Seattle, WA – Seattle police officers’ exit interviews tell a disheartening story of a police department plagued by a destructive city council and overwhelming oversight that has led to a mass exodus.
Recently retired Seattle Police Detective Michele Hackett, who served 29 years on the police force, said she had been fortunate to work in narcotics rather than patrol, KUOW reported.
“I feel sorry for those officers in patrol who do their very best in the face of chaos and mayhem, risking their safety for others, only to be criticized on a seemingly frequent basis,” Det. Hackett wrote on the department’s exit survey.
“It seems like everything an officer does is scrutinized for any and all violations – such as no name tag or failure to activate something," she continued. "We are human doing the best job we can. It seems like we are no longer afforded any benefit of the doubt.”
Former Seattle Police Officer Brian Patenaude only lasted six years on the force before he left to go work for the Tacoma Police Department because of a “lack of support from the city,” KUOW reported.
Officer Patenaude said that lack of support included “being told to not enforce certain laws (local and federal). The lack of cases being filed on crimes that matter to the community. Catering to drug abusers and the homeless.”
He said the department’s insistence on a use-of-force report every time a suspect complained that handcuffs hurt was onerous and time-consuming.
“Handcuffs are not designed for comfort,” Officer Patenaude explained. “Most arrestees have abscesses on their wrists from injecting illegal drugs.”
He was not the only departing officer to complain about the use-of-force reporting policy, according to KUOW.
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best acknowledged that policy needed work and told KUOW it had recently been revised.
“If the person has any pain in handcuffing we’ll document that pain so we can track all of it,” Chief Best said. “We made that process a lot more streamlined for officers so they can annotate it, because we don’t want to lose the information. But there’s not the same level of paperwork that was required previously.”
Retired Seattle Police Officer Andrew Peloquin said he had “had enough” after 24 years with the department.
“Comments by city council calling us murderers and saying that we’re all bad officers doesn’t sit well with those that put their lives on the line for them every day,” Officer Peloquin wrote on his exit survey, according to KUOW.
“We’ve undergone scrutiny for years calling us racists and heavy handed/using too much force,” he continued.
The officer complained that the U.S. Department of Justice had come in to fix the department and never left.
He said that the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) was using bodycams for “fishing expeditions to create additional complaints” and said the creation of the “Bias Policing” law targeted officers.
“This all just proves that our department is in a downhill tail spin with no end in sight and it [has] been going on for the past 10 years,” Officer Peloquin said. “The mass exodus should speak volumes about what the officers think about all of the changes and what they have done to this department.”
After about a year-and-a-half with the Seattle Police Department, Officer Gregory Jago left to go work for the Kent Police Department, KUOW reported.
His biggest complaint was about the OPA as well.
“I did not enjoy the hyper-aggressive nature OPA," Officer Jago wrote on his exit survey. "It felt like officers were guilty until proven otherwise, while our suspects were presumed innocent.”
OPA Director Andrew Myerberg said he was working on policy changes that would allow managers to deal with smaller issues and cut back on lengthy investigations, KUOW reported.
“I think the officers have a fair criticism,” Myerberg said. “One thing we’ve really been working on at OPA especially over the past year is how to re-empower supervisors to take back minor misconduct — but if they’re going to do so, to do it correctly and maintain accountability and transparency over the process.”