The president of the Seattle Police Guild, 22-year S.P.D. veteran Ron Smith, said he resigned his post because the guild’s 14-member board was set to ask for his resignation on Thursday. The move was in response to a controversial Facebook post by Smith that some called racist.
“I realized what the vote would probably be, so I decided to resign on my own terms and move on as to not be a distraction,” said Smith. “People have to remember that police officers are human beings. They’re not robots, human beings make mistakes. Mistakes will be made. We have to move through those mistakes, communicate with one another, take time to listen to each other more intently and come together as a community.”
Smith said he was blindsided that a post on the guild’s Facebook page, meant to be a show of support for the Dallas Police Department, was interpreted as divisive.
He wrote, in part, “The hatred of law enforcement by a minority movement is disgusting. And he ended with the hashtag ‘we shall overcome.’”
"It was absolutely stupid and totally irresponsible on his part," said Gerald Hankerson, president of NAACP Seattle.
Hankerson applauded Smith's decision to resign. He had called for the department to condemn his Facebook post. And Tuesday night, three officers emailed to the civil rights group. Hankerson described their messages.
“’We apologize for the words said by Mr. Smith,’ and said ‘he does not represent us.’” Hankerson said. “Exactly what we called for. So it's a step in the right direction.”
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said he was surprised by the post, because Smith was interested in reform, especially with regards to race and LGBT issues.
“We are in a time when I go out to communities of color, and they are in pain and they are scared,” said Murray. “And I meet with police officers and they are in pain and they are scared. And this kind of language is not helpful.”
Smith explained the Facebook post:
“(Writing) we shall overcome I realize in hindsight that that might have been offensive to people in the civil rights community or the African American community. I meant no offense, I was merely saying that law enforcement will overcome much as we did in 9-11 when we lost hundreds of police officers in the twin towers,” said Smith. “We’ll move forward. We’ll show up every day and keep coming to work. That’s what we do. That’s what I meant by that. I meant no disrespect and my heart is sick if anyone was offended by what was posted.”
Smith said he believes it was a combination of issues that led to the board’s plan to get rid of him. He said some disagreed with his approach to police reforms under the watch of the Dept. of Justice and the recent contract presented to the membership.
“It got to the point where my leadership style and trying to have a different conversation with the city of Seattle in trying to get more involved in the community evidently wasn’t appreciated by some,” said Smith. “Politics is a combat sport, I do have a few knife wounds on my back that will heal eventually however the board of directors runs the organization and they have spoken and I’ve decided to let them continue how they see fit.”
Smith said he’ll go back to the front lines as a detective in major crimes, which is the job he held prior to becoming union chief. His last day as guild president is July 31. Union Vice President Kevin Stuckey will become the new president.
Smith said the department is in good hands under the leadership of Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole and incoming guild president Stuckey.
“I poured every bit of my heart and soul into this organization…..There’s no doubt in my mind that we have one of the top police departments in the nation.”