Trust of Seattle PD divided in minority communities

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on March 31, 2011 at 5:30 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 31 at 5:33 PM

SEATTLE -- From Rainier Beach to the Central Area, Seattle Police officers work the beats in communities that are divided over their trust for the department.

"The police are supposed to be there to protect you, but for the most part they don't do their job," Jamie Brown said.

"Every experience I've had with police in this city has been very positive," countered a young mother out for a walk with her baby.

"I don't trust the police, and I have two friends on the force," Cedric Heidelberg added.

At Earl's Barber Shop in the Central Area, news of a federal civil rights investigation is seen as a step in the right direction. Jackie Robb has lived here his whole life. Sitting in the barber chair getting his graying sideburns trimmed, he said the fragile trust that has been built with SPD over the years is starting to crumble because of highly publicized abuses of power.

"You introduce a crap shoot into it," he said. "That's not good for them or us or me. It's not a good situation."

Most agree Seattle's minority neighborhoods are safer today than they were just 10 years ago. A more high profile police presence, community meetings and drop-in centers are partly responsible.

Tom Bangasser helps build a community garden at the corner of 23rd and Union. It's something he never would have seen when he started managing properties in the Central Area 40 years ago.

"SPD has a no nonsense policy. Some interpret it as heavy-handed, but my experience with the police has been very good," he said.

Meantime, police continue doing their often thankless work, while this community hopes for better days ahead.

"The police aren't bad," said one African-American man who has lived in the Central Area for more than 50 years. "I know if you respect them, they'll respect you."

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