The controversy over Seattle Police Department accountability, which started with a minor drug bust, has many residents concerned not that police aren’t being disciplined harshly enough, but that officers might shy from aggressively fighting crime to avoid disapproval, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “You don’t want them crossing the line by violating people’s civil rights. But you have to wonder if all the publicity chills their ability to enforce the law,” said Steve Aprill, a physician.
Sgt. Rich O’Neill, Seattle Police Officers’ Guild president, said officers aggressively policing the drug problem might pull back after seeing other officers’ reputations tarnished. “Drug dealers must be laughing all the way to their next sell,” he said. Questions surrounding two Seattle police officers and the Jan. 2 bust sparked a debate over Chief Gil Kerlikowske, his handling of officer misconduct, and Seattle police discipline in general. Mayor Greg Nickels and the City Council are convening separate community task forces to review the police disciplinary system. Meanwhile, even in broad daylight, some drug dealers appeared to be dealing, passing cash to one another. “You see, they know we’re not going to do anything,” the officer said. As undermanned police departments deal with sometimes brazen criminals, residents are caught in the middle, feeling varying degrees of anxiety.