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Rantz: Seattle cop slammed for protecting free speech during racist incident

An officer faces a complaint after telling a man that free speech isn't a crime. (Photo: Jason Rantz)

A Seattle police officer faces a complaint after not punishing a man for engaging in protected speech. Now, the chief of police has apparently apologized to the purported victim.

The Seattle Police Department forwarded the issue for review to the activist-driven Office of Police Accountability. I think this incident stems, at least in part, from the department’s well-intentioned, but widely-mocked PSA against purported anti-Asian hate crimes — that aren’t actual crimes.

What’s worse, there are some significant contradictions in the victim’s claims.

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The racist incident, with some contradiction

The incident reportedly began as a traffic argument, as Kert Lin was driving in the Home Depot parking lot in SoDo. There was a verbal altercation about being cut off. On Facebook, Lin says the man told him, “Chink open your eyes go back to China.”

Lin, a kindergarten teacher in Seattle, called 911 to report the incident. He said he was told by an officer who responded that “no crime was committed, that man was exercising his first amendment rights. No law broken, no report taken.”

A source tells me that the police report contradicts this claim by Lin. Initially, Lin did not reference the racial slur, bizarrely leaving it out of his complaint. Lin brought up the racial slur, I’m told, during a follow-up a short time later.

And a report was taken. Indeed, SPD notes the “bias incident in question was documented in a General Offense report and forwarded to the Bias Crimes Coordinator for further investigation.”

Regardless of the timing, as a matter of law, the statement allegedly made by the man is unquestionably protected speech. The officer is correct to say there was no law broken.

If said, was it racist and demeaning? Yes. And Lin shouldn’t have had to deal with it. But it’s protected speech. Lin himself is exercising the very same right to speech as the man in question. Only instead of using his speech to condemn racism, he’s using it to bash a cop.

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An apology

Lin wasn’t happy. He recounted what happened next on Facebook.

I asked what the community response would be. [The Officer] said he knew of no directive from HQ or SPD regarding racism, particularly racism toward Asian Americans. I asked multiple times and he outright lied every time. I discovered that ALL SPD officers have signed off indicating they understand the SPD protocol, which is ANY TIME A 911 CALL IS MADE REGARDING RACIAL HARASSMENT, AN INCIDENT REPORT MUST BE MADE.

It’s bizarre, to me, to ask any cop for answers on a “community response” to the incident. What should the cop do, exactly? Offer up a 10-point plan to address people who hold hateful thoughts before implementing a re-education camp?

After Lin posted his complaint on social media, the Seattle Police Department learned about it. The Seattle Times confirmed that SPD Chief Carmen Best called Lin to apologize, but it wasn’t good enough apparently.

Lin wants more

Rejecting just an apology, Lin writes “An SPD officer outright lied about protecting our community.” Seeming to reference Chief Best’s recent PSA asking people to call 911 to report “racist name calling,” Lin wrote:

Despite the directive from Chief Best, despite the overt racism in our community, despite the national focus of our heritage this month, [the officer] still felt he could get away with lying about SPD protocol about handling racism. This impunity needs to stop. This is not okay. Please share so we can let Seattle Police Department know they are accountable for their words and actions, they are seen by the community and they cannot ignore the violence and harassment continuing in our community.

There’s no evidence that the officer lied about anything, as far as I can tell. This appears to be a proud Asian man justifiably upset that a racist name was thrown his way. But there is no justification in attacking this officer.

Best’s PSA virtue signaling should be blamed, in part, for this silly controversy. The video conflated racist name calling with hate crimes. Encouraging people to call 911 for protected speech isn’t just a waste of officer’s time, it creates a sense that crimes are being committed when they’re not. According to the SPD’s own records, the city of Seattle isn’t dealing with a rash of anti-Asian hate crime reports connected to the PSA.

The cop acted appropriately

The officer in question appears to have handled everything the way he ought to, based on what’s publicly known.

“It is unfortunate that an individual chose to target a person of Asian dissent with disdain,” Retired Seattle Police Sergeant Ron Smith tells the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “However, under the malicious harassment parameters, the individual did not make threats of violence, did not assault and/or do property damage based on the individual’s perceived ethnicity. As such, there is no probable cause for an arrest for malicious harassment.”

Yet, the SPD forwarded the complaint to the Office of Police Accountability for review.

Unless body cam footage revealed something egregious, this is a shameless political move meant to quiet the unreasonable activist crowd, while throwing a cop under the bus.

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. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter and Instagram or like me on Facebook
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