Seattle police officers pulled back the curtain on the rigors of the job as they watch the momentum build to defund their department.
The candid testimonials came during a community meeting at Powell Barnett Park on Thursday night. Many of those who took part are Black officers who said they see from the inside how their department has improved in recent years
They said they also see what is still broken, but they don’t believe the fix is to cut budget in half.
The night was meant to be a chance for the public to meet officers of color who work for the Seattle Police Department, and have an open dialogue about what needs to change.
“It was difficult for me to come here initially just because of past experiences i have had dealing with police officers,” said George Smith, Jr., one of the community members who came to listen.
After facing weeks of protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, some officers were blunt about the department’s shortcomings and biases.
“As a Black man coming on SPD, yes I have faced some challenges,” said Officer Aaron Lucas, who said he’s encountered racism among some co-workers during his career.
“There are some officers that probably need to get the heck out of here and be off this department,” said Det. Cookie Bouldin.
However, they feel strongly about serving the community and believe their work as officers makes a difference, even if it is overlooked.
“What gets talked about is just the negative part and we’ve got to do better in communication on the police side,” said Sgt. John O’Neil, emphasizing that good deeds by officers too often fly under the radar.
Many of the officers who spoke are Black, which can bring its own challenges being an officer.
“The most disappointing part of my career, I have to say, is the negativity I get from the Black community,” said Officer Powell, who didn’t want his first name used.
But police said even that push back from members of their own race is nothing like what they face now from their own city council.
“To vilify your police department to the point that you’re willing to defund it, it’s reckless,” said Capt. Pierre Davis.
Thursday night’s speak-out was organized by the SPD African-American Community Advisory Council. The group had invited a large number of community members to take part but only a handful showed up to listen to the officers as the defund police budget talks move forward.