Officer's article is controversial
Written by Jose Torres
A lot of times, when a cop sits down at his desk to write up his or her opinion of a new policy, a recent event, or merely to bark at the moon, the result is what could be described as "an intensity of opinion." This is certainly the case in Seattle after a police officer writing in his union newspaper lambasted the anti-bias training the city employees are required to take.
Appearing under the headline, "Just Shut Up and Be a Good Little Socialist," Officer Steve Pomper calls the city's five-year-old "Race and Social Justice Initiative" an attack on American values.
He says anyone that supports the training is "the enemy."
Pomper was talking about "Perspectives in Profiling." That's a class that department members were required to take last year to raise awareness about racial profiling.
Pomper may just have been blowing off steam, but the combative language and tone of the article have made national headlines.
In his column, Pomper asks at what point he and other officers should say "Hell no!" to the city's attempts to "indoctrinate the Seattle Police Department in social justice culture."
Ironically, the article which appeared in the December issue of The Guardian is renewing concerns about the culture of the police department and officers' willingness to address perceptions of racial bias.
The timing of the article is problematic for Mayor Mike McGinn.
He says the officer's apparent hostility to the city's anti-bias efforts adds to public concerns over a series of highly publicized incidents in which officers are accused of using excessive force against minorities.
"The question is a serious one," McGinn said in interview with the Seattle Times.
"How widely or deeply held are these views? How do we make sure that anyone in city government reflects the values of not discriminating against people? Even one officer holding these views is not appropriate." Police officials said the column expresses only the views of the author and not the department as a whole.
The Guardian is published monthly and contains articles about police work written by and for officers, said Sgt. Rich O'Neill, president of the Seattle Police Officers' Guild. O'Neill defended his members' right to say whatever they want in the publication.
"Officers don't give up their free-speech rights when they put on a badge," he said.
"We have left-leaning officers; we have right-leaning officers. We try to publish a range of opinions."
Mayor McGinn said his office is in "active discussions" with the U.S. Department of Justice over calls by the ACLU and 34 other organizations in December to investigate "patterns and practices" of Seattle police officers' confrontations with people of color.
City Council member Tim Burgess, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said he didn't think Pomper's views represented the police department.
The comments are "not consistent with the values of the police department or the rules of behavior the department sets for our officers," Burgess said.
The "Perspectives in Profiling" course, which was developed by and for law enforcement, was first offered in Seattle in 2010.
Sean Whitcomb, police department spokesman, said the training involved vignettes of police stops.
Pomper joined the Seattle force in 1992, and he has written regularly for The Guardian.
In 2009, he earned $96,696, according to city records.
He has his own website, with a picture of him on a motorcycle and a headline that identifies him as "Author/Libertarian/Cop." He blogs regularly about police and political issues from his home in Brier, Snohomish County.