Ethics Quiz: The Police Chief’s Letter

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of The Week:

Now what?

In considering your response, consider the exigencies of the situation. Who has a duty to act? What can the police do?  Was the police leadership obligated to send such a letter, or will it do more harm than good? Doesn’t the letter essentially invite “mostly peaceful” demonstrators to take over the streets?

If lives are threatened, is it ethical for police to defy the cities prohibition on crowd control? What should concerned citizens do?  Should they organize private security forces?

What are the obligations of the state government? What is the responsible approach of the Democratic Party and its leaders, who have encouraged the development of this situation? What is the federal government obligated to do, if anything, when a police department is prevented from protecting the public due to irresponsible action by a duly elected municipal government?

Finally, at what point are responsible Americans obligated to accept the fact that their support for the “resistance” has led directly to this point, and accept the fact that have not only been wrong, but tragically, spectacularly irresponsible?

36 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: The Police Chief’s Letter

  1. Brilliant. Eliminate less lethal forms of crowd control and default to … what … MORE LETHAL forms of crowd control? Live rounds?

    Two words: “Kent” and “State.”

  2. Is there legal precedent for punishing politicians for stand-down orders? If people or their property get harmed while such an order is in effect, who gets punished?

  3. I think the letter helps those who are slowly realizing they’re on there own in terms of keeping businesses protected. It does seem like a potential invitation for rioters to “destroy space” as they wish. You get what you vote for and this may be a wake up call to those who preached the gospel of “resistance” while trying to earn a living in the free market.

    I feel bad saying this, but after arriving in my new home town this morning, far away from the chaos, cities like Portland & Seattle are no longer my problem. We got the hell out and I bet many more are about to do the same.

    • I wish you and your wife well in your new hometown.

      I agree, business owners and residents need to know that those they elected have abdicated any concern or protection in fear of the mob. It’s only by knowing the reality that they can demand better of Seattle’s elected officials. The chief of police is being ethical in sending this letter and his concern for his officers.

      • I thought the same, but I think “new home town” wouldn’t be Minnie. That would be “my old home town?”

        Voting with one’s feet. Almost always an available option. And a valid one.

        Glad you got out, Mrs. Q.

    • I have lived in Seattle my entire life and recently sold my house. I will be in Texas very, very soon, however, not soon enough. For years I have asked my fellow citizens, “but this is what you voted for, why are you surprised, or unhappy now?”

        • One of my longtime Usenet allies made this similar observation about his hometown of Chicago.

          I’ll give you three reasons, having lived there until I joined the Army:
          1. The city “government” is as corrupt as any you’ll find in the third world. Members of the city council are in bed with the major gangs.
          2. The police department is as corrupt as the “government”, considering itself wholly outside the law. Until relatively recently, there was a home invasion, burglary and kidnapping ring operating INSIDE the most “elite” unit in the department.
          3. The population obviously LIKES these things, since they’ve been voting for them since before my grandmother moved there from Nashville… BEFORE WWI.

          Black Chicagoans elected and reelected Richard M. Daley for something like twenty+ years, DESPITE the fact that he profited politically from an organized torture ring operating INSIDE the Chicago PD. Most of the known victims of said ring were NOT Norwegian…

          Chicago is what it is because the Chicagoans WANT it that way. Sucks to be them.

          – Christopher Charles Morton

      • Don’t bring bad politics here please.

        Because as I suspect, local Seattle residents and business owners on average back the very politics that have caused people to behave like insurrectionists. Individually none of these people can bring themselves to realize they have to change their mindset and oppose the rioters without feeling morally compromised…but they are watching their homes and businesses burn.

        So what will they do? They’ll run to better states.

        But they still won’t change their politics and then they’ll ruin the good states.

  4. I live just south of Seattle and have many friends who work in the city. This includes my next door neighbor who works for SPD and other neighbors who are firefighters for the city. While I’m thankful that not all of WA state is infected with the political idiocy that has taken over Seattle and Olympia I worry for the safety of my friends who have to answer the call of duty regardless of how irresponsible their leaders are. Elections have consequences, so it’s hard for me to have any sympathy for the people who supported the leftist leaders who allowed a once beautiful and prosperous city to be turned into a battlefield where thugs riot and loot their homes and businesses. It’s only a whisper right now, but many people are packing up their businesses and leaving. Probably for good. I think the whisper will get louder as the unrest continues and thugs are allowed to do as they please and the police have their hands tied to prevent them from stopping it. It’s my sincere hope that the folks leaving happened to be voters who supported Seattle’s city council that maybe they learned something and don’t take their poison with them and inflict some other town or city with their woke nonsense.

  5. “…at what point are responsible Americans obligated to accept the fact that their support for the “resistance” has led directly to this point….”

    I believe that point is mostly far in the past. There were millions of independent decisions to try to make the country ungovernable, without any concern for the consequences. I think that tens of millions decided to do that in 2016.

  6. Police leadership was obliged to issue the letter. When you cannot do your job because of constraints placed on you, you must work up the chain of command to have those constraints removed. The letter places the onus right back where it belongs.
    The city and the state both are obliged to respond. “…to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…” It is their obligation to provide protection for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
    Please do not ask for a responsible position from the Democratic party in regard to this. It will not be forthcoming.
    I don’t think it is time for the people of Seattle to abolish their government, but alteration certainly is on the table.

    • I assume the police chief will be fired for insubordination. Reminds me of the Captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Clearly went outside the chain of command. But I’m not sure what other options the police chief had. He couldn’t go to the media, they’d be no help at all. And frankly, I think the situation in Portland is much for dire for police (and property owners) than the situation was for the crew of the TR.

      • The police chief in Seattle is a black woman. She’s safe.

        This letter was a shot across the city council’s bow, but also covering her own ass for when things get uglier because her police force is hamstrung.

  7. Very confusing. Somehow I am not surprised that a search on CNN for ‘Seattle police’ returned no results. The same search on Fox News gives some confusing stories:

    Wednesday, a federal judge said the city ordinance from June 15th can proceed. Friday, the police chief issued her letter. Later Friday that same federal judge issued a ‘very temporary’ restraining order keeping the ordinance from taking effect.

    I said earlier this year: Popcorn futures, that’s the ticket!

    • Search functions on news websites are universally terrible in my experience. Whether searching for recent or past news, the search rarely turns up useful results. This is per se incompetence, but to be fair, it doesn’t actually reflect on whether an organization covered the story or not.

  8. The police have an obligation to act when lives or property is being attacked. So they intentionally ban non-lethal force, then put the non-lethal force items down and do what you’re trained to do. If you or someone else’s life is in danger use the tools that are left and that includes lethal force as an viable option. This is a set up to create social justice martyrs and this won’t end well for the rioters who have been painting graffiti that says that this is a revolution on the walls in absolutely every city they’re rioting in.

    Are you all ready for what is about to come?

    • ” The police have an obligation to act when lives or property is being attacked. ”


      “Neither the Constitution, nor state law, impose a general duty upon police officers or other governmental officials to protect individual persons from harm — even when they know the harm will occur,” said Darren L. Hutchinson, a professor and associate dean at the University of Florida School of Law. “Police can watch someone attack you, refuse to intervene and not violate the Constitution.”

      The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the government has only a duty to protect persons who are “in custody,” he pointed out.

      In the cases DeShaney vs. Winnebago and Town of Castle Rock vs. Gonzales, the supreme court has ruled that police agencies are not obligated to provide protection of citizens. In other words, police are well within their rights to pick and choose when to intervene to protect the lives and property of others — even when a threat is apparent

      • zoebrain,
        I wrote, “”The police have an obligation to act when lives or property is being attacked.”

        Consider the fact that the use of the word “obligation” doesn’t imply in any way that it’s a legal obligation.

        • Consider also that trying to be extra cool online by dismissing another’s comment with an u charitable “nope” should be reserved for blatantly false or wacky statements, and not just a desire to zing someone you disagree with. Not only do police, indeed, have a general moral obligation to protect, they also frequently and regularly do so.

    • Here is one of the graffiti paintings in Madison, WI.

      Revolution: a forcible overthrow of a government or social order, in favor of a new system.

      They are LITERALLY are literally declaring this across the USA; how should we react?

      Should we stand and enable them with apathy?

      I choose to stand in opposition.

  9. If I was a business owner in Seattle, I would appreciate the heads-up this letter provides. Yes it gives the same heads-up to the rioters as well, but they’ll find out soon enough when the ordinance goes into effect anyway. Plus it seems that non-lethal measures don’t prevent riots from happening in the first place, they just help mitigate the effects once the riot gets underway.

    As for who has the duty to act, I would not expect any police chief to send his people into a no-win situation. If they don’t have the tools to break up a riot, they must either risk their lives relying on mere shields and batons, or use actual guns, which risks a recreation of the Boston Massacre. If I was a police officer on the scene on the scene of a riot with these restrictions, I honestly don’t know what I’d do.

    What I would do if I was a business owner in a likely rioting area, I would get myself a gun, and be prepared to use it. If a riot was to start outside my establishment, I would tell anyone inside to stay in and stay down, have an employee follow me out with a camera as I go out to stand at the door with my gun. I would call out for the rioters to leave immediately or be shot. If they advanced on my establishment, or start throwing anything harder than a plastic bottle, I would take aim at the instigators, and fire. The moment the targets drop or the crowd retreats, I’d stop firing. I would then call 911 to help any who were injured by the shooting.

    I’m iffy on the idea of self-formed citizen militias. It would be way too easy for such to become a protection racket, or cover for white supremacy groups. On the other hand, a few weeks ago there was a protest in Utah that was countered by a line of armed civilians, and nothing happened.

    Anyway, I think we are getting close to the tipping point here, especially with federal troops getting involved. I think it is only a matter of time before there is an armed clash between rioters and civilians, or a terrorist bombing, or a mass shooting the powers that be rush to close the barn door and it will only get more chaotic. I doubt though, that it will come to a full-on Civil War II. The rioters have neither the tools nor the inclination to form an army formidable enough to challenge the military should things get that serious. If the aforementioned tipping point atrocity is clearly instigated by “anti-racist” terrorists, BLM and all associated movements will lose their support in the eyes of the public. If said atrocity is committed by white supremacists, then support for BLM will increase, but even IF these hard-core progressives get everything they want, they will not have the backing of the police or military, so implementing their agenda may prove more difficult than they imagine.

    • The letter is a political time bomb. The police department is kind of saying, “rioters will be shot on site/sight” because the ordinance almost requires the use of ordnance. If police can’t use group dispersal techniques such as tear gas or the like, and rioters know that, then incidents necessarily escalate. If the ordinance also prohibits use of deadly force, then Seattle is toast.


  10. Now what indeed. In NJ we’ve had at least one city, Camden, fall to crap, although in that case it was from overtaxing of businesses. The businesses left, all the residents who could leave did, and the place became, apart from the sliver of waterfront where the USS New Jersey and the aquarium are, a ruin of crumbling brick and collapsing asphalt, populated by the unmotivated, the untalented, and the worthless. It’s a place wise people avoid altogether unless they have business there. If they have business there, they come, do whatever, and rapidly remove themselves. It has nothing to offer anyone and no hope for things getting even a little better. That said, it was never a very big city to begin with.

    Seattle should have a lot to offer: the Space Needle, a beautiful waterfront, a huge port, the Space Needle, a great music scene, major league sports, and much more. It’s the 15th-largest city in the US. However, like almost all major cities, it long ago became a one-party town. Like Chicago, New Orleans, DC, Detroit, and other cities too numerous to name, there isn’t a single Republican in any city office, there hasn’t been for a very long time, and there is very unlikely ever to be unless something changes radically. The good thing about having an executive and a legislature who consistently belong to the same party means that they can get stuff done. The bad thing about having an executive and a legislature who consistently belong to the same party is also that they can get stuff done. If there is no opposition, then there is often very little debate or discussion, and almost no need for compromise. What the executive wants, the executive usually gets. The more it gets, the more ideas that sound good it can put into practice. There’s nothing to stop the party in power from socking it to property owners, socking it to business owners, socking it to corporations, and so on. The thing is, these policies often come back to sock it to the man in the street, who can’t find a decent, reasonably priced place to rent because the choices are basically rent control, where no one can get in, the high-end places that are unaffordable to any except the very rich, and the slums, where the landlords do the minimum. The man in the street can’t find a good job or even an entry-level job, because policies have pushed minimum wage and the other costs of employment up so high that no one is hiring. The man in the street can’t start his own business because all the taxes, fees, and additional costs make it impossible.

    The unopposed left will also move farther left, and the west coast is farther left than any other region of the country. The cities of the northeast may be liberal, but there’s no way you’d ever see them electing anyone like Kshama Sawant, the crypto-Communist revolutionary who openly talks of coming for the capitalist system. Yet there she is in Seattle, and the driving force beyond her party. She is for all practical purposes a member of antifa, having let their members into municipal buildings and brought them to protest at the mayor’s house.

    More often than not law enforcement is a voice of reason even when dealing with a far left administration, and hopefully law also is. The lawyers are the voices saying “you can go this far, but no farther.” The police are the voices, hopefully, saying “if you do this we can’t guarantee everyone’s safety.” However, here the police are seen as the enemy and the obstacle to getting even more great lefty things done. Seattle is one of only two cities so far where a police headquarters has been abandoned to insurrectionists, and so far the only one with a sustained situation like CHOP became. Yet the mayor’s response to the Trump administration’s objection to this was that the president shouldn’t be afraid of democracy and this would be a summer of love (the only thing that changed the mayor’s mind was the insurrectionists showing up on her doorstep). Now the city administration wants to strip the police of the tools needed to do their job. However, this will not go through, at least not just yet. Because of the consent decree in place, the Department of Justice has a say, and they have just obtained a TRO stopping this crazy ordinance from going into effect, saying it would result in more use of deadly force. So I guess there you have their answer as to what the Feds should have done. Thankfully they did it.

    The fact is that the police have a sworn duty to uphold the law. The executive generally has a duty to do the same, that’s why they’re called the EXECUTIVE branch, their job is to see that the Constitution and the law are faithfully executed. The chief was between a rock and a hard place. She had a duty to say she was going to have to change her department’s approach to things and why she was changing it. If I were her I might also have considered resigning, telling the mayor I could not continue to run this department if she was going to keep hamstringing my officers from discharging their duties and forcing them to stand by and watch their city fall into disorder.

    With regard to the Democratic Party I’d say it was time for the moderates and the centrists to pull those farther left back into line, and maybe pull them in a room and tell them rein themselves in or they would BE reined in. Unfortunately, the Harry Truman/JFK/Sam Nunn/Scoop Jackson Democrats are all long gone. There are almost no moderates or centrists left. This nomination season should have told you that. The candidates that had a legit shot were nanny-statist Michael Bloomberg, far-left Elizabeth Warren, crypto-Communist Bernie Sanders, and Biden. There is no powerful moderate voice or presence. If anything, the less farther left are now worried that the far left is going to swallow them up, and it just might do that. This should never have been allowed to happen, but there really isn’t much point to would haves, could haves, or should haves right now (is there ever?).

    As for the last question, any American with a brain should have figured out at least a year ago that the “resistance” was headed down the wrong path and pulled up. Anyone who kept on going was either a fool or just so full of hate for the other side (and/or Trump) that they were going to keep going, come hell, high water, or elections. What’s more, anyone who believes that this latest round of craziness is all about one act of police brutality is a fool, and anyone who believes even that this was just the straw that broke the camera’s back is kidding himself. These plans have been in place for a long time, and now we’ve let these crazy ideas all out like Pandora’s box. One of the craziest was to defund and disband the police. That’s something we shouldn’t have even mentioned. That’s the law enforcement equivalent of flat-earthing. Anyone who says that shouldn’t even be in the room, let alone at the table, but now those folks are presiding at the meeting, dictating to elected officials, and even sending them on “walks of shame” like pajama-boy, Justin Trudeau-wannabe Jacob Frey. I’ve spoken a few times about how unwise it is to romanticize past times that sucked in reality. However, this isn’t about Guinness-addled visions of warrior poesy during the Troubles ☘ or drugged-up, hazy, shot-through-a-golden-gel dreams of flower power in the 60s.☮ Now we have folks romanticizing present-day situations that are downright dangerous – the idea that order can be kept without police🚓 , or that allowing criminals to turn a whole area of a city into a no-go zone is democracy in action 🙃 or an assault on Federal property or officers is peaceful.💥 It’s going to be impossible to put that genie completely back in the bottle.

    I guess being angry or being hateful is like being in love. Although I don’t understand being in love the way someone who’s been married 20+ years would, I do understand that, especially in the early stages of love, it often feels like your love is the most important thing, or the only thing, in the world. Sometimes it’s the same with your anger or your hate, and you don’t give a damn what else happens. I’ve sneered at plenty of still oh-so-in-love couples, especially after the wedding, when it should become apparent that they are just one more married couple among millions now. Someone should have told some of these folks their anger or hate just isn’t that important.

  11. Was the police leadership obligated to send such a letter, or will it do more harm than good? Doesn’t the letter essentially invite “mostly peaceful” demonstrators to take over the streets?

    It was necessary, as this is a public ordinance.

    What are the obligations of the state government?

    Top send state troopers or even the National Guard.

    What is the responsible approach of the Democratic Party and its leaders, who have encouraged the development of this situation?

    The opposite of what they are doing now.

    What is the federal government obligated to do, if anything, when a police department is prevented from protecting the public due to irresponsible action by a duly elected municipal government?

    To defend federal interests.

    Finally, at what point are responsible Americans obligated to accept the fact that their support for the “resistance” has led directly to this point, and accept the fact that have not only been wrong, but tragically, spectacularly irresponsible?

    Three years ago.

    this week, there was this meme going around that president Trump is sending stormtroopersto suppress peaceful protests. Jack has yet to devote a full blog post on the subject, though.

    It is not just random bloggers and commenters who are making this claim.

    I will address these claims.

    1 Trump is sending stormtroopers.

    There are only two allegations- one of excessive force, the other of an unlawful arrest- for which there is probable cause, and which might rise to the level of “stormtrooper” behavior.

    This hardly means that the president is deploying stormtroopers.
    2. Sending in federal law enforcement without cooperation of the states violates federalism principles.

    This too is wrong. The fact of the matter is that federal law enforcement agents may apprehend suspects anywhere in the United States.

    In this case, federal agents were sent to deal with a credible threat to federal property. Protection of federal property is most assuredly within the Article I powers of Congress.

    3. It is wrong for federal agents to grab protesters off the street and put them in unmarked vehicles while not wearing nametags.

    If a court were to judge the legality of such an arrest, whether via a habeas corpus petition or an evidence suppression hearing, the dispositive issue would be if the agents had probable cause. It would not matter what the arresting officers were wearing, nor what the vehicle used to transport the arrestee looks like.

    It would turn on if there was sufficient probable cause to believe the arrestee had committed a federal crime (for which the arrestee had not been previously been charged or arrested.)

    4. Trump is stoking the fires of division in this country.

    No, this is being done by those who are making these outlandish claims about federal agents with very little evidence

    • The official line is that these incidents were neither arrests nor detainments, so probable cause didn’t enter into it. They were merely transportation to a place where the suspects could be safely interrogated.

  12. I think it’s a Hail Mary and worth it. The only sane outcome is that the city council repeals their order, and preferably drives that one dangerously stupid socialist member out permanently in the bargain. The police chief seems to be doing all she can to make that happen before anyone else gets killed.

    The next best outcome is that the results of the order are so immediately disastrous that it is quickly and forever repealed. But this would require sacrificial casualties.

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