KTTH OPINION

Rantz: Activists to harass cops with Seattle Police complaint campaign

Mar 18, 2024, 6:46 PM | Updated: Mar 19, 2024, 11:08 am

Image: Seattle Police Department officers arrest a woman caught driving a stolen car full of stolen...

Seattle Police Department officers arrest a woman on March 10, 2022 in Seattle. Activists have been harassing members of law enforcement with a Seattle Police complaint campaign. (Photo: John Moore, Getty Images)

(Photo: John Moore, Getty Images)

Progressive and socialist activists have started a Seattle Police complaint campaign that amounts to little more than harassment. They’re taking advantage of the anti-cop leader of the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) who vowed to investigate officers who commit traffic violations, even while responding to emergencies.

Radical blog The Stranger is asking its anti-cop readers to report officers for “driving irresponsibly” to the OPA, a civilian-led, independent oversight agency for the Seattle Police Department (SPD). As examples, the blog cites illegal left turns, speeding, and “driving like an (expletive).” The blogger disingenuously says that “if we report enough cops for driving badly, maybe they’ll stop killing us and costing us money.” This is misleading reference to a tragic event where a pedestrian, Jaahnavi Kandula, crossed a sidewalk, misjudging the speed of an approaching patrol car on its way to an overdose call. Kandula was struck and killed in January 2023.

This new harassment campaign was made possible thanks to a controversial decision by OPA leader Gino Betts.

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Seattle Police complaint campaign inspired by anti-cop city leader

West precinct SPD Captain Steve Strand asked Betts to “clarify some trends I am noticing.” In a March 12 email, obtained by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH and originally reported last week, Strand said he saw “a few recent complaints come in regarding police vehicles committing traffic violations by exceeding the speed limit, driving in bus lanes, not using turn signals, and parking in unauthorized spots.”

The captain noted this is inappropriate since those traffic violations do not violate SPD policies in the context of responding to calls. In fact, his officers would have to violate traffic laws on 3rd Avenue, where they get a disproportionate number of emergency calls. Third Avenue is a bus-only lane during drive-times. To do their jobs, officers would must drive through and park in bus-only lanes.

Betts responded minutes later saying that he would still investigate these frivolous traffic complaints. He said OPA has “previously processed allegations concerning officers driving and parking in bus lanes to patrol 3rd Avenue and did not sustain them.”

Seattle Police briefly told not to drive 3rd Avenue in downtown

Even complaints that are not sustained are seen as punishment to many cops. They’re put in a position to explain why they faced complaints to begin with, and in this case, traffic violations on the job could lead to dozens of complaints.

Putting officers through the OPA complaint process needlessly did not seem like an option for Strand as evidenced in an email he sent to all West Precinct staff. He told them that he “must recommend you stay out of bus lanes and off of 3rd Avenue.” He said driving in the downtown core would open them up to the “risk of sustained finding” on the traffic violation.

The Strand email prompted another follow-up to staff, this time courtesy of Assistant Chief Todd Kibbee. He said that the Command Staff takes this issue seriously and that “complaints that come about as a result of routine driving on 3rd Avenue will be routed to myself and Chief (Adrian) Diaz and mitigated at the command level.”

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OPA is the allied agency for anti-cop activists

Anti-cop activists have an ally in Betts. Many in SPD suspect he routinely leaks complaints to friendly press outlets in order to criticize or undermine police. And now The Stranger is encouraging the weaponization of what is supposed to be a legitimate and non-partisan oversight committee. Ironically, by doing so, the blog and activists are taking any credibility away from the OPA, along with wasting staff’s time.

To be clear, the activists who read The Stranger are solely interested in frivolous complaints. They’re hoping it leads to discipline and hurts future job prospects if they leave the department.

“Narcing on a cop for bad driving probably won’t get them fired, but the report creates a record that can lead to more serious punishment from the department if an officer violates department policy repeatedly,” The Stranger blogger argues in bad faith. “Public pressure will help SPD to take these violations seriously.”

The campaign will backfire

Police officers shouldn’t speed to a mass shooting in a grocery store parking lot? They shouldn’t park in a bus lane to try to apprehend a thief? Officers shouldn’t run a red light in the middle of the night, on their way to an overdose call they are uniquely qualified to handle?

The activists most likely to complain to OPA are the ones who argue that any traffic violation is unnecessary in service of an officer’s job because they are police abolitionists. These are the activists who were complicit in the murders of black boys in the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP) that they helped to create and maintain. Though it’s unlikely to change driving habits, if an officer doesn’t speed on his way to a shooting because he or she would face a 20th politically-motivated complaint, that will be more blood on activists’ hands.

The petty Seattle Police complaint campaign will likely generate sympathy for officers who are targeted, though. While the activist position may be favored on Capitol Hill, average residents see no problem with a trained professional speeding in a bus-only lane to get to an emergency call. But Seattle cops shouldn’t have to deal with the harassment and weaponization of OPA.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow Jason on X, formerly known as TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

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