‘Misguided’ skit negatively depicted homeless people
SEATTLE – Seattle’s new interim police chief apologized Thursday for participating in a 1986 Seattle police training video that “made light of homelessness.”
The video shows some officers dressed as homeless people under a viaduct. Set to the tune of “Under the Boardwalk,” the footage shows the “homeless” drinking, breaking into cars and being rousted by police as they sing the altered lyrics of “Under the Viaduct.”
Assistant Chief Jim Pugel, who will take over as interim chief when Chief John Diaz retires at the end of May, appears in the video as a wine-drinking homeless man.
Pugel apologized in writing and at a news conference Thursday evening.
“In 1986, I was one of the participants in an official Seattle Police Department training video that made light of homelessness,” he said in a statement. “I regret my participation and have professionally apologized for my role in it. I do so now publicly. I am truly sorry.”
The video embarrassment comes as the police department faces a court-overseen monitoring plan to address the use of force by officers. The department has entered into a settlement agreement with the U.S. Justice Department that requires an overhaul of supervision, training and reporting of uses of force.
The lyrics include the lines, “Under the viaduct, we’ll be drinking our booze, under the viaduct, our sores continue to ooze.”
The skit “was created in a misguided attempt at humor and added to the end of a training video,” the department said in a disclaimer that precedes the video on a department website.
“Even by 1980s standards, the Seattle Police Department considered the video to be insensitive and inappropriate,” Pugel said in his statement.
Video participants were reprimanded by then-Chief Patrick Fitzsimons, Pugel said.
“We are releasing this video today not because we were asked to do so, but because I feel it is important to show where this department has been and where it is going,” he added.
The 30-year department veteran was selected as interim chief earlier this month by Mayor Mike McGinn after Diaz announced he planned to retire. Pugel said he mentioned the video when the mayor asked whether any problems might crop up.
“I believe in social justice,” Pugel’s statement said. “I have a track record that mirrors this.
“As a police department, we have much work to do to strengthen our relationships in the community. Sometimes that means addressing an ugly piece of our history head on.”
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