Rantz: Councilmember Gonzalez renews push to fire white Seattle police officers

Jan 17, 2021, 7:24 PM | Updated: Jan 18, 2021, 10:45 am
Seattle council, SPD, defund...
Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez. (Seattle Channel)
(Seattle Channel)

The Seattle City Council will renew its push to fire white officers within the Seattle Police Department.

The move comes after a nearly 20% cut to the budget and a loss of nearly 200 officers from the department. The SPD has the lowest deployable rate of officers since 1990, as the city experiences a surge in violent crime, including a 26-year-high murder rate. We shouldn’t be firing anyone.

Legal issues aside, the only practical way the council can fire white officers is to negotiate the right in the next contract. They’ll get their chance to in 2021. The Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) contract is up for renewal.

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Council pushes to fire white Seattle officers

The council still aims to cut Seattle Police by 50%. But they can’t without significant layoffs, since staffing represents the largest piece of the budget.

But a council that only sees race ran into a problem. After considerable recruitment efforts, the SPD was able to bring in a new and diverse class of officers in 2019.

Under the current contract, layoffs require the SPD to ditch newly hired officers before more senior officers. This, of course, makes sense. You don’t want to risk losing officers with the most experience, training, and community relationships. But the older officers are white, and the newer officers less so.

“It’s going to be a massive fight and one of the things that is gonna be a huge fight is how to do out-of-order layoffs so that it’s not last-hired, first-fired, which is where all of our diverse police officers sit in that category,” Seattle City Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez told Vice News. “We’re going to have to negotiate some of those issues likely with the union.”

Remarkably, in her pitch to fire white officers for the crime of being white, Gonzalez criticizes SPOG for having “not behaved as good partners.” As if SPOG should sit back and let a radical council defund them without pushback.

This isn’t a new idea

This isn’t the first time the Seattle City Council discussed the idea of firing officers on the basis of race.

During the height of the defund movement in July, amidst the riots politicians were pretending were peaceful protests, Councilmember Lisa Herbold raised the idea.

Herbold argued a way to get around laying off “BIPOC” (Black, indigenous, and people of color) officers would be to request permission from the Public Safety Civil Service Commission executive director to lay off the more veteran, white officers.

For that to work, however, the SPD would have to successfully argue that firing white officers is in “the interest of efficient operations of his or her department” (according to Rule 15).

No reasonable nor sane person would think race-based firing would make the department operate more efficiently. That it’s Herbold making the suggestion should disqualify the idea from being considered reasonable on its face.

Would this be illegal? Yup

It was an illegal idea when Herbold mentioned it last July. It’s still an illegal idea when Seattle’s most inept lawyer Gonzalez mentioned it to Vice.

One of the country’s leading legal scholars is Jonathan Turley of George Washington University. He slammed the idea after Herbold made the pitch.

On his blog, Turley called it illegal discrimination on the basis of race. He mocked Herbold for foolishly believing in “discrimination for a good cause.”

“This of course would be even more egregious since Herbold wants to fire white officers due to their race alone,” Turley wrote. “They would not be accused of any wrongdoing or failure. The problem is their race.”

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Rantz: Councilmember Gonzalez renews push to fire white Seattle police officers