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The police culture in Olympia

What is the police culture in Olympia? How would you judge it? By your personal interaction with an officer during a traffic stop? If they grab your phone and put you in handcuffs for ‘obstructing justice’ when you take pictures of officers harassing a homeless person? Without any way to get a complete picture of how our police department interacts with the citizens (all of them) of Olympia, we are left to heresay, anecdotes and the few articles in the local media (including this one).

Cop Watch hopes to change that scenario by gathering factual stories from those who have experienced policing first hand – good, bad, or otherwise. But be aware that we are also out to point out the failings of individual officers, administrators or other city employees who do nothing to weed out, as Baby Bush liked to say, “a few bad apples.” There are some–even within the departments–who know who they are but are unable to say anything for fear of losing their job, or their lives. You do recall the story of Frank Serpico in the NYPD? Al Pacino played his role in the 1973 movie Serpico.

Frank Serpico brought to the attention of his superiors the illegal activities of the officers who he worked with on a daily basis; an act that prompted Mayor John V. Lindsay to appoint the landmark Knapp Commission to investigate the NYPD. For this Serpico was set up by his fellow officers.They had him bust down a door at a supposed drug house where they had a guy on the inside who shot him in the face through the closed door with a .22 LR pistol. After that he quit the NYPD and moved to The Netherlands.

“A policeman’s first obligation is to be responsible to the needs of the community he serves…The problem is that the atmosphere does not yet exist in which an honest police officer can act without fear of ridicule or reprisal from fellow officers. We create an atmosphere in which the honest officer fears the dishonest officer, and not the other way around.” —Frank Serpico

From Truth Like The Sun, by Jim Lynch, an Olympia author: A novel about the early days of the Seattle World’s Fair:

“Well, in your opinion, sir,” Roger (Morgan) prods awkwardly, “what do you think makes a city great?”

(John) Glenn offers him a clumsy wink, “I’d start with an honest police force.”

Bringing bad behavior into the light of day is the only way to stop it. Think of it like mold. You leave it alone in a dark, damp place, don’t pay attention to it, and months later you have to tear the whole wall down, if not your house. Same with actions of those who are given a gun, taser, cuffs, baton, vest, and the authority to tell us where to stand, what we can video, when we are doing something they don’t like. Recall Scott Yoos, a mute, who was arrested for throwing paper towels in a Dumpster. But in police jargon, ‘Trespassing on a Dumpster’, ‘Obstructing justice’, ‘Resisting arrest’, and finally ‘Assault on an officer’ (he may have kicked a leg while he was being manhandled in pain restraints into a cruiser by three officers).

Remember the BIG 3: Obstructing justice, Resisting arrest & Assault on an officer. Check out how many times those are used and for what.

Cop Watch personnel have scheduled a Town Hall meeting for Wednesday, October 14, 7 pm at Traditions Café. We want the public to turn out to give their opinions of what the police are doing right, what they need to start doing more of, what they are doing wrong and need to stop doing and what trainings might be necessary to make our officers better equipped to handle the mentally ill and how to de-escalate situations for example.

What do you have to say? Come say it!

Terren Zander is a member of Cop Watch, which is dedicated to gathering information on policing in Olympia and giving that information, good or bad, back to the community. He especially wants to bring to light of day the behavior of the few officers who lie, abuse their authority and act as judge, jury, and executioner.


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