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Seattle police, use-of-force, gang violence
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Rise in gang violence renews interest in police gang units

(File, Associated Press)

A 13-year-old Everett gang member murdered a 14-year-old shortly after the election of a new mayor. Two Burien teenagers were shot and killed in March. Both incidents of gang violence left the community searching for answers.

In the wake of a recent surge in gang violence, Everett and King County police are considering reestablishing units specifically devoted to combating it, according to Q13 Fox. Local gang units are no longer active across the Puget Sound due to budget cuts.

KTTH’s Todd Herman argues the responsibility for curbing gang violence is mistakenly placed on police shoulders alone. The bigger picture is often neglected: “What is the city council doing about it?… It’s always about the cops, it’s never about the people who set up the environment.”

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Creating the unit would likely require more funding to hire additional officers, and/or reallocating current resources. In either case, 20-year police veteran Jonathan Wender thinks it’s crucial.

“It’s really not a secret who those folks are,” he told Q13 Fox. “The challenge is that you can build up a relationship with them, that you can deal with crimes when they occur, but most importantly prevent the crimes from occurring in the first place.”

The need to understand cops, gang violence

For Herman, preventing such crimes begins with understanding what police face, and not hampering their ability to work.

“In this case, in Eastlake, some officers were responding to people with suspicious activities, including possible break-ins, and these suspects tried to run over a cop,” Herman said.

The police accountability board decided that the officers acted wrongly by firing their weapons at the fleeing vehicle.

“Here’s a cop faced with getting run over,” Herman said. “Was that guy done running people over? He’d already tried running over a cop. Any chance he might not have a problem running over you?… It always goes back to the cops.”

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, there are approximately 300 active street gangs in Washington state as of 2010, with over 15,000 gang members.

“The police in this town don’t always get to run their affairs. It’s run by the city council,” Herman said. “The gang problem here is not bubbling up because of the cops, it’s in spite of the cops. The cops know what to do. But the politicians always point to the people with the badges.”

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