Seattle K9 Teams Deserve Our Support

Seattle is home to some of the best K9 officers and trainers in the country. Officers in the unit spend thousands of hours training with their police dogs. Handlers are not only required to train with their dogs every day, but they also live with them. A K9 officer and police dog are certified together allowing for an officer to confidently know how their partner acts and responds to various situations that require K9 assistance. Nevertheless, handlers are being treated poorly.

According to a recent survey conducted by Seattle University, forty nine percent of Seattle residents have a fear of crime in the city they call home. Property crimes came in as one of the top public safety concerns along with car prowls, homelessness, and residential burglary. Instead of enabling SPD to take action to protect Seattle and its residents, current policies and procedures are handcuffing critical units such as the K9 division.

In the past, K9 officers were heavily used to track down car prowlers and auto thefts with major success rates. The K9 officer’s ability to track down thieves additionally stopped offenders from committing more violent crimes in the future. Especially in quieter Seattle neighborhoods that are major targets for property crime offenders. Under the new policy, police dogs will no longer be permitted to be used for property crimes due to the improbable possibility of a dog bite now overshadowing the true professionalism of the K9 officer and the many property crime cases solved thanks to the unit.

The recent changes also include that a K9 officer must first get permission from a sergeant or higher-ranking officer to release their K9 under suspicious circumstances. Though, the approving supervisor on the scene does not serve as the K9 handler in these situations. Furthermore, the policy states that a suspect in these situations must be given a “reasonable” amount of time before the dog can be released. Such immense restrictions on the K9 officer and their police dog leaves them virtually unable to use any tactics they were trained to use to apprehend a suspect. In addition, the Seattle City Council is making matters worse by abusing discipline processes by using uncommon dog bites as evidence against the officers when force is used.

The SPD K9 Unit is comprised of incomparable committed officers. When an officer in the K9 Unit is not responding to an incident, they’re training with their dogs. Police dogs who are trained to find criminals, detect narcotics, and uncover explosive devices. SPD’s K9 Unit also has one of only three electronic storage detection police dogs in the country. Seattle’s K9 Officers are not only impeccably trained in these areas, but SPD ensures its four-legged officers are friendly and comfortable in public, further guaranteeing success rates in Seattle’s urban setting.

Property crimes are clearly heavily on the minds of our community. Creating more policy that forbids K9s to find and apprehend suspects alleged of these types of crimes will only lead to more incidents, and more Seattle residents feeling hopelessness caused by the irrational restrictions placed on SPD.

Writing is getting harder, ignoring it all is getting easier.

The World Wide Web (Internet) became self-aware at 0800 on August 6th 1991.  It quickly took over our lives and taught us how to think, how to act, what to say.

John: We aren’t going to make it are we? People I mean.  Terminator: Its in your nature to destroy yourselves. Mom of squabbling kids:  Break it up before I wring both your necks.  Terminator 2 circa 1991

Writing is getting harder, ignoring it all is getting easier.

I started ignoring all of the videos of happy, tearful homecomings of soldiers, airmen, marines, and sailors there were just too many of them…until I saw my friend’s children eagerly awaiting him.  Until I saw an entire family embrace in love and tears and saw my friend who is kind of reserved share his tears and his hugs with his children.  Welcome home Nick.  I saw this and I remembered my dad coming home from sea.

I started to ignore the constant din of politics and the on going blame game as one 5 year old Democrat tattled on the other 5 year old Republican or vise-versa…until I saw a candidate for Seattle city council who did not make the cut have to almost resort to an action that was out of his character to protect his community against the continued assault of a thought process out of control.  I saw this and I remembered the anger and despair I felt as an officer trying to stem the tide of an obvious crisis no matter how you look at it.

I started to ignore the current stories on the National news and started to ask, what ever happened to black lives matters? What happened to the kids in cages along our borders? What is going on with the oil pipeline across middle America?  What happened to Jeffery Epstein and what about his rich friends who maybe are guilty of the same behavior? Shouldn’t we  find out what happened there?  California is burning again.  Is global warming real and are we doing it?  Do wind turbines kill hundreds of thousands of birds?  Will our grandchildren tear them down the same way that we are ripping out dams that destroyed salmon runs?  Does Al Gore have air conditioning?  Does George Bush?  Do the rich and powerful do any of the things that they scream about while the rest of us gnash our teeth and hate each other?

I started to ignore the core arguments that we all are now told we must be polarized about.  Guns.  Safe injection sites.  Abortion.  Racism.  LGBTQ.  Global warming.  Health care.  College Tuition.  Border Walls.  Right wing. Left Wing.  I miss the news at 5 and 11.  We gave them 30 minutes twice a day to tell us what was going on.  If we wanted an in-depth analysis, we read about it in the newspaper. Now we have 24/7/365 coverage and are expected to make a stand on our side of the line no exceptions.  You cannot fraternize with the other side…with the enemy?  Lord, I hope we are not that deep.  And then I saw a story about Ellen DeGeneres watching a football game with George Bush.  Please be strong Ellen and be who you are, WE ALL need a win.

Then, I saw a story that I cannot even begin to ignore.  I lived it.  I had all of the training.  I had almost twenty years of showing up to these doors.  My friends are still out there doing this.  A welfare check on an open door, a shadow in the window. A shot is fired, a woman is killed in her own home by the agency sworn to protect her.  The heartbreak begins.  A family grapples with the news.  A department has to file charges against one of their own.  A community is in shock.  And then the officer is identified as white and the victim as black.  I can’t ignore this.  It is real, it has happened.  Again.  Above all else, I hope the family finds peace and gets the justice they deserve.  I hope the officer gets the justice he deserves.  Our community will get the justice that it deserves and the consequences of it as well.  Damn.

I am going to go feed my horses, feel the cold autumn wind bite through my flannel shirt and seek solace amongst my herd.  I hope and pray that everyone can find solace.  I wish everyone peace and serenity in these difficult and troubling times.  God Bless you all and keep you safe.  It is getting harder to write.

Todd Wiebke

The good ol’ days weren’t always good and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems

On Saturday, August 24, I made a trip over to Ellensburg with my old partner Rob to attend a memorial for fallen Deputy Ryan Thompson.  We got there a little early, but people were already there, and more were showing up.  Before long, there were hundreds of people, families, laughing, drinking beer and celebrating a hero who exemplified who we think we are and did what we believe we are capable of: putting our lives in front of the lives of our community and taking on criminals with bad intentions. Community members, fire fighters, cops, deputies, families, everybody.

I always imagined the scenario, heck I trained in the scenarios, where I got into a shoot out with the bad guy who had committed a terrible crime and was clearly a danger to society.  A story in the paper would revel about my actions and I would be praised by my command staff for protecting my community.  My family would be grateful that I was safe and be proud of my actions. Other officers would pat me on the back and tell me good job.

In Seattle, I cannot imagine this anymore.  Our politicians have put the black hat on your police department.  To listen to some of the elected officials, it is the criminal who needs protection, who deserves praise for ability to preserve under the harsh social justice which is clearly against them.  It is the criminal’s family who will represent the community and who receive a huge cash settlement for having been so unjustly deprived of their loved one.  Never mind the felony convictions, or the weapon he was armed with, the police are wrong.  That is the new narrative.  That is the scenario your police department goes to work with and thinks about.  Why?

As I sat in the small beer hall, I happened, as almost is the case, to sit down next to a professor from Central Washington University.  Our views were divergent, our respect for our community and the fallen hero were not.  We talked, we shared opposing opinions, we reached no conclusions other than we liked each other.  We respected each other’s opinions and we listened to one another.  We laughed, we hugged, and we joked.  We both understood that life needs to be sorted out.  What is happening to us?

As I am now retired, I can freely discuss what it means to put a gun on and go out into the night and stand between my community and the danger which will always prey on it.  To act with courage, to process a million bits of information while concentrating on the front site of a Glock and praying I don’t have to do this.  That I won’t become a racist, or a homophobe, or a whatever I would become with a life and death decision I am making on all of our behalves. I had to protect my friends, my community, myself.  In a flash, all will change.  Please dear God, don’t make me do this. 8 pounds of pressure, a surprising bang and I am no longer me.  Who will the press make me become?  I never had to do this…but I would have.

Today, like yesterday, old men and women, tired of the crap they endure, showed up and donned the uniform of the Seattle Police Department.  They went into roll call with the younger men and women who represent the next twenty years of law enforcement.  They joke, they pick on one another, and they share their wisdom with then next generation.  Tomorrow, this will happen again.   Someday, if these kids don’t leave the department like so many are, they will become the old men and women tired of the crap but ready to share.  This dedication, this cycle of passing on what it means to wear a badge is sacred.  It is known but to a few and it is being disrupted by an unknowing but self righteous group with only their own self interests in mind.

Your police officers are here for you.  We will stand in front of you.  We will protect you.  We will not give in to that which is in front of us. Ever.  Are you behind us?  

Todd Wiebke, retired SPD

Sittin in the morning sun…

Sittin here resting my bones, and this loneliness won’t leave me aloneOtis Redding, Dock of The Bay 1968

Greetings Seattle! This is the kickoff of a new forum presented by the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild and I hope it will be a place to share ideas, stories, and concerns. A place not for tales about fantastic heroism or distorted truths, but a spot to share the perspective of a story that never gets told. The perspective and rational thoughts of a police officer that lived in dirty boots and was covered in the dust of a thousand homeless camps.

The Guardian has been a long running newspaper that has shared the perspective of officers with other officers. That provides some insight about management with the rank and file. A lone voice sometimes of support in a media storm that seems unfair most of the time. I spent almost 20 years working on the streets of south and southwest Seattle as a uniformed officer and needed this voice.
I am proud of my service, humbled by the opportunity to have provided help and assistance to people in need. I put people in prison. I put people into mental health facilities. I sat with family members when a loved one died. I hugged children lost in a childhood full of uncertainty and devoid of love. I fought people who refused to follow the law and acted out violently. I laughed, I cried, I grew quiet and old and bitter. I survived. I was offered one last opportunity in the last few years of my career to serve the community as a community police officer in the Southwest Precinct. I was given a specific mission, and a peculiar opportunity. I was given a voice. The opportunity to talk to my community via the Nextdoor platform.

My captain asked me to go out into the homeless community in SW Seattle and find out what was going on. I did that. At some point I was given access to the Nextdoor platform and asked to communicate with the public and I did. For those of you familiar with me, you will remember my writing about my experiences down the hillsides, in the motorhomes, and in my homeless camps down in the White Center area. For those of you unfamiliar with me, my name is Todd Wiebke, formerly Officer Wiebke.

I shared my perspective as an officer. I shared my emotions at dealing with death, filth, poverty, violence, and addiction. I truly loved my job, my indoor neighbors, and yes, many of my outdoor neighbors. It was the highlight of my career, and then it was over. I left the department last year due to the ever-shifting political voices of a few who refused to listen to the many and placed blame on the blue. A lot of my brothers and sisters are leaving. Some are retiring as we always have, but we are losing a lot of our younger, brighter officers who have decades of service left to offer. I had more to give but I could no longer work in the hostile working conditions of a government without a soul.

What broke? Can we fix it? What can I do? Which politicians? What about the new chief? What does the mayor think? Here is my offer. I am a very busy retired guy living on his ranch and finally at peace with the world. Nobody calls me names or looks at me like I smell. Nobody accuses me of being things that I never was. But, the majority of you, those of you who came up to me and said thank you for your service, I feel like I left you hanging. I am still willing to share with you what I can and what I know if you are willing to ask me what you want to know.

I am not a poet, or a writer, or even particularly intelligent. I am just a guy with a chance to share a modicum of knowledge that is unique to a few. So ask me and I will tell you what I know. Until then, I will be sitting in the morning sun. I miss you Seattle. We can fix this, it ain’t as broke as it looks.

Todd Wiebke
Retired Seattle Police Officer