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Police union president ‘infuriated’ over comments made by Seattle council member

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LISTEN: Mike O'Brien raises some bizzare concerns about a new police precinct

A new building for Seattle’s north precinct is slated to be built in coming years, which is welcome news to police officers. However, it hasn’t received such a warm welcome by one Seattle City Council member.

Seattle City Council member Mike O’Brien told The Seattle Times that he feels the proposed building costs too much and that the inclusion of a gym and shooting range would attract officers inside the building, instead of encouraging them to go out into their communities.

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I want to have a system that really encourages officers to be spending the bulk of their time out in our communities. I have some concerns about a building with a fitness center and a shooting range and other amenities, maybe encouraging officers to hang out a little longer.

O’Brien also said the building is scheduled to be built too soon. He would prefer to give people a chance to weigh in on the construction of the building — communities he says have been treated unfairly by the police in the past.

The current north precinct building was constructed in 1985. It has a gym and an indoor shooting range. It was built to staff 150 people but currently staffs 250. The new building comes with a $160 million price tag and is scheduled to open in 2019.

Ron Smith, president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, couldn’t disagree more with O’Brien.

“I have never thought he has been really anti-police in his time on the council, but I don’t know where that’s coming from,” Smith said. “I think it’s this utopian ideal of ‘Kumbaya’ that so many in leadership roles in this community have.”

Smith told KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz that he was angered by the comments O’Brien made to The Seattle Times — especially the comment about “mistreated” communities.

“That’s the part of this Times article that infuriated me more than his uninformed comments about a workout facility and a firing range,” Smith said. “They have no business, absolutely none, having any design role in a police facility.”

“If they would like to lobby their city council or lobby their mayor about what they hope it would look like, they are free to do that,” he said. “But to insinuate that somehow people who have ‘been mistreated’ by the police should be designing this facility — tell you what, you just incensed every one of my members.”

Smith further argues that O’Brien’s statements about the fitness facility and shooting range don’t make much sense, given that the current north precinct already has those things.

“Each and every precinct including the current north precinct has a workout facility. In the basement of the current north precinct, it has the only indoor fire range we have at a precinct. Our other outdoor range is south of Boeing Field,” he said. “So for him thinking that an officer coming in before, or staying after their shift to work on physical fitness is counterproductive, or to use the firing range to work on firing skills — those things are required of a law enforcement officer.”

Smith also notes that the current building sits in a “boggy area” and that the basement has flooded before, among other problems.

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