinn, were not "content"  to be merely slap hitters; Rose had 746 career doubles, and Carew and Gwinn both had a season driving in at least 100 RBIs. While they certainly were not “sluggers,” they were typical of their times, when a player who hit 30 homeruns in a season was not common at all, and pitchers seemed to be stronger and more durable than they are now. Ichiro’s 336 doubles off of 2844 career hits seems “unusual” for someone who allegedly is a “speedy” runner. His 715 RBIs off those hits and 564 walks for a player who was a lead-off hitter with a .317 career batting average may not seem too low, but his 1303 runs scored does seem a bit insubstantial. Of course, some of the blame during his Mariner years may be due to the lack of support behind him, but that wasn’t the case in his time with the Yankees (in which his run production was even worse); the reality is that he seldom helped his own cause by making an effort to get himself in scoring position.

There are a lot of “metrics” out there that are supposed to “measure” a baseball players’ “value.” The ones that supposedly are more “accurate” because they take into consideration league averages and the dimensions of ballparks are the OPS+ and wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created plus), both measurements just competing variations of the same theme with little difference in numbers generated. The “average” score is 100, so Babe Ruth’s career OPS+ of 206 and Barry Bond’s record 268 in a season can be used as a guide to the top side of the scale. This season the top scores have been residing in the 160s. Ichiro never had a score higher than 130, and his career value of 110 means that he is just barely above “average.” His numbers have fallen well below more recently, with a score of 54 since June, calling into question of why the New York Yankees—who acquired Ichiro in a trade with the Mariners—would even consider resigning him. Although his $6.5 million salary this past season hardly busted the Yankees’ payroll budget, the team certainly didn’t get much in return—each run he “produced” cost $100,000. 

I’m sure than many people—including Yankee fans—had an expectation that in a new environment and a more “hitter-friendly” ballpark,  Ichiro would return to some semblance of his peak years in Seattle. But even if this was the case, Ichiro may have been more of a liability hitting at the top of the order because of the previously mentioned issues. Ichiro has only 238 hits in the past two mostly free from injury seasons; considering the fact that the Yankees have a generally good line-up, one would have thought that Ichiro would have more “protection” and thus more opportunities to get hits. But as one observer pointed out, in another metric, Ichiro has shown an increasingly diminished ability to put “wood” on the ball—a very bad thing for a player whose “strength” is slapping a ball through holes in the infield.

There are those who nevertheless see “value” in Ichiro moving forward (especially himself), probably a team occupying the lower depths who need someone to put some fans in the park. The Yankees were obviously expecting more from Ichiro, but eventually had to peg his true value as a shocking eighth in the batting order—a  slot where generally the more unproductive hitters reside (Yankee management probably didn’t want to shame him further by putting him ninth in the batting order). Ichiro is just 156 hits shy of 3000 in the majors (he has 1278 hits in Japan), so a needy team may take a flyer on him just in that quest for additional “interest.” The reality, however, is that very few position players who are beyond Ichiro’s age (41 in October) have been anything but serious liabilities in their clubs line-ups—including Rickey Henderson and Barry Bonds (after he got off the “cream”). 

Of course, it may be unfair to single out Ichiro, since the fact is that he is best player to come out of Japan means something, although that depends on what the definition of “best” signifies. And there are plenty of players in baseball history who have come and gone, and have achieved not just far less, but haven’t come close to achieving anything worthy of note, which Ichiro has. After all, George Sisler’s 1920 record of 257 hits was considered “unbreakable,” and Ichiro did it. Had he entered the Majors at an earlier time in his career, 4,000 career hits would certainly have been a possibility (hits that actually “count,” outside those accumulated in the Japanese leagues). 

But the question remains if he is just a gimmick player who was good at one thing really, hitting singles. Even in his record season he just barely edged above 100 runs scored, and  in the Mariners’ historically inept 2010 season, Ichiro scored just 74 runs on 214 hits; the record for fewest runs scored on 200+ hits surprisingly enough is also George Sisler, when he scored just 67 runs on 205 hits. However, Sisler batted third or fourth in the lineup for the Boston Braves, and led the team with 79 RBIs despite hitting only 2 homeruns; Ichiro managed a shockingly low 43 RBIs in his record-breaking season. 

Ichiro is hardly an “insecure” player, of course; he knows he is “good,” perhaps even “great” in his own mind. Certainly there are those who assume he will be inducted into Canton sometime after he retires. Does he deserve to be? If the past, 3,000 automatically insured Hall of Fame entry, and even if he doesn’t reach that mark, there are other “considerations,” such as his cultural “relevancy.” And after all, there are players in the Hall with less “impressive” statistics but had “cool” nicknames the sportswriters who voted them in gave them—like pitcher “Dizzy” Dean who had only three good seasons and won 150 games in 12 seasons, or “Pee-Wee” Reese (who was actually 5-10), who had only 2170 career hits, a .269 batting average and metrics that suggested he was less than an “average” ballplayer. 

It seems that Ichiro does also have a particular sense of self. It has been reported that although he is not “fluent” in any language other than Japanese, he has a sponge-like ability to pick-up Spanish phrases—especially those of a “colorful” nature. Many Latin players have related how Ichiro would make “amusingly” ribald comments to them on the field, all in good “fun,” being rather surprising coming from him. Ichiro claims that he does this because "I feel a bond with them. We're all foreigners in a strange land. We've come over here and had to cope with some of the same trials and tribulations. When I throw a little Spanish out at them, they really seem to appreciate it and it seems to strengthen that bond. And besides, we don't really have curse words in Japanese, so I like the fact that the Western languages allow me to say things that I otherwise can't."

Maybe we can cut him some slack, after all.

Geno apologists don't remember the warnings of the draft "experts"

Despite another uninspiring performance, New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith has no shortage of apologists, and they only seem to become louder and more irrational in their defense of the man whenever anyone tries to step outside the world of illusion. What is surprising about this is that before he was drafted there were plenty of warnings from the “experts” that Smith was a compromising pick. Remember that Smith had been an early Heisman favorite before observers realized that he was more surface than substance; playing from the shotgun on virtually every play, Smith rarely passed the ball five yards beyond the line of scrimmage. But this paled in comparison to what was discerned above his shoulders. Take the following commentary:

"His biggest problem is that he doesn't know what he doesn't know. I’m not sure he knows how to take instruction because he pretty much wouldn't listen or talk to our coaches … he's talented. He can sling it, he can fit it into tight spots, he can do a lot of things and I think he wants to be good. But you can't tell him anything right now. He's tuned out because he thinks he's got it all down."

“Smith's behavior before, during and after the draft has raised questions about his maturity, according to NFL talent evaluators.” 

“At least one quarterback-needy team in the top 10 passed on him because of the diva attitude he displayed in a pre-draft visit, according to a league source.”

“He's going to have a tough time in New York. Right now, he's coming off as a spoiled, pampered brat.”

“In the NFL, a team visit is akin to a job interview. An aloof prospect is a major turnoff.”

“Not a student of the game.”

“He doesn’t have much presence, not much of a leader. I don’t think he’s a bad person, but that’s not enough to be a quarterback in this league.”

Not only did the Jets not listen, but it seems that many sports commentators have taken criticism of Smith personally—particularly those who had no such qualms about demeaning Mark Sanchez on a regular basis. I thought it would be interesting to compare the two through their first 20 starts:

Sanchez: Won-Loss record, 12-8;  72.6 passer rating; 277 of 501 passing; 3346 yards passing; 20 TD passes; 20 interceptions; 4 lost fumbles.

Smith: Won-Loss record, 9-11; 68.5 passer rating; 329 of 579 passing; 3968 yards passing; 16 TD passes; 26 interceptions; 6 lost fumbles.

Has Smith been an “improvement” over Sanchez? There is no shortage of commentators who “explain” Smith by claiming he has no “weapons,” rather than admitting to his poor decision-making. Are they talking about Dustin Keller, Jerricho Cotchery, Jeff Cumberland, Jeremy Kerley and Santonio Holmes? Those names sure have a familiar ring to them. This season, the Jets acquired a talented young receiver in Eric Decker and got rid of unproductive head case Holmes. Oh, but Sanchez had Braylon Edwards—who in 2008 with Cleveland caught 40 percent of the passes in which he was targeted. Hell, Brett Favre--remember him?--had to work with the no-names on that list, to only slightly better result.

Oh, but the Jets had a better running game back then. But the Jets running was then—as it is now—reliant on past-their-prime players. In 2011, the Jets averaged 105 yards a game rushing, and barely improved in 2012. But last season, the Jets averaged 140 yards-per-game rushing, and thus far this season 150 yards per game. Well, what about the offensive line? You mean the one that allowed a team record 11 sacks in one game endured by his backup when Sanchez was benched in 2012?

It seems to me that those who are defending Smith out of all proportion and common sense are doing so for political or personal reasons. Jets fans who “cursed” Smith after the loss to the Lions have as much right to be angry at his media apologists as much at his mediocrity.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Week 4 NFL Notes

Bad-good-bad-good. That has been the story of Green Bay Packers’ season so far in a nutshell. In Week Three’s inept offensive performance against Detroit, I noted that when many commentators were asked to place the teams in NFC North, most put it the Bears-Lions-Packers, in that order. Unfortunately for those who believed that the Bears replaced the Packers as the “class” of the division—since Detroit was still considered too “unpredictable”—on the road against the Chicago was just the cure the struggling Packers needed for their woes—at least their offensive ones.  In Week Four’s contest, neither team displayed any semblance of defensive competency in the first half, trading long drives that ended with the Packers leading 21-17 at halftime.

In the second half, the Bears continued to grind-up the Packers defense, especially on the ground, gaining 235 yards rushing all told. Fortunately for the Packers, the Bears were undone by costly mistakes—including two Jay Cutler interceptions—and failed to score a single point after the half; the Packers scored 17 additional points on short fields to win in deceptive “blowout” fashion, 38-17. Despite a more “characteristic” Aaron Rodgers’ performance, a closer examination of the means to victory still leaves some doubt in the mind. The Packers defense was still shredded for nearly 500 yards and 33 first downs—and just as worrying is the fact that Packers still have been unable to establish a running game, with Eddie Lacy gaining but 48 yards on 17 carries—only 2.8 yards per attempt.

Nevertheless, if neither the Packers nor the Bears could be said to have quieted doubters in this game, what of the current division leader, the Detroit Lions? On paper, the Lions and the New York Jets led their respective conferences in fewest yards allowed on defense, but the Jets once more demonstrated for the third week in a row against teams from the “down” NFC North that this mattered little when you have a quarterback who has a habit of giving away short yardage to the other team. And unlike Rodgers last week, Matthew Stafford was able to take advantage of a questionable Jets’ secondary even with an ailing Calvin Johnson barely making an appearance. The Lions could afford to keep Johnson sidelined (he was only targeted twice), because Golden Tate proved with the Lions as he did with Seattle Seahawks last season that he was an adequate No. 1 receiver if called upon.

On the other hand, Geno Smith for the third straight game was ineffectual for long stretches of when he wasn’t serving the ball over to the other team on a silver platter. Once Jets fans were convinced that Smith was the “answer” merely because he looked the part of the “athletic” quarterback, and his name wasn’t Mark Sanchez; now in another home loss, the evidence before their eyes now dissuades the impulse to find blame elsewhere, and the chants for Michael Vick have become more pronounced. Coach Rex Ryan probably wishes to go the “backup” plan option sooner rather than later (despite the fa├žade he is obliged to maintain), but ultimately the decision to bench Smith will come after those who are really making the decisions start feeling the wrath of fans upon themselves.

The question then is if the Lions are “for real.” This may be their season if the Packers and Bears continue to play a Jekyll and Hyde act, and the Lions have certainly played more “consistently” this season; on the other hand, we have seen this from the Lions before, with those late season swoons. But wait—wasn’t that the Vikings who lit-up the scoreboard against the Atlanta Falcons with their latest new quarterback? Tied for “second” in the division? Talk about confusing.

Elsewhere, last Thursday, Kirk Cousins breathed new life into Robert Griffin III diehards by throwing four interceptions in a very embarrassing loss to the New York Giants at home; perhaps he was trying to drive the final nail into the coffin of RGIII partisans—only he left his brain in the locker room and did some major damage to his cause.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers somehow managed to escape with a victory in yet another example of how Colin Kaepernick and company cannot tolerate good fortune. Despite completely dominating the Philadelphia Eagles in every offensive category, the Eagles didn’t lose the lead in the game until the fourth quarter despite not scoring a single point on offense. 49er blunders on special teams and a Kaepernick interception returned for a touchdown gave the Eagles a 21-10 lead which was only very gradually allowed to melt away. But even down 26-21, with the Eagles having been stifled for 130 yards of total offense, they manage to somehow put together a 90 yard drive to the one-yard line late in the game, yet were undone by Nick Foles resuming his inferior play of the prior minutes of the game. Yet the Eagles still had a chance just 20 seconds later, but then the officials got involved, calling two inopportune penalties and setting up a fourth-and-24 which naturally led to a game-ending interception, saving the 49ers from another humiliating defeat not cushioned by even the bizarre nature of it.

Last week after the Denver Broncos lost to the Seattle Seahawks in a game that Seahawks almost gave away due to offensive ineptitude in the fourth quarter, the Broncos’ Chris Harris–who intercepted a Russell Wilson pass that led to an easy Broncos’ score—proclaimed afterward that he didn’t “understand” why anyone could possibly believe that Andrew Luck was a “better” quarterback than Wilson. Now, if the Indianapolis Colts had a defense (and noisy home crowd) like the Seahawks, he might be singing a different tune. After two tough losses that could have had different results had the ball bounced the other way, Luck has gotten into a groove that actually does make him appear to be the “natural” successor of his predecessor in Indianapolis that people thought he would be.

After a productive game against the admittedly “Luckless” Tennessee Titans, Luck is now after just four games 115 of 167 passing for 1305 yards and 13 TDs. Indianapolis currently leads the NFL in points scored (136) and average points per game (34). Luck’s production is 50 percent higher than Wilson’s, and he has shown that he is much more capable than Wilson of moving the ball through the air. Nevertheless, as they “say,” teams that can rush the ball and play great defense can overcome just adequate quarterback play, and it is Wilson’s good fortune to be on a team where this axiom has prevailed.

In regard to the “luckless” Titans, quarterback Jake Locker did not play due to a sprained wrist. Since being a surprisingly high draft pick in 2011, there have been plenty of doubters about his capacity to be an NFL quarterback; he certainly wasn’t the top tier college quarterback that many expected him to be. It was that people saw in his “athleticism” the “potential.” Locker was the projected starting quarterback for the Titans since day one, but he has been “out” for half of all the team’s games due to injury. He has had shoulder “issues,” he has had hip “issues” followed by knee “issues. Then he had foot “issues,” and now it is wrist “issues.” Practically every part of his body has had “issues.” The surprising thing is that the Titans still don’t have “issues” about the ability of Locker to stay upright long enough to play something like a full season. It seems more and more doubtful all the time, and other than one or two good games, one wonders when the team is going to get around to asking the question “what’s the point?”

The "animals" in your midst

Last March I posted something that drew from a conversation of very frank nature from both sides concerning the problem of homelessness, at least in Kent. I was under the impression that the officer who invited me to discuss the homeless problem with him actually wanted to listen to listen to a “fresh” perspective from someone who wasn’t a “criminal,” a drug addict or had “mental” problems. 

For my part, I appreciated the fact that he didn’t insult my college-educated intelligence by repeating the usual public relations propaganda; it was “refreshing” to hear someone admit that the police sometimes allowed their personal prejudices to govern their actions, and that the reason why Kent vetoed a downtown homeless shelter even at private expense was because the police wanted the right to deny certain “types,” presumably those “suspected” of being inebriates, drug addicts and people with psychological problems—i.e. the people most needed to be off the streets—the opportunity of taking up residence there. I think I was more than “fair and balanced” in my reporting of this meeting, considering my general attitude toward police.  

Thus it was with some irritation that I read a recent article entitled “Into the Wild” composed by someone named Matt Driscoll in the pages of the Seattle Weekly, in which the officer I spoke to was quoted but who shed much less light on the “problem”—only contributing to its “darkness.” The piece informs the uninformed of the “horror” of the homeless hidden in the bushes of suburban King County, mostly out-of-sight and out-of-mind to most residents, but a “problem” apparently in constant need of attention by police who need something to do.

Although he likely will claim that he did not “intend” to do so, in Driscoll’s telling of this tale the homeless are nearly all of a vaguely sub-human species—a view “helped” by the police description of the homeless as mostly a bunch of people who “want to live their life of crime and drugs” or, more “generously,” have “mental problems.” Deep in the “wilds” they live like feral animals, either in packs or as lone wolves, leaving behind refuse both material and fecal. And it is Driscoll’s “duty” to inform you of this previously "unknown" menace, particularly since once one “camp” is cleared out, it might migrate to your community. 

Alright, so perhaps I’m being “unfair” to Driscoll; perhaps he isn’t as ignorant or unmindful of the reality of homelessness as he appears to be. But anyone who approaches the issue from the perspective of law enforcement and the prejudiced of mind does more harm than “good.” Nowhere did I read in this piece about how homeless life can be a terrifying experience for the homeless, a constant struggle against those who would cause them more harm than they have already experienced. 

Nowhere in this article did I read about how once a person finds him or herself in this situation, how difficult it is to get out of it. Nowhere did I read of how in spite of the undoubted sincerity of people to help a person out of such a situation, a person who seems to be more “normal” than others and actually wants a roof over their heads are usually rejected for assistance from those who actually have the authority to do so, while those who are judged more “needy” are usually those less likely want it. 

Homelessness is a much more complicated issue than who is “hiding” where. The fact that the police search them out wherever they may be found just to drive them away and force them to hide out somewhere else—especially in communities that don’t provide a local 24-hour homeless shelter (like Kent) seems to me just a sick game. The “problem” is never “solved” this way—just transplanted somewhere else. It is a societal problem that few want to face in this capitalist system we live in.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

To Seattle cops suing against reform: Trust has to be earned

The behavior of police has received a bit of attention lately, such as in the “choke-hold” death of a New York man, Eric Garner, who told the police present that the plainclothes officer (did he know he was a cop?) who was strangling him that he “couldn’t breathe”—this for the crime of selling marijuana paraphernalia on the street—and of course the Michael Brown shooting. Here in Kent, police have been accused of lying about the events that led up to the shooting death of suspect outside a motel; an Oregon couple that witnessed the shooting were disturbed enough about the false nature initial reports that they contacted the local media to offer their take. Despite this, there is a funding proposition currently on the Kent ballot asking the local provincials (there are so many people here with Southern accents you’d think you were in Mississippi)  to help the police protect “us” against “them.” 

Apparently, the local police cannot function without a new home to accommodate a “growing force.” What’s “funny” about it is that the current police pad used to be the public library—nearly 33 percent larger by square feet than the totally inadequate current building (which its recent “remodeling” did nothing to fix). The new “public safety” building will be nearly three times larger at a cost of $34 million—and you can forget about the library moving to its old location; the “Robert E. Lee” Building will be torn down and the new one constructed on the same site (of course, there is a question of where the “temporary” home will be). At least we know where Kent’s “priorities” lie. Also interesting is that proposition notes that half the city jail population are the “mentally ill.” 

In Seattle, police are telling us that we need to believe their stories concerning the “truth” about police conduct reform. But then again, we know all about their habit of lying; For example, the original story about the shooting death of Native American woodcarver John T. Williams, concocted with the help of a police guild representative, was that Officer Ian Birk saw Williams sitting on a wall with a knife, and when Birk approached him, Williams lunged at him with the intent to stab him, in which case Birk had no choice but to shoot him dead. Unfortunately for Birk, there were not only witnesses to what actually happened, but he apparently forgot about that squad car dash cam. 

Cases like this cause one to think about those cases in which the only “witness” to a shooting by police happens to be the person they just shot, and no one can be certain of what actually happened. 

Meanwhile, King County Sheriff John Urquhart reversed an earlier decision following a contentious public meeting to allow the so-called lateral vascular neck restraint (LVNR) as a “valuable law-enforcement tool.” The LVNR is the so-called “blood choke” hold, in which the arm is used in a scissors-like fashion supposedly pinching a person’s blood supply to the brain rather than air passages. People may be under the mistaken impression that the LVNR is a non-lethal form of restraining a “combative” suspect,”  like tasers and batons; but in fact it is regarded by police agencies as a form of “lethal force”—particularly when the “blood choke” doesn’t work as “trained,” as in the case of the New York victim.

Naturally, since many citizens have this ingrained distrust of police, which wasn’t helped by the fact that Urquhart implied that a choke hold could still be used in a “lethal” situation, naturally to be defined by a police officer. Could another Ferguson occur here? It seems that the black audience only believes such things happen to them; but such an event already occurred, in the case of Williams. Other minority groups have the same racial stereotypes applied them. 

Trust in police also wasn’t advanced in the case of a Seattle police officer who went on a personal crusade against the marijuana legalization law. While it is true that toking in in full view of the public is technically against the law, similar to drinking alcohol, one suspects that someone with a slight “buzz” is far less of an annoyance that your typical talkative inebriate. Last year the interim police chief, Jim Pugel, was quoted in The Stranger as saying that citing people for pot smoking would "only be used as a last resort after someone has refused to put it away. It takes time and money to write a citation. Let's focus on the things that make the city safer."

That apparently was too much for SPD officer Randy Jokela, nicknamed “Officer Joker” by the locals. Since the legalization law went into effect, Jokela wrote 66 of the 83 pot smoking citations in the Seattle, mostly in and around city parks. According to reports, Jokela decided to become a one-man army against legalization, although the record indicates he sometimes used arbitrary methods of carrying out this vendetta. According to the Seattle Times, “In addition to the references to (City Attorney Pete) Holmes, Jokela wrote on one ticket that he used a coin toss to decide which of two men to issue a ticket and on another described state voter approval of marijuana legalization as ‘silly.’” Jokela also did not conduct himself by stated policy, that officers are supposed to issue a “warning” for first “infractions.” That 37 percent of the citations were issued to blacks apparently was not seen as racial profiling.

Jokela was “disciplined”—i.e. wrist-slapped—by the new police chief, Kathleen O’Toole, who requested that Holmes (a supporter of the legalization law) to dismiss all of the citations issued by Jokela. His supervisor was also cited for failure to “supervise” his activities, apparently condoning them, something that can hardly be said to be unexpected.

After all of this, SPD officers continue have the nerve to claim that “The greatest threat to the city’s public safety in our time” is the effort to reign in their history of thuggery that bred deep distrust and brought on the Justice Department investigation of the SPD and subsequent court order to reform its use-of-force polices? Without citing any evidence to back-up the claim, officers who brought to the lawsuit against reform, are claiming that they must “go through a complicated, contradictory and confusing checklist of requirements, criteria and options” which lead to “immediate threats of harm” to their persons, meaning that “the City is now knowingly and willingly playing politics with Plaintiffs’ lives and the lives of the law-abiding citizens of Seattle.” Note that not it isn’t implied that the “lives of law-abiding citizens” may be under threat from such police officers who have filed the lawsuit.

One may (or may not) recall that last year the city paid out $1.75 million in damages for the “violent arrest” of Brian Torgerson, a schizophrenic who was gagged with a sock, punched and tased, causing him to choke on his own blood and vomit, and eventually blocking air to reach his brain—leaving him with severe brain damage. Police claimed that they acted as they did because Torgerson was “resisting” arrest, but witnesses claimed he was not resisting. It is interesting to note that Torgerson’s own father had requested the presence of the police after Torgerson allegedly assaulted him the day before; how often do “loved ones” request such attention for mentally-disabled family members, only to have their condition worsened by the time police are finished “helping”? 

Frankly, when the police already cost the city millions every year for their misbehavior, maybe they should be the ones paying back the city. But they don’t. Not only do individual officers not have to pay a dime of their own money, but police department budgets are almost never touched; these lawsuits are always paid out the city’s general fund or through expensive insurance—meaning the taxpayer.  According to the New York University Law Review, “governments paid approximately 99.98% of the dollars that plaintiffs recovered in lawsuits alleging civil rights violations by law enforcement” from 2006 to 2011. According to a report by the Associated Press, in the past decade New York City has paid out nearly $1 billion in lawsuits against police misconduct. 

And we’re supposed to be feel grief for the SPD officers who feel that reform sets an “impossible standard” for them to abide by, leaving them “scratching their heads and fearing for their lives.” Is this supposed to be some kind of sick joke? The lawsuit also has the appalling mendacity to claim that the lives of “suspects” are also “endangered” by reform. 

We can only hope that U.S. District Judge James Robart, who is supervising the implementation of reform, has the last say on the subject: “To those individuals I simply say: ‘Get over it. The train has left the station. It’s not going to turn around. The good old days are not coming back.’”