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Opinion: With the nation watching, Seattle police failed the test

Seattle police downtown during recent protests. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott)

Much like many major cities across the United States, Seattle found itself in the spotlight Saturday night. And with the nation watching, we saw our police force flunk the same test many of their counterparts in other departments failed in kind.

We saw reports of a small child who was allegedly maced by police.

We saw photos of a Seattle officer with electrical tape concealing his badge number from the public eye.

We even saw video of another Seattle officer with his knee on the neck of a protester, echoing the harrowing footage of George Floyd that set the weekend’s chain of events in motion.

None of that was addressed by Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best in her statement issued shortly after midnight between Saturday and Sunday.

It all came on a night where violence begat more violence, escalated by a curfew imposed with just 15 minutes of forewarning.

That culminated in behavior from a police department that has repeatedly complained that its real problem is a lack of support from City Hall.

Meanwhile, we saw Best saying her department “has become a national leader in de-escalation” just weeks ago, while Police Officers Guild President Mike Solan argued that it was “time to move on” from a federal consent decree slapped on SPD in 2012 for unconstitutional policing.

Solan went so far as to laud how officers are now ready to “effectively go about our profession without the threat of civilian monitoring.”

It’s been eight years since that consent decree was enacted, and the department claims it’s finally ready for less oversight. It’s telling that it took just two weeks following that claim to prove that it isn’t.

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