Members of the Seattle Police Department have plenty of reasons to be upset with what's going on in the Emerald City. For the better part of a year they've seen anti-police protests fill their streets and attacks on cops go largely unpunished as calls to "defund the police" have rung out across the U.S.
Now they have another straw to add to the proverbial camel's back: A local radio station exposed a major Seattle city department's all-staff email demeaning Seattle police as white supremacists. And when the department was called out for its messaging, officials defended the screed.
KTTH-AM host Jason Rantz revealed Tuesday evening the text of what he labeled an "unhinged" email sent to the entire staff of the Seattle Department of Finance and Administrative Services, or FAS, by the "FAS Change Team."
The message, written by Daniel Holmberg, a FAS senior management systems analyst, was titled, "White supremacy thrives without consequences" and came under the heading "Black Lives Matter: A message and resources from the Change Team."
In the email, Holmberg and his Change Team claimed they did not want "to paint all police with a broad brush," but they began the message by attacking law enforcement generally, saying white supremacy is "ensconced" in American institutions and saying that police "serve the false gods of white supremacy" and "are not worthy of the power they wield."
Racist cops who extend restraint "only to white people," Holmberg said, "are no longer guardians; they are mercenaries and zealots, paid in the wages of white privilege, inflicting their wicked commandments upon us."
Despite his insistence that he didn't want to taint all cops with his claims, Holmberg listed a few incidents of race-related incidents Americans have seen over the last few years and then insisted that "it strains the boundaries of credulity to believe that these are isolated issues, confined to a 'few bad apples.'"
The ubiquity of this phenomenon, found in all corners of law enforcement, reveals a broken culture, a world split in two: white supremacists and those who know better but go along to get along. In such a culture, good people who stay silent attempt to walk the razor's edge between complicity and absolution. But it is a failed proposition. Silence is sunlight to the seeds of villainy. The full axiom is “one bad apple can spoil the barrel" and this barrel is writhing with maggots.
White supremacists are attracted to a career in law enforcement, he said, because "[t]hey get to use brute force to harm and restrain people of color" and "know their 'thin blue line' will encircle and defend them, no matter what."
More from Holmberg:
Might it be that white supremacy sees in law enforcement its most tangible, immediately satisfying and most enduring method of harming people of color? Law enforcement provides an ideal habitat for white supremacists—a pulpit from which they can level catastrophic harm while enjoying the greatest protections. They wear the uniform like camouflage, hiding in plain sight. I respect and hold gratitude for the service of anyone who does so with honor, but the dignity and duty espoused by the badge do not come with the badge; they need to be earned on the back of righteous deeds.
We talk about ignorance, unconscious bias, and the invisible systems that perpetuate racial inequity. But what about explicit bias? What about intentional, premeditated racism that is celebrated and rewarded? This racism cannot be scapegoated to fear or misplaced anger, or even “economic anxiety." It is a deeply rooted, marvelously disguised, desire to harm non-white people. White supremacists hold positions of authority and influence. They make the arrests and file the reports; they testify as expert witnesses, and they control the custody of evidence.
Holmberg closed his screed with advice for cops: “We're not asking you to shoot guilty white people the way you shoot innocent Black people, we're asking you to protect innocent black people the way you protect guilty white people."
City department defends itself
When confronted about the email, the department defended the attack.
"If we have learned anything from the past year — when COVID-19 disproportionately ravaged communities of color and the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many others laid bare how entrenched systemic racism is in our country — it is that we cannot afford to stay comfortable," FAS spokeswoman Melissa Mixon told Rantz in an email. “Staying comfortable is costing lives, specifically Black lives, and we stand behind our Change Team for keeping us accountable and challenging all of us to learn, to re-examine, to grow and, above all, to act in this urgent work."
Cops react to email
Seattle police officers didn't hold back in their response to the city's attack.
One officer told Rantz, "This is a prime example of why officers are leaving the force in droves. There is absolutely zero support for SPD in this city. Now we have the people who work on our buildings and cars treating us like we are public enemy #1."
Another cop said the email was "inappropriate, bigoted, and full of misleading inaccuracies and over-generalizations."
Yet another pointed out the glaring double standard the city is using:
If any SPD employee made disparaging remarks about another group of people, they would be under a full bias investigation, yet this individual gets to spew this hateful rhetoric to an entire division of city employees with no consequences.
Articles like this one cause division and hate towards a group of people. To say they don't mean to paint all officers with the same brush while at the same time painting all officers with the same brush is hypocritical and reckless.
Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz condemned the FAS message, calling it "disappointing" and saying it "got so many things wrong."