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Dave Ross

Way Seattle residents view police may depend on race

A recent survey found 60 percent of residents thought the Seattle police were doing a good or excellent job, but hiding behind that headline is a big disconnect with African Americans and Latinos. (AP Photo/file)

It turns out that Seattle residents don’t all see the police the same way. It seems to depend on race.

And the latest survey to highlight that familiar fact was conducted by the police monitor, Merrick Bob, overseeing changes on the Seattle Police Department under an agreement with the Justice department.

The survey found that 60 percent of residents thought the Seattle police were doing a good or excellent job, but hiding behind that headline is a big disconnect with African Americans and Latinos.

Of people surveyed who had interactions with the police – just 44 percent of African Americans and Latinos approved of the way it was handled, compared with 77 percent of whites.

And it seems to indicate a significant difference in how different groups were treated. Twenty-seven percent of Latinos and African Americans said the officer used physical force other than handcuffing, compared to only 5 percent of whites.

What we are not told in the story is the kinds of crimes each group was suspected of, but the report concludes that this confirms the public perception of a disparity in the way different groups are treated, and that perception is not likely to change unless the reality changes.

That’s why the monitor is also proposing a new use of force policy, the bottom line being force is the last resort, not part of the initial greeting.

One thing I found surprising – for the first time, pointing a firearm will be considered a use of force. Apparently it wasn’t before. Here’s what the federal monitor, Merrick Bobb had to say about it:

“When the gun is raised, then that becomes a reportable use of force, because it is specifically pointed and the likelihood of it being used probably increases,” said Bobb.

Am I the only one who thinks it’s strange that raising a gun was not considered a use of force? I’ve had a gun pointed in my direction before – granted it was by a soldier, not a cop – but it was clearly a use of force. I did not feel free to leave, and it certainly crossed my mind that, hey, I could die here and there’s nothing I can do about it.

The police guild is a little concerned about this. Guild president Rich O’Neill tells Q13 he’s worried all of these guidelines will put officers at risk.

“Officers are going to have to conform to this new use of force policy and some officers, I hope not, but some officers may hesitate and that is a concern of mine. I don’t want to see an officer get hurt because they should have used force and they didn’t,” says O’Neill.

But the guidelines simply require that you report that you pointed the firearm. And if there’s a reason for it, presumably there’s no problem.

Some concerned new SPD use of force guidelines could put cops in danger

Dave Ross on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM

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About the Author

Dave Ross

Dave Ross hosts the Morning News on KIRO Radio weekdays from 5-9 a.m. Dave has won the national Edward R. Murrow Award for writing five times since he started at KIRO Radio in 1978.


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