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Former Sheriff Reichert: Elected officials have ‘failed to protect law abiding citizens’

People walk by barricades in the area known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) on June 24, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. On Monday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said that the city would phase down the CHOP zone and that the Seattle Police Department would return to its vacated East Precinct. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Seattle’s occupied zone in Capitol Hill has received national attention, with people all over weighing in on what needs to happen at the CHOP. Many have criticized Seattle and the state for a lack of leadership.

Former King County Sheriff and Congressman Dave Reichert joined KIRO Radio’s Gee & Ursula Show to share his opinion. In a recent op-ed piece, Reichert said Seattle today is unlike anything he’s seen in decades, and “elected officials have abandoned the rule of law.”

Seattle police officer: Policing won’t survive without public approval

“As I also say in the piece, I was on the street during WTO with men and women, from law enforcement agencies all across the state practically, and we did deal with some anarchists then, as you may remember,” Reichert said. “That started out as a peaceful protest too.”

He says law enforcement officers learned a lot from WTO in 1999.

“As you watch the progression of how SPD handled protests and demonstrations from that period forward, they were very, very well trained, have been, and still are, very well organized, and very constrained, in my opinion,” he said.

During WTO, Reichert said he watched people strike police officers, push them, spit at them, while they stood there and took it.

“What we did do that they didn’t do this time, it seems, as police weren’t allowed to do that by city officials, was to arrest people, to hold those accountable and responsible who were tromping and stomping on the rights of law abiding citizens,” Reichert said. “Businesses were destroyed, property was destroyed, people were hurt.”

In the case of the CHOP, there has now been one person killed, three people shot, and multiple other crimes, including rape and assault, he said.

“The elected officials of the city, of the county, and of the state, and of our federal agencies, all have a responsibility to protect and defend our constitutional rights,” Reichert said. “That means the rights of all people, not just a few people, a small segment of people, but all people.”

“So as this progressed, the leadership, I should say elected officials — titles don’t make you a leader, it’s your actions that do — failed to protect those law abiding citizens,” he added. “And they allowed this to get out of hand.”

The original intent of the protests, Reichert says, were pure and good, to call attention to the wrongful death of George Floyd and demand change.

“That mission, that message, by a community that lives under fear … with the threat of violence every day, not just from police officers, but in their community, got lost,” Reichert said. “It got … hijacked by the anarchists and those that want to take our country down.”

Reichert did not put the blame for what he says is now out-of-hand on Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best.

“I have seen the chief be the really the only one with some courage here,” he said. “I have a great deal of respect for Chief Best. … When she stepped out and said, ‘Look, I didn’t order the evacuation of the precinct,’ she put her job on the line. How many people would do that?”

Ursula: Seattle Mayor Durkan needs to empower Police Chief Best

Best, Reichert says, has to influence the city council and a mayor who have not been supportive.

“Now what they’ve decided to do is to take away all the tools from the police officers that are less lethal weapons and leave them on the street with a night stick and a gun. That’s back to 1972. That’s what I had when I was on the street,” he said.

Reichert says police need to be supported with new technology and updated training.

“I know as the sheriff, I had a budget of $85,000 to train 1,200 employees. That’s ridiculous,” he said. “And I’m going to guess today that the training budget for the police department is minuscule.”

“If you want a professional, highly trained, effective, compassionate police department, you’ve got to support them,” he added.

The majority of cops, Reichert said, do recognize there needs to be change.

“There has to be some new way of looking at how we get rid of bad cops. Because, as I said in my piece, good cops working out there don’t want bad cops next to them. We don’t want to have them represent our police department because they taint the badge,” Reichert said. “And we don’t want to have them protecting the citizens that we love.”

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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