Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Seattle Mayor McGinn Makes Smart Hire

This week Mayor Mike McGinn brought Chief Harry Bailey out of retirement to help with the mess that Seattle is in with communities and the Department of Justice.  The seriousness of this assignment requires a Police Professional that almost walks on water. I know that Mayor McGinn could have searched the entire nation and not come up with a better person to guide him out of the mess that Seattle Police is in.

I know Harry Bailey well and along with his wife and colleague Emmett Kelsie have watched his entry into Police work and his rise to Police leadership since 1968. City Council Member Bruce Harrell is reported as being curious whether someone the rank-and-file officers think they can trust. "Seeing this as critical to the changes needed..."  

I was once told by a Precinct Commander that then Lieutenant Bailey was a "Cop's Cop." I found this interesting because at the same time, many who had minimum trust for Seattle Police in general likewise knew Lieutenant Bailey as the one they trusted. He has been a Vice President of the Seattle Police Guild and began and ended his career with the Seattle Police force. He never got lazy, he stayed physically fit and I once asked him had he ever discharged his firearm at that time the answer was "No, but I will if I have to."  He explained that as an Officer his gun is not in the forefront of his work even as it is significant to his work. I think I got it.

So from my personal, public and political view here is who Mayor McGinn hired and why I think he was smart in making this decision.  First of all former Chief Bailey is not building a resume, so he gets to do what he thinks is good for the people of Seattle and for the integrity of good police work. He is not running for office, and he does not need the money. He and one of Seattle's most outspoken critics Rev. Harriet Walden who is the founder and primary voice for Mothers for Police Accountability has his personal number on her automatic dial. He gave it to her many years ago because he is not afraid to hear what does not work for community.  What Mc Ginn sees as his greatest accomplishment is what created the most contention between he and Rev. Walden, Weed and Seed. Everyone did not see it as a solution for stemming violence and crime in communities of color.  So Harry listened and tried to make it work.

I met Harry in 1968 when he was new in his job as a Police Officer Trainee, and I new in my position as Seattle's Minority Employment Specialist our jobs were aligned in bringing minorities into key jobs with the City of Seattle. From day one Seattle had a man who loved police work not because it gave him power over others but because he believed in the true nature of keeping a community safe by being part of that community. Over the years of his career he gained more than friendships, he gained respect. That is what it takes to work in the public, respect.

Harry and I had the same philosophy about the best way to know a community; live in it and where it is lacking help to make it better. He has been involved in every community in Seattle. Recently I had the opportunity to be with him on a project that took us to the far reaches of Seattle and he was well known in North Seattle as he was in Rainier Valley.  Assumptions are made about humanity when people protect themselves from all elements of humanity.  There are many stories I could tell about how Harry approached community, how he loved being a "cop" even as a Chief he loved best being on the street with his officers and with the community they were hired to keep safe.

In the 1980's when many professionals were fleeing SE Seattle, Harry and his wife and me and my husband decided to stay in SE Seattle and raise our family. We knew that if all of the strong African American families left, who would help. Many have learned what good policing can be through many of the decisions that Harry made along the way to this appointment. We know that being born poor, brown  black is not an indication that you will be come a criminal.  He knows the ways of a criminal, he knows the ways of good policing, the voice of a committed community organizer, and the tears and fears of a parent whose child is on a road to crime. I have seen him up close and personal in all of these realms.

Rev. Harriett Walden, who single handedly organized Mothers Against Police Brutality for good reason had not trust of Seattle Police.  She experienced what so many have, Seattle Police Officers stopped her sons, beat them mercilessly and then released them with no charge of any criminal activity. Everyone knew the Salisbury boys did not participate in criminal behavior, did not then and as now grown men are well respected contributors to the human good. When then Sargent Bailey moved to the East Precinct he and Harriett worked on forming a mutually respectful relationship. Harriett changed the name of her organization to Mothers for Police Accountability and with a vision for a better police force well before it became popular, she helped Seattle bring into being the Office for Police Accountability. She had Harry ended up on each other's automatic dial because of their willingness to work as allies.

Harry was once Vice President of the Seattle Police Guild, from this position he helped them see why they would want to endorse an African American woman and Democrat for a seat in the Washington State Legislature, and they did. That is because he believed then and his coming out of retirement shows he continues to believe that police work is best when community partnerships are formed at every level with those who agree and disagree.  He is a master in the power of people coming together over a conversation.  Not just those who cozy up but those who will challenge the status quo.

During the time I was a State Representative I had many chances to call upon Harry to help with constituency issues. A mother called me, she was hysterical. There was a warrant for her son's arrest and she believed that he would resist arrest and that would give cause for the police to kill him.  I called Harry and he told me he would make the arrest.  He was quite sure he could make the arrest without having to kill anyone, even though he was a wanted felon, he had made many such arrests.  The mother is best to tell the story of how she felt as comfortable turning her son over to Harry Bailey as she would have putting him into the hands of a preacher. She says he showed up in a suit, presented himself respectfully and arrested him without incidence. Her son was a felon and he did go to prison. This is good police work and it is possible more often than what we have seen from Seattle Police.

Mayor McGinn has a problem with not only Seattle Police Department he has a problem with city divided by race in every way. Our neighborhoods, our jobs, our schools.  Seattle is the 5th whitest city in the USA and the majority of whites in Seattle really like this distinction.  There is major hiring discrimination in our industries and contracting with our governments, this creates economic disparities. Seattle Public Schools  for decades has failed to educate for equity and excellence its diverse student population. An entire "failure industry" dominated by whites with failed solutions is well entrenched.  For too many years the majority population did not care one bit about police shootings and little regard for who they were shooting. This occurs when crime is personalized by race and culture. The culture of African Americans, Latinos and other non whites is not crime. If a bank is going to be robbed in Seattle, chances are it will be a white male robbing it. Who in their right mind would think that all white men are bank robbers or bank robbing is the culture of an entire race?

Chief Bailey might have taken on his toughest job, but it is a job he will rise to and do well. If he can not or is not allowed not to do his job, he will give it back to Mayor McGinn. He is ethical that way.  There is something refreshing about having him back doing what he seemed to born to do, and I believe that if anyone can make a difference Chief Bailey can do it.  I think he might be able to do more for Seattle from City Hall than from within the Police Department as Police Chief. I do not think that Police Officers should become Mayors but I do believe that Mayors need to understand a lot about policing a city.

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