It is time for you to hear my perspective as someone who is both an advocate for social justice and a wife of a Seattle Police Officer.
We are locals, but I met my husband while working as a teacher in South Central Los Angeles. When I heard that he wanted to be a police officer someday like his father, I cringed inside. At the time, I didn’t personally know any cops and believed the stereotype that police officers are power-hungry and corrupt.
When my husband started the police academy and then became a police officer, I got an insider’s view of the complicated roles cops play to protect the public. I saw the numerous trainings, the high level of accountability, and the scrutiny they are under daily in the city of Seattle. I also learned about the role my future father-in-law played with the department helping victims of crimes against children. My respect for police officers grew as I saw these men and women fighting tirelessly to keep the most marginalized and vulnerable populations safe.
For several years, I worked at a social-service agency, and my husband worked at a precinct nearby. He spent many nights participating in community police talks in local neighborhoods to create trust and build relationships. He referred community members who were in need of resources to my organization.
Becoming a part of the Seattle police family changed my perspective on cops. The Seattle police force is a diverse mix of people from different races, sexual orientations and backgrounds. I have never experienced such a cohesive group of people who are authentically themselves, and respect each other and their diversity.
I am worried over the current status of things in our nation today. The killing of George Floyd was terrible and immensely sad. My husband was upset and angry about it. Seattle police officers were outraged along with the community and nation.
I expected protests. I didn’t expect what they would evolve into when peaceful protesters went home. In the evenings, crowds have carried handguns, long rifles, baseball bats, wood shields, metal poles, sticks with screws, rocks, cinder blocks, bricks, fireworks like M-80s, Molotov cocktails, improvised explosives, lighter fluid and frozen water bottles, to name a few. They have written signs and graffiti that say “Kill Cops” and “All Cops Must Die.” Their rhetoric has consisted of things like, “Take your gun and shoot yourself in the head.”
My husband has been punched in the head. He’s been hit with rocks and gallon jugs, and sprayed with bear mace. Fellow officers have gone to the hospital from explosive devices and blocks hurled at them. My husband has been told by multiple people that they are going to look up his name, track down his family and kill them.
I felt sick to my stomach the night I talked to my husband on the phone while he was inside the East Precinct. He was given intel that a mob outside was intending to burn the precinct down like other police stations across the nation. Another night my husband’s job was to locate and remove Molotov cocktail explosives from individuals.
As the violence continued, all I heard from the media, mayor and city council was how the police were inciting crowds and instigating violence. Police are being told to no longer use tear gas, yet they have only used gas when the situation became a public-safety concern.
Some city council members are now seeking to defund the Seattle Police Department because of their actions during the protests. The department is already understaffed. There aren’t enough officers for 911 calls as it is. If the city defunds the police department, the safety of community members will be at stake. We saw what a lack of police presence enabled in the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) area, with the shooting deaths of two Black teens. Isn’t this exactly what we are trying to prevent? Do you really want this for the rest of our city?
The narrative you may hear about Seattle Police is extremely misleading. It amplifies fear and anger at our officers and creates more division within our community. Not all police departments across the country are the same. The Seattle Police have been at the forefront of police reform for more than a decade, and they keep working at it. My husband is frustrated that years of work toward reform and building trust in the community have been completely lost.
As a community, we are crying out for peace, love and equity. I wish people were getting the message that our local police officers want that, too. You can support Black Lives Matter while also supporting our police. We are going to have to solve these issues together. If I hadn’t met my husband or his father, I might not know or understand this myself. That’s why I am reaching out to share my perspective with you now.