Opinion

Police are held to a higher standard | Stephen Smith

Our police have a very difficult job. They are protecting us and serving us in a very dangerous and complicated world. I am usually thankful for their service, even when I have been cited for breaking our traffic laws. But I hold police to a very high standard in a job they have voluntarily undertaken.

Our civic leaders and lawmakers also have it tough, and they too warrant a very high standard. As parents, we need to pass the principles of good citizenship on to our children. As citizens, we need to respect and obey authority, and speak out when it is misused or misguided.

Recently we have been bombarded with images of police who don’t command respect. We have been witness to Seattle police officers kicking and stomping on an a young Latino. Most recently, another video shows a Seattle officer punching a young black girl after a jaywalking incident escalated out of control. The officer was justified, in my mind, because they girl interfered with his original arrest and pushed him before he punched her. I wonder why Seattle auditor reports repeatedly cite unnecessary escalations during similar incidents.

More obscure, but possibly more sinister because of the widespread conspiracy: Last month the Washington State Patrol and other law enforcement agencies agreed to pay more than $500,000 to settle a civil suit for harassment and false arrest. It seems the police agencies had been conspiring to preemptively arrest citizens known to be anti-war protesters. Their ploy began to unwind when Phil Chinn, the student they arrested for DWI (he hadn’t been drinking) noticed a picture of his parents' car (the one he drove the day before) displayed on the computer screen of the patrolman’s car. They admittedly were spying on him, waited for him, and eventually arrested him.

Our problems are not unique. I was in Canada recently and the headlines read, “Why?” — the last words spoken by Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant who died after being tasered five times by four RCMP officers in 2007. A report was just issued condemning the actions of the police. Mr. Dziekanski had been lost for five hours in the international arrivals area of the airport and began to act erratically, as he desperately tried to find his way to his waiting mother. Justice Thomas Braidwood issued the report: “Mr. Dziekanski’s death appears to have galvanized public antipathy for the (police) and its members. That is regrettable because the most important weapon in the arsenal of the police is public support. This tragic case is, at its heart, the story of shameful conduct by a few officers.”

I agree with Justice Braidwood of Canada about the importance of public support for our police. It is also just as important for our lawmakers and leaders. Recently our community experienced the loss of two young men because of a suspected drunken driver, who is a repeat DUI offender. Misplaced priorities of our lawmakers have made online gambling a felony, but continue to go light on drunk drivers. Our lawmakers, our police, and we as citizens have a great deal of work to do to make our society what we aspire to make it. We all need to step back and look at what we and our society have become, and we need to take appropriate action to fix the world in which we live.

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