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Originally published Sunday, June 1, 2014 at 4:05 PM

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Editorial: Reform Seattle police, without the drama

The latest SPD lawsuit brings to mind a litany from the old “Perry Mason” TV series: challenges that are “incompetent, irrelevant and immaterial.”

Seattle Times Editorial

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The editorial is common sense, of course. Not surprising the resident SFD poster pans it, and Lee Mellon... well, when... MORE
Although the focus of the lawsuit, from what I've read, is vulnerability when facing imminent danger, the real issue is... MORE
@Lee Mellon If the officers had sought an injunction to halt the implementation of the reforms until their impact on... MORE


SEATTLE residents support the police officers who work to make the city safer, but the need for remedial rules and training within the Seattle Police Department is also understood.

The difficulty of making those administrative and procedural changes was made all the more clear by a random federal lawsuit filed by a relative handful of SPD officers.

They complain that the city’s working agreement with the federal Department of Justice on new use-of-force policies is an amalgam of civil-rights infringements.

Even the officers’ own union would not go near this creative legal claim.

Despite demonstrated examples of dubious leadership from the supervisory ranks upward, the SPD is still a paramilitary organization with a chain of command.

Lawful orders, instructions and protocols must be obeyed, or the option is to seek employment elsewhere.

The federal settlement, intended to address genuine complaints and perceptions of civil-rights abuses by uniformed officers, has been endorsed, overseen and monitored by layers of competing and sympathetic interests.

The randomness of the lawsuit filed Wednesday suggests someone needs a hug, not legal relief.

Clearly there is stress involved in this job, so the SPD should be mindful of assigning too much overtime, especially as officers near retirement. Everyone must be aware of the tensions. No one wants to have to retire with, say, a disability.

Public attitudes are deeply and appropriately on the side of the first-responders in public service. Pushed too far, the next stop after sympathy is cynicism.

Those fires were fueled by the incidents and frustrations that brought the DOJ to town in 2011. Real civil-rights grievances.

Pull this current lawsuit to the curb and haul out the breathalyzer.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

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