SEATTLE – The president of the Seattle police officers’ union is stepping down, days after posting a controversial Facebook message following the Dallas police shootings.
Ron Smith told fellow officers in an email Tuesday that he didn’t want more distractions, and he regrets letting them down and that his post offended anyone.
After five Dallas police officers were killed last week, Smith posted on the Facebook page of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild. The message, which has since been deleted, said: “Dallas PD and their officers are in our thoughts and prayers … The hatred of law enforcement by a minority movement is disgusting … Heads in swivels brothers and sisters … #Weshallovercome”
Smith said he wrote the post “in the heat of the moment” and wanted to be supportive of fellow officers, not to offend anyone. He’ll resign July 31.
“What the post was meant to say is that it is disgusting that a small segment of society perpetuates violence toward law enforcement officers across this country. At no time was there any intent to apply blame to any organized group; only the small segment of society which has the propensity for violence toward law enforcement,” Smith wrote.
“We shall overcome meant just that; law enforcement will persevere and work through this time in history,” he added.
The post drew criticism on social media and from Seattle community leaders.
“It was absolutely stupid and totally irresponsible on his part,” Gerald Hankerson, president of NAACP Seattle, told KING-TV in Seattle regarding the post.
Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole told the station on Friday that she wasn’t going to defend it. “I’m not going to comment on it. I’m not going to feed into the division between the police and the community,” she said.
The Seattle independent office that investigates complaints about police misconduct had received 23 complaints about the post as of Tuesday, KING-TV reported.
Smith also said he didn’t want to distract from federally mandated police reform efforts underway.
Seattle agreed in 2012 to make changes in the police department after the Department of Justice found it had a “pattern or practice” of violating the civil rights of citizens. The DOJ said officers were too quick to use force, including using their batons and flashlights, even in situations that could have been defused verbally.