SEATTLE – In a case of political correctness run amok, Seattle police have been directed to refer to suspects as community members when completing use of force reports. Say it ain’t so Seattle! We’d like to refer to this is as “fake news,” but it’s been verified by several sources, including the president of the Seattle Police Guild.
When Seattle police officers write use of force reports they no longer call a suspect a suspect, reported KIRO 7.
“Community member” is the new term. Several officers from Seattle say the term is offensive, explaining their work with violent suspects.
Since we don’t work for Seattle, we can say more than that. It’s downright ridiculous, . . . and we’re being polite.
It won’t take long before community member becomes synonymous with terms like, suspect, dirtbag, crook etc. As a result, law abiding citizens will eventually be offended if they are referred to as a “community member.”
Sources point to the suspect who shot three officers last month after a downtown Seattle armed robbery. When officers involved in that incident were writing their use of force reports they were required to refer to the shooter, Damarius Butts, as a “community member,” not a suspect, police sources said.
Police fatally shot Butts after they said he shot the officers.
“I think this is all in an effort to make sure our report writing sounds politically correct,” Seattle Police Officers’ Guild Kevin Stuckey told KIRO 7.
The online use of force reporting system, called Blue Team, is used for more than just use of force reports. It also tracks the department’s administrative investigations and the Early Intervention System among other reports.
The “community member” terminology changed for multiple forms – but it’s only in the use of force reports that officers find offensive.
“The change appears to be part of a routine update by the software developer, which services more than 600 law enforcement agencies worldwide,” department spokesman Jonah Spangenthal-Lee said. “The department’s force review section has not received any inquiries about the change.”
Department policy restricts officers and other department members from speaking to reporters without a supervisor’s approval, so multiple officers spoke to KIRO 7 to provide background.
As the president of the Officers’ Guild, Stuckey can speak publicly. He believes the term “community member” is too vague.
“I don’t think you should have a broad stroke like that and call everybody the same thing,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with calling someone who is a victim a victim, or calling someone who’s a suspect a suspect.”
Seattle Police Chief Operating Officer Brian Maxey said the changes are purely for accuracy. Labeling someone a suspect can sometimes be misleading if they are not suspected of anything.
Here’s a simple fix. If the person is not suspected of committing a crime, then don’t refer to them as such.
If that is what Maxey refers to as accurate, we’d hate to see what he views as inaccurate. Most people view the term community member as a person who participates in society and agrees to abide by the rules. A person choosing to combat officers is not that kind of individual. He is a suspect. And the reason he is a suspect is because he’s been accused of a crime. Once he has been taken into custody, we refer to him as an arrestee. Once the arrestee has been booked in jail, and charged for the offense by a prosecutor, he becomes a defendant. When the defendant has been convicted, he becomes an inmate.
So out of curiosity, we wondered at what point in the process the person transitions from community member to inmate?
Imagine 25 years down the road when a prospective Seattle cop killer is up for parole. Will Maxey or his replacement write a letter to the parole board requesting the community member remain incarcerated?
On behalf of most normal thinking police officers in the country, we feel sorry for our brothers and sisters in blue working the streets of Seattle. The frustrations must be numerous when answering to a command staff that wants to call violators of crime, community members. And to the good people of Seattle that formerly referred to themselves as community members, well, you’ll need to come up with something else.
The department was asked, “So when do police use force on a suspect who is not suspected of violating a law?”
“Doing a building search or responding to an alarm with guns drawn is an example,” department spokesman Sean Whitcomb wrote in an e-mail. “We might contact individuals who are not suspects, but rather subjects. Approaching someone at gun point is Type 1 force, and must be reported.”
If their use of force policy requires “paper” during such encounters, and the person is not arrested, than what is wrong with calling them a “subject?” But there is a cataclysmic disconnect when requiring officers to refer to people that act with violence toward police officers as community members.
Apparently the decision makers have spent too much time distanced from cops on the beat putting “community members” in jail.
Changes in terminology are nothing new in Washington, and Whitcomb said “the words are synonymous and commonly used throughout the law enforcement profession.”
Maybe in the Pacific Northwest, but not in our law enforcement world! Yet perhaps we are wrong. Has your agency been victimized by this terminology?