Rantz: Emails show city staff believe Seattle cops are racists, dissent reported to HR

Aug 16, 2021, 5:51 PM | Updated: Aug 17, 2021, 11:02 am
daniel holmberg...
Daniel Holmberg, Change Team leader at FAS, wrote an anti-police screed.

The city department that oversees the Seattle Police Department fleet embraced a vicious anti-police smear labeling cops white supremacists, according to internal emails obtained by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. And if an employee gets in the way of that message, they could earn a rebuke from Human Resources.

Daniel Holmberg is a leadership team member at the Financial and Administrative Services (FAS). In June, Holmberg wrote an inflammatory screed charging police “serve the false gods of white supremacy.” Seattle police swiftly filed complaints against FAS with HR, the city ombudsman, and the Seattle Office of Civil Rights.

But while some members of the public found the comments disturbing, internal emails show FAS management, and many staffers share the message. One of Holmberg’s colleagues, however, disagreed. She was reported to HR for daring to express her criticism.

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FAS director, employees embraced police smear

Holmberg’s screed was alarming to those who read it — particularly police — outside the FAS offices. It earned an onslaught of comments calling out the activist employee’s message. However, internal emails reveal the message earned the support of many colleagues.

Holmberg is a member of the Change Team. It is a group of elected staffers tasked with helping the department reach its equity and anti-racist goals. FAS staff committed itself to a “daily call for us to embed race and equity into everything we do in our department.”

On June 2, acting as a Change Team member, Holmberg emailed all staff an essay titled, “White supremacy thrives without consequences.”

“When the arbiters of justice serve the false gods of white supremacy, they are not worthy of the power they wield,” Holmberg wrote. “If police protection and restraint extend only to white people, they are no longer guardians; they are mercenaries and zealots, paid in the wages of white privilege, inflicting their wicked commandments upon us.”

Rather than call out the disturbing essay, many FAS staff embraced it.

‘This is powerful truth’

After emailing FAS staff the essay, the email support came pouring in.

“Amazing job and very well written,” emailed Elisa Young, Director, Equity and Policy for FAS.

Employee Christine was also impressed, explaining in an email she’d been too scared to express her views too vocally “for fear of retaliation and or negative reprisal.” She told Holmberg that she was so scared of cops that it made her “consider buying a gun to protect myself from our own radical police and I am a white woman, I can’t imagine the terror I’d feel as a person of color.”

“Wow Daniel. This is powerful truth,” employee Jennifer wrote him encouragingly.

“I appreciate the directness of your message, and your willingness to not ‘sugarcoat’ any of the points in your message,” Brian, another coworker, responded.

Holmberg seemed to enjoy the positive reaction. In response to one colleague emailing him praise, Holmberg played the martyr.

“Thank you for having the courage to speak out, as white people, our voices resonate louder within our communities and it’s vital that we speak up,” he replied. “Being a good ally makes me think of an old joke about friendship: A good friend will bail you out of jail, your best friend will be in the cell with you. I think we need to put down our inherent racial protection (to the extent we can) and stand in the fire with people of color who have no choice but to feel the flames every day of their lives.”

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Institutional support

After my initial story, Holmberg received criticism from members of the public disgusted by his hateful message.

Change Team member Daniel Magpali emailed the director after a meeting with Holmberg.

“It is SO great to feel that as a member of that Change Team that we are not in this alone but that we have the backing of our department to push ahead with difficult conversations,” Magpali told Goings. “I know you are already busy as it is, but just wanted you to know that your work is not going unnoticed even though you may play behind the scenes.”

Goings responded, “TEAMwork!”

Change Team leader Luisa Madrigal also detailed Goings’ support in an email to her colleagues. They even discussed the possibility of defending the screed on national television.

“Daniel M [Magpali] and I had our monthly check-in with Calvin yesterday and he was aware of the article and had worked with [spokesperson] Melissa Mixon regarding FAS’ response; from our conversation it appears the DO is going to ‘Lean in’ to the article. Calvin made a remark that he’d be fine with going on national tv to discuss the matter; we thanked him for his support in keeping the Change Team “Autonomous”.

Communication Team, this article was needed, and we stand with you.

Daniel H, THANK YOU for your courage in publishing this article with your name, even knowing it may create some blow-back. I admire and appreciate your passion and dedication.

Another Change Team member, Dora Wrenn, emailed Holmberg: “You’re FAMOUS or infamous…..either way, I like it!”

But not everyone admired the message.

One coworker called Holmberg out. He complained to HR

One FAS staffer responded to Holmberg with a two-page letter expressing her displeasure with the email. Holmberg reported it to HR.

She noted the Five Pillars of Workplace Expectations for FAS promoted by the director. She reminded Holmberg they are to “promote equity, respect, civility, integrity, inclusiveness, fairness and safety for ALL employees.” But she said his email “slashed and burned every goal of this pillar.”

“I am astonished you were allowed to email this tirade throughout FAS,” she told Holmberg. “Your missive left me insulted, demoralized, angry and outright scared. I am from a family of law enforcement. My father and two maternal uncles. I have several friends at SPD whom I love and admire. None of my family members and friends are racist, white nationalist, nor ‘maggots’, nor ‘mercenaries’ (your terms, not mine).”

She told Holmberg he owed officers an apology and reminded him he doesn’t speak for all FAS employees.

“White-male-privilege-outrage does not entitle you to distribute over-indulgent, mass ignorant, arrogant, misplaced righteous sermonizing that alienates an entire workforce,” she concluded. “Your entitlement allowed and enabled you to eviscerate my family, my friends, and all the good police officers who place their personal safety on the line every single day, for you and your hateful ilk.”

Holmberg wasn’t going to apologize.

Reported to HR

Holmberg was upset with his coworker’s response. You don’t challenge Holmberg.

Perhaps it is his white privilege behind the apparent expectation to be universally lauded as a hero for his missive. But for this coworker, he was most definitely not a hero. Holmberg forwarded the criticism to HR Division Director Ray Sugarman.

FAS spokesperson Melissa Mixon says Holmberg was asked to forward responses to HR “so they could stay apprised of the situation and offer support to him or other FAS employees who might need it.” But it doesn’t appear he forwarded this particular email so he could offer support. He forwarded it, wondering if it crossed any lines that could land the staffer in hot water.

“This was from a city staff in response. I don’t know if this crosses any lines. It was cc’d to [Director] Calvin [Goings] as well,” Holmberg emailed Sugarman.

The HR director responded that he would “be looking into this and will get back to you soon.” Apparently, he looked into it.

The HR department contacted the staffer’s direct supervisor as well as the director of her department. Thankfully, Mixon tells the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that the staff member did not face discipline.

Mixon added that FAS facilitated conversations between offended employees and the Change Team.

There was at least one facilitated conversation between the staffer who sent the email and the Change Team. But Holmberg did not participate.

Understanding Holmberg’s hate

Holmberg’s Change Team bio is rather instructive and gives us a glimpse into his general worldview.

He is motivated by his guilt, privilege, and desperate desire to be a literal White Knight to save people of color from oppression.

“I have the luxury of ‘opting in’ to the awareness of discrimination whereas many have to eke out every breath under its oppressive weight,” he wrote in his bio. “My voice carries an unearned clout, simply because it comes from a straight, white, male mouth. This is wrong and unjust but true. Silence is sunlight to the seeds of bigotry, and I cannot stand quiet while so many suffer.”

I think he’s earned criticism. His criticism of police was disturbing and unhinged. I also think he suffers from a white savior complex. It oozes from his bio like his condescending treatment of people of color. But I do agree with one thing he writes.

Holmberg makes one valid point

Holmberg understands something about himself. And he makes a valid point.

“As a straight, white man I am among the least persecuted group in history,” he concedes. “Yet rules, laws, and institutions are designed to protect and elevate me.”

Holmberg lacks an interest in promoting equity — quite the opposite. He wants the police and his critics treated differently. It’s why he asked HR if a critic’s email crosses any lines.

Of course, he obviously lacks respect and civility towards others. It’s generally frowned upon to use a broad brush to call the staff of an entire profession racist. His bad faith and divisive essay shows him lacking in inclusiveness and fairness. And Holmberg’s dangerous ideas contribute to an environment that’s more dangerous for cops.

Above all, Holmberg lacks integrity. He comes off as motivated by a need to be a hero, not a desire to help. He wants the credit for helping people of color he pities. That’s condescending, next-level racism.

Holmberg is clearly in violation of the Five Pillars of Workplace Expectations. And instead of suffering any consequences, he gets unearned support from FAS. So maybe he’s earning undue protection from FAS, an institution that should be dismantled after all?

Did you like this opinion piece? Then 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,  Instagram, and Parler, and like me on Facebook

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Rantz: Emails show city staff believe Seattle cops are racists, dissent reported to HR