Slog has a post up on Mayor Murray’s response to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. In it, the Stranger also asks SPD spokesman Sean Whitcomb about SPD’s use of militarized equipment. Whitcomb’s response: “As far as this notion that we might use militarized equipment, I’m happy to say that we don’t…We are a police service… the Seattle Police Department uses equipment and gear that is specific to our profession. And our profession delivers public safety services.”
This is carefully worded horseshit. SPD was one of the first local law enforcement agencies (with the 1999 WTO protests) to embrace military-style gear, and in the years since 9-11 it’s one of the largest local PD recipients of Homeland Security grants to get excess military hardware (aka “cool new toys.”) In fact, SPD’s own blog has a long list of gear gotten from just one DHS program over the past four years:
“Equipment specific to our profession” is a meaningless phrase when every urban police force in the country, and more than a few rural ones, have fortified themselves like this. And “And our profession delivers public safety services” is the sort of thing that sounds great to PR people and is openly ridiculed for its vacuity out here in the real world.
Carefully crafted, weaselly statements like Whitcomb’s are just another in a long list of reasons why SPD has earned such distrust in the city it allegedly serves. O’Toole’s cleaning of SPD’s house can’t come fast enough.
This is a hugely important work of journalism (as well as human empathy). It’s doubly surprising because unlike most investigative journalism these days, it got published in a good old-fashioned daily newspaper. It’s doubly important because that newspaper is in Texas, and so the people most likely to read this act of empathetic heresy are old white Texans.
I can’t imagine an audience more in need of connection to the actual reality behind this issue.
Sad news – dedicated local peace activist Lynne Greenwald, a Tacoma native whose anti-nuclear work with Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action has included federal prison time for Plowshares direct action, has passed away after a battle with cancer. Lynne was one of the most courageous – and cheerful – folks in the local peace movement. Along with Mike Yarrow’s passing a few weeks ago, it’s been a sad summer for local peace activism. And on this, the 69th (!) anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, Lynne’s death is especially bittersweet.
This day, and the anti-nuclear movement, will always have a place in my heart and my activism. It was a visit to Hiroshima in the early ’80s – which I highly recommend to anyone who has the chance, the peace museum there and the war memorial at Okinawa are more moving than anything I’ve ever seen in Europe or the US – and a subsequent visit to Houston (where I was then living) the following year by Hiroshima survivors, that set me on the permanent path to activism. It’s largely become a forgotten issue in the 21st Century, supplanted by climate change and a host of other, seemingly more urgent planet-destroying crises, but the capacity of nearly a dozen governments to wipe out enormous numbers of people in seconds (and make the regional environment uninhabitable for generations) remains. It’s still an important issue. And the country’s largest concentration of nuclear weaponry is only 15 miles upwind from downtown Seattle, at the naval base at Bangor in Kitsap County.
GZCNVA activists will be meeting there the next few days for their annual commemoration of the anniversaries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – and, no doubt, to celebrate Lynne’s life and work as well. Information and a schedule of events is here,