SEATTLE - The new Seattle police union president did not mince words when asked about the lawsuit signed by 10 percent of his union members.
“They're wasting their time," he said.
Detective Ron Smith told KIRO 7 the lawsuit will not change policy or gain traction in any court. But he does agree with the anger and fear which provoked the suit.
“A lot of these officers feel they've been downtrodden. Morale is low. I don't blame them for being upset about this vague use of force policy. I don't even blame them for being upset about the whole notion of the settlement agreement,” he said.
But when officers approached him months ago to get union backing for the lawsuit, Smith told them suing the federal government and local leaders was not the way to fight back.
“At the end of the day, the only way to deal with this is to work collaboratively with the process that's in place,” he said, noting that the officers have the option of testifying at the Community Police Council, which has the authority to alter and clarify the 80-plus page use-of-force policy manual.
“You don’t get anything done if you go out and try to sue the federal government and everybody in between," he said.
But the Maryland-based civil rights attorney who wrote the lawsuit told KIRO 7 the lawsuit is an immediate matter of life and death—and the only way to get the immediate attention of leadership.
“They feel under this policy, someone's going to get killed," said Lisa Battalia, who wrote the lawsuit and is advising the officers for free.
“By filing this lawsuit, they've acknowledged that no-one was listening." They would have loved for someone to really listen and try something short of a lawsuit. But without the lawsuit, nothing was happening," she said.
Smith said most officers refused to sign the suit.
“The Seattle Police Officer’s Guild is made up of about 1,250 members. One hundred and twenty six, that’s less than 10 percent, took this action. That's 90% who didn't," he said.