Imagine assaults against officers happening without consequences. That could be coming. (Op-ed)

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[Editor’s note: King County Prosecutor’s Office, Criminal Division, created an “Equity and Justice Workgroup,” ostensibly because inequity and injustice is running rampant in the county, despite zero evidence being presented to this point.

This is part one of a two-part series on the lengthy recommendations that group has presented. This part will focus on the impact specifically on law enforcement officers, should the recommendations be embraced. The second will focus on the impact on victims within the community.

The recommendation letter itself suggests a “changing” relationship between the prosecutor’s office and law enforcement, but we encourage you to look beyond that word to see the “change” for what it really is.

Don’t take our word for it- read the document and see for yourself.

This is an incredibly dangerous document and will be detrimental to the role of policing and public safety in communities, should it be taken seriously.]

 

KING COUNTY, WA – King County was named after former vice-president and slave owner, Democrat William R. King, who served in the year 1853.

In 1986, the King County Council voted to rededicate the county to Martin Luther King Jr. to create a nobler image for the county. In 2005, it was made official.

Now, the logo for the county is a stylized portrait of Martin Luther King jr. That logo decorates the letterhead of the county’s prosecuting attorney, Daniel T. Satterberg, who is seeking re-election this year.

Satterberg is the same prosecutor who recommended commuting the life sentence of Stonney Rivers in 2017. One of the reasons Satterberg gave for granting early release to Rivers was:

“His extreme sentence was given out to a highly disproportionate percentage of young African-American men, around 80%.”

Within months of release, Rivers committed murder in a drug deal.

One might be forgiven for thinking that the reason Rivers was serving a life sentence had nothing to do with the number of young African-American men in prison.

Now, on Satterberg’s letterhead, the King County DPAA Equity and Justice Workgroup has circulated proposals designed to improve something they describe as “racial justice.”

Justice is supposed to be blind. If there is justice at all, it would apply equally to members of all races, making the term “racial justice” redundant.

Not for this workgroup.

The workgroup clearly believes that justice is not equal and must be balanced, presumably with some or all of their proposals. The letter is reminiscent of an action taken recently by California representative Maxine Waters (D) who interfered with a traffic stop because she perceived the possibility that the police officer had stopped “a brother” with racist intent.

Her empirical basis for this belief was that the person stopped by the officer was black and the officer was, well, an officer.

In both cases, the presumption is that racism is present and must be curtailed by interfering with law enforcement.

The letter from the workgroup is earnest in its yearning for racial equity.

They write:

“Each of us joined this office not because we wanted to emulate our predecessors in the American justice system, but because we recognized the power implicit in the role of prosecutor, we saw opportunities for real change, and we sought to wield that power in a more ethical, holistic, and compassionate way.”

[Editor’s note: Interesting, then, that they took no such action prior to extreme civil unrest following the death of George Floyd.]

Implicit in this statement is an assumption that prosecutorial power in King County is not at present wielded in a manner that is ethical, holistic, or compassionate enough. The letter does not attempt to establish that any of these assumptions are true. No examples are provided.

Their conclusion is presented as fact.

[Editor’s note: The only “example” is them saying that “a million examples” could be provided, yet they do not provide even one.]

As it pertains to law enforcement, the letter proposes that prosecutors decline prosecution of third-degree assault when the victim is a law enforcement officer.

Some conditions are attached, such as:

  • “An Assault 3 LEO case should not be filed at all if the officer was equipped with functioning bodycam but did not turn that bodycam on.
  • An Assault 3 LEO case should not require LEO approval for all reductions.
  • An Assault 3 LEO case should not be filed at all if the originating police agency does not provide sufficient training on de-escalation and implicit bias to its officers.
  • If the Assault 3 meets the updated/heightened FADS, and is non-DV, non-substantial pain, and non-spitting, it should be reviewed for filing by FTU/VECU and then filed into district court either Assault 4 or Attempted Assault 3” (2020)

The reason given for allowing perpetrators to assault officers without fear of being charged is the assumption that officers may have instigated the assault upon themselves through overly aggressive behavior.

[Editor’s note: We all know that LEO “approval” is a term used loosely- as they do what they want when bargaining and giving sweetheart deals to criminals. LEO feelings on the assault be damned.]

On compassionate grounds, it is also argued that mental health and substance abuse may have contributed to the assault, and thus shouldn’t be held against the perpetrator, apparently even if the officer behaved properly and without racial animus.

There is a line in the letter that deserves special attention.

It reads:

“We cringe as we watch officer (sic) demonstrate subtle acts of racial or gender bias, unjust aggression, and the like.”

Everything in that sentence is a subjective opinion, not an objective fact.

Whether or not a prosecutor “cringes” is irrelevant.

If racial or gender bias affects a decision in a way that is prejudicial to a suspect, that would be a problem. But by describing bias as “subtle,” the letter writers have transformed something that might be a real problem into something that is more likely an imaginary problem that exists only in the minds of people prejudiced against law enforcement.

Such as, clearly, this workgroup.

“Unjust aggression” sounds bad, but what is “unjust” aggression in a legal context? What is “aggression?” They could have written “assault” or “battery,” terms that have legal definitions and attached penalties.

Does unjust aggression mean “rudeness?” If an officer is perfunctory and direct rather than warm and caring, could he or she be described as exhibiting “unjust aggression?”

The problem with the term is that it appears to create a new class of criminal offense. If the behavior was already a criminal offense, that term should have been used instead.

The image conjured by “unjust aggression” in the context of this letter is of an officer mercilessly beating an African-American suspect without legal cause. That would indeed be a problem, but it isn’t what the letter says.

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LET Unity

Throughout the letter, prosecutors in the Equity and Justice workgroup make vague assumptions about law enforcement and then propose methods to correct the vague problems they have identified.

[Editor’s note: Again, no evidence offered whatsoever. In other words, pandering without reason other than to procure support, and, by default, votes.]

The glaring error embedded throughout the letter is that it lacks any evidence that the problems they identify are genuine, but the proposals to fix the problems have serious drawbacks.

For instance, if oversight and punishment of law enforcement officers is made more restrictive and punitive while simultaneously loosening or eliminating penalties for criminals, police morale would likely go down while criminals would find it easier to commit crimes and escape punishment.

That, perhaps not coincidentally, is exactly what happened when Stonney Rivers received compassionate commutation of his sentence on the recommendation of prosecutor Daniel T. Satterberg.

Apparently, the murder Rivers committed almost immediately after release didn’t affect Satterberg’s approach to crime and “racial equity.” He still feels that quotas can be applied to criminal penalties, though quotas are not imposed on the criminals who commit crimes.

If, for instance, people within each racial group managed to ensure that they had the same percentage of criminals in their midst as there were members of their race in the United States, then arrest, prosecution, and punishment quotas would make more sense.

They would be unnecessary if quotas were enforced by the criminals themselves but that does not happen.

Perhaps King County should add a quote from King to their letterhead:

“Each man should be judged not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character.”

In this case, the color is blue. If the prosecutor’s office can’t avoid the prejudice against law enforcement evident in the letter from the equity and justice workgroup, then they may as well have left their namesake as it was.

Why put Martin Luther King jr on your letterhead if you violate his most famous principle?

 

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