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Rantz: Seattle cops warned about carcinogen at homeless camp, faulty new handcuffs

A cleanup of a homeless camp in Seattle's SoDo neighborhood in December 2018, directed by the city's Navigation Team. (Jason Rantz, KTTH)

The union supporting Seattle police officers is warning their members of two serious issues: Unhealthy conditions at a local homeless encampment and news handcuffs they believe to be faulty.

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The Seattle Police Officer’s Guild released an urgent “SPOG SAFETY ALERTS” memo to Sergeants, asking them to disseminate the details to their officers and post on SPOG bulletin boards.

PCB in the soil

According to the safety alert, acquired by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH, SPOG leaders were recently told that “PCB’s (known carcinogenic) were discovered in the soil at 1st Avenue South and South Denver.” That was the site of an unsanctioned homeless encampment that they say was cleared in January. The alert continues:

Apparently, the encampment was cleared out in January 2019 and the city sent soil samples out to be tested. In June, those tests came back ‘positive’ for PCBs. The department is in the process of notifying officers who may have responded to that area about the test findings. The department has assured SPOG that they are also researching the issue and will develop safety precautions for officers called to this and other potentially contaminated locations. SPOG members who responded to this location should make sure the department is aware of their name.

A press release issued by SDOT and Seattle Public Utilities Tuesday reiterated those findings, saying that the city is “working to clean up an industrial area in South Seattle after soil samples confirmed the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, man-made chemicals considered a probable carcinogen and banned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the 1970s.”

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It remains unclear how many officers, neighbors, or homeless individuals have been impacted by this — if any at all. The city’s news release went on to note that “SPU received lab results on June 19 indicating levels of PCBs that exceed state and federal levels generally accepted as protective for human health and the environment.” PCB exposure can be toxic, but the levels would have to be relatively high.

New handcuff problems

At the same time, SPOG is sounding alarms over the brand new handcuffs meant to be more comfortable for suspects. According to the alert, there is a major issue:

SPOG has recently learned that a pair of the new handcuffs failed to stay double locked when struck against a hard object. What this means is that after being double locked the handcuffs continued to get tighter when struck against a hard object. These new handcuffs, which were purchased and distributed by the department, were designed to provide less discomfort to the person to whom they were applied. The department has assured SPOG that they are conducting tests on the new handcuffs to determine if this was an isolated defect in this one pair of handcuffs or if this issue is more widespread. SPOG members who carry the new handcuffs should be aware of this and report any problems to their supervisor immediately.

Last week, the SPD showed up the news handcuffs to MyNorthwest Dyer Oxley.

“They are just regular handcuffs, but what we wanted to do was find ones that fit better ergonomically, didn’t cause as much discomfort to people,” said Deputy Chief Marc Garth-Green.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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