In a recent all-staff email titled Black Lives Matter: A message and Resources which comes from The Seattle Department of Finance and Administrative Services (FAS) Change Team, you will find an article written by team member Daniel Holmberg, titled White Supremacy thrives without consequence. The article is part of the Change Teams ongoing work to help FAS to always lead with race. Holmberg asserts that "The deep infiltration of white supremacy is a national problem'" and that Seattle is in no way an exception. Saying that the SPD has has it's own troubled history of racism and use of excessive force.
The lengthy email explains how the "events at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 could not offer a starker exemplar of this infiltration." While also stating that we don't know the extent of the officer involvement on that day. According to the article, as we find out more about the events leading up to the breach of the Capitol, we can see many examples of white supremacy in law enforcement, such as when "officers were seen posing for selfies with rioters," before the crowd breached the Capitol or had grown into an overwhelming size. Other example given by the Change Team is how one officer present that day had worn a MAGA hat and offered directions, and how one video apparently showed officers moving a barricade out of the way so protestors could get through.
More importantly, he writes, "was what they did not do." He goes on to ask, "where were the arrests, tear gas, and unchecked use of force, so easily justified when people of color have the audacity to protest their own extermination?" Adding that the rioters were able to walk away and go home or back to their hotel rooms. Using the events that happened at Layfette Square June 1, 2020 as a stark example between the two groups of protestors. Events in which law enforcement did use tear gas and unchecked force against protestors turned rioters. Wrongly claiming that those events happen for the sake of a "vainglorious photo op."
"Can any of us truthfully claim a Black person, who did even a fraction of what these rioters did, would not have left in a police cruiser, or more likely a body bag?" The email asks, regarding the actions of the rioters at the Capitol. This, Holmberg claims shows the "cleansing power of whiteness: it turns pigeons into doves and terrorist into tourists." This so called cleansing power is why a "insurrectionist seditious militia of white domestic terrorists can storm the halls of Congress, come within inches of kidnapping and killing our elected officials and bludgeon a police officer. They know they are protected; it never crossed their minds to be afraid."
According to a report from the Department of the Interiors Office of the Inspector General, which was released after the email became public knowledge, it was found the law enforcement officials were not told to clear Layfette Square for the sake of then-president Donald Trumps photo-op. Instead the report found that officers were there to clear the area so that contractors could safely put up fencing because, "from May 30 and 31, at least 49 USSP Officers had been injured while policing the protests and Federal and private property had been vandalized."
The email goes on to say how, days after the riot, Seattle Police Officer's Guild president, Mike Solan, had falsely blamed Black Lives Matter. The Change Team claims that, "this type of kneejerk defense against anything that exposes the truth of white supremacy only further reveals the rot." According to Holmberg research organizations have unearthed hundreds of state, federal, and local law enforcement officials who participate "in racist, nativist, and sexist social media activity, which demonstrates that overt bias is far too common." Saying how it is often covered up or ignored until attention is brought to it.
Law enforcement, according to the FAS Change Team, is the perfect career for white nationalist and supremacists. Saying that is allows them to use "brute force and restrain people of color." Claiming that the "thin blue line" will encompass them and protect them. Even if they kill someone, he says, they "can claim qualified immunity or claim that they shot someone in the back because they were in fear for their life."
Though the email makes it seem otherwise, Holmberg states that it "is not their wish to paint all police with a broad brush," but suggests that perhaps "it strains the boundaries of credulity to believe that these are just isolated issues, confined to a "few bad apples," claiming that "this barrel is writhing with maggots." How do we find the right path forward? The FAS Change Team doesn't have the answer but they did provide the readers with an idea they thought might help as we go forward: "We are not asking you to shoot guilty white people the way that you shoot innocent Black people, we are asking you to protect innocent Black people the way that you protect guilty white people."
Adrian Z. Diaz the Chief of Police for the Seattle Police department has since released a statement of his own in regards to the email stating that "it plainly ignores the improvements and innovations that this department has engaged in for the past 10 years." Going onto say that the use of force by the department is, "exceptionally low (less the .5% of all dispatches), and the use of serious force- which always receives extensive internal and external review--is close to a statistical anomaly (less the .5% of all dispatches)." Diaz says that he, just like the Chiefs before him have made if abundantly clear that racism and bias of any kind have no place in the department. Saying that he has already "held several employees accountable for making racist or biased statements," in the short time that he has been in office. But that doesn't make the entire department bad it simply means that they "recruit from the human race, just like every department."