A disturbing trend has, of late, been apparent throughout America, but particularly in larger cities, which are commonly Democrat-ruled. The police are being persecuted for merely upholding the law and doing their jobs. As a result, crime rates in those unfortunate places are skyrocketing as criminals learn the police will generally avoid confrontation with them lest their careers and liberty hang in the balance. The Michael Brown case in Ferguson, the Freddie Gray case in Baltimore, and a variety of others, stand out.
As regular readers know, I take the police to task when they deserve it. That’s necessary if we are to have the police forces we should and must have rather than the forces we deserve due to our inattention. I also, whenever possible, point out officers and agencies that are doing it right. Such a case appears to have recently occurred in Seattle. Seattle hasn’t had a Republican mayor since 1969—49 years–and Washington hasn’t had a Republican governor since 1985, 33 years, so one might excuse me for making certain assumptions about the progressive political climate of Seattle. Local station KOMO reports:
Newly released video shows a dramatic police takedown, and raises new questions about whether one officer acted courageously or went too far in his attempt to protect the public.
Officer Nick Guzley now faces discipline for how he subdued a man armed with an ice ax. A complaint was filed about his failure to de-escalate the situation. However, other officers have said he made the best of a bad situation, and no one ended up getting hurt.
The Seattle police footage came from body cameras now being worn by officers, and begins inside the REI on Yale Ave. N. Security workers for the store called police to report that a man had just stolen an ice ax, then threatened one worker with it when she tried to stop him from leaving.
Police tracked the man outside the store and called for back-up when they too were threatened.
This sounds like a clear-cut case:
Officers followed the suspect for blocks. At the same time, they also tried to clear the streets as the man with the ax marched ahead, yelling to people in his path to ‘step away’ or ‘get out of the way.’
It is at that point in the video that the suspect passes Officer Nick Guzley, who’d just pulled up in a patrol car.
The suspect made his way into a narrow corridor just past the old Seattle Times building. It was there that police tried to press in, warning the man he would be ‘Tased’ if he kept ignoring their orders.
In response, the man can be seen on the video turning to face the officers while holding the ice ax over his head.
Moments later, once the man turned back around, Officer Guzley rushed up from behind and made the tackle.
Let’s be certain, keeping in mind our only source for the time being is media accounts, what happened in this case:
1) Bad guy steals an ice axe.
2) Bad guy walks away, ignoring police commands.
3) Bad guy repeatedly threatens the police with the axe, which is unquestionably a deadly weapon.
4) Officers distract and tackle the bad guy, disarming him.
5) Bad guy and officers are not injured.
6) No innocents are injured.
I thought it was a commendable act,’ Stuckey [police union spokesman] said. ‘The alternative is to continue to let him keep walking, until he walks into somebody while he’s clearly having a mental break, and he hits them in the head. And then what? Then the question would be, ‘Why didn’t you act sooner?’’
The man with the stolen ax was later identified as James Ray Smith. He was convicted of robbery and is currently in prison.
7) Dangerous felon professionally arrested.
It would seem KOMO means Smith was “currently on parole,” but as this is Seattle, perhaps felons in prison get “take a stroll; steal an ice axe” privileges? In a rational world, Officer Guzley would, at the least, get a pat on the back from his supervisors. After all, he merely did his job, which is expected of any professional police officer. Shouldn’t we expect just this of any police officer? This isn’t medal of valor performance. But again, this is Seattle:
Officer Guzley remains on patrol but is awaiting potential discipline. One of Guzley’s own supervisors filed the complaint against him with Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability.
The investigation is for ‘failure to de-escalate.’ The case remains open, but the recommendation is for Guzley to receive a two-day suspension without pay.
A due process hearing is set for May 11. The officer will have one last chance to plead his case before Chief Carmen Best finalizes any punishment.
“To plead his case”? Insanity.
Again, gentle readers, please remember I’m relying on media accounts in my analysis of this situation, but in every account I’ve been able to find, the essential facts remain unchanged.
Police officers are authorized to use whatever force is reasonably necessary—including deadly force–to make a lawful arrest. By all means, take the KOMO link and view the body camera video of the incident. It is not complete from the beginning to end of the contact with Smith, but the pertinent parts all appear to be present.
What I found amazing is the officers followed Smith for a ridiculously long distance—blocks–in populated areas where there were obviously many people on foot, doing nothing more than staying as much as a block behind him, and leap frogging ahead to clear people out of his way. This is amazing because Smith was carrying a deadly weapon—a single blow with an ice axe in the right—wrong—place can easily cause serious bodily injury or death—and knowing the police were following him, was refusing to obey their constant commands to stop and drop the weapon, and was repeatedly brandishing the axe in a threatening manner. The apparent hesitation of the officers was obviously not due to a lack of manpower; there were plenty of officers present.
During my police days, things would have been much different. In those days, we didn’t have tasers, but that wasn’t an issue for us. We would have waited for sufficient backup—3 to 4 officers—boxed in the bad guy—preferably while behind cover–and with guns drawn, ordered him to drop the axe and submit to arrest. To their sort-of credit, the body camera video shows at least one officer with a drawn gun. If we had tasers, Smith would have been doing the chicken while covered with drawn guns. In any case, he would have been stopped as quickly as possible. He would never have been allowed to take a leisurely, blocks-long stroll through areas with pedestrian traffic. If we believed we could take him without shooting him, we surely would have done that, in fact, that would have been our preferred option, but if he forced us to shoot him, we would have been entirely justified.
Why would we have stopped him as soon as possible? Because he was demonstrating evil intent; because he was a clear and present danger to the public. As Stuckey noted, someone like that has to be neutralized as soon as possible to protect innocents. To do less would have been seen as cowardice and a gross neglect of duty and that, not stopping the bad guy, would have led to discipline.
Considering what is happening to Officer Guzley, I can only suspect the Seattle Police operate under constant threat from their “superiors”—obviously in rank only—to do nothing that actual police officers would consider the bare minimum necessary to lawfully, ethically do their jobs.
Had the officers, once Smith was restrained, gratuitously beat him, that would certainly be actionable, but in this case, every indication is that the officers merely tackled him, took away his weapon, put him in cuffs, and took him to jail without inflicting so much as a bruise.
To recap: the officers had more than sufficient probable cause to believe Smith was guilty of a crime: theft. His subsequent threatening actions may have produced probable cause for a variety of other crimes, including felonies, but I’m not sufficiently familiar with Washington or Seattle law to make a definitive determination. They were entirely within the law to arrest him with any force reasonably necessary. Considering the threat, drawn guns were reasonably necessary. The force they used was minimal, and resulted in injury to no one. If anything, they waited too long—apparently far too long—to stop Smith.
Where’s the disciplinary offense in that?
“Failure to de-escalate,” is a politically correct catch-all for “all police officers, always, are required to employ talk, and nothing else.” In this case, it seems clear the officers talked and talked and talked and gave Smith every chance to “de-escalate.” Unfortunately, suspects, particularly convicted, threatening felons, have a say in how such situations evolve and resolve. Officers cannot always “de-escalate” with pleas for diversity, tolerance, understanding and “can’t we all just get along”-itude. In fact, I worry officers these days are getting shot, sometimes killed, because they’re too hesitant to act.
Please gentle readers, also keep in mind that in progressive-ruled cities, one does not become police chief without, above all else, being willing to not only implement progressive policies, but to give them appropriate private and public lip service. One does not reach rank higher than that of Sergeant without the same fealty to social justice principles.
The only thing that seems to be in the officer’s favor in this case is that Smith does not appear to be a minority. Were that the case, it’s reasonable to suspect Officer Guzley would be facing termination and prosecution.
One further suspects this is not the first similar case in Seattle, but only the first about which most people outside the Seattle PD are aware. Even if Officer Guzley is not disciplined in this case, the mere fact his agency was considering charges for nothing more than professional required actions is going to have a damaging effect on the willingness of all Seattle officers to do their jobs. In future cases even remotely like this, officers seeing an escaping suspect will simply look the other way: “Darn it Sarge. Just couldn’t find the guy. Sorry.” This will, in turn, encourage more, and more blatant, theft and related crimes. The Seattle police force will become far less proactive and proficient, Seattle will become much more dangerous, and citizens will find themselves understanding the last thing they want to do when in trouble is call the police.
In other words: just another day of business as usual in another progressive paradise.