Community Post

Obstruction Charges Disproportionately Target Some

It only takes a quick reading of some recent comment threads on this site to see that there’s a big lack of trust between the Seattle Police and some of our African American neighbors. And today the Seattle PI has an extensive report about the disproportionate number of obstruction charges that are brought against black folks in the city.

Here’s an anecdotal example of how a legacy of mistrust can be built up over time:

Raymond Hall, a 34-year-old black electrician who grew up in Rainier Beach, chalks up what he describes as his unfair obstruction arrest as part of the black experience in Seattle.

“It’s just a common thing,” he said. “You see it all the time in the neighborhood. They pull you over, ask you a lot of questions. Sometimes they let you go, sometimes they don’t.”

One evening in August 2006, Hall said, he was returning home from refueling his car when two officers ordered Hall to step out of his car. When Hall asked why, he said, the officers arrested him at gunpoint.

“They took me downtown, stripped me down, fingerprinted me, made me change clothes, put me in a holding cell,” Hall recalled. “I was there four or five hours.”

Hall said he called his wife to bail him out, but before she arrived, he was released.

“It was the weirdest thing, they just let me out,” he said. “Called my name out and rushed me out of there. I knew something funny was going on.”

The next day, Hall, who admittedly has a misdemeanor record, said he showed up at court prepared to fight the case. But prosecutors declined to press charges, citing “proof issues,” records show.

Personally, I’d start to hold a grudge if I felt like I had been arrested out of spite or solely because I was perceived to have shown a poor attitude to a police officer. With the current world of databases and thorough employment background checks, it’s easy to see how a person can be forever disadvantaged because of a single bad-faith arrest, even if the charges were dropped the next day.

I definitely recommend reading the whole piece. The issue of crime in our community is definitely complex, and it’s going to take more than just additional enforcement and additional police officers to turn things around. The job will be doubly hard if one part of the neighborhood feels like they don’t get a fair shake and can’t trust the authorities.

So when we’re asking the city for more police resources and more social service funding for things like GOTS, maybe we should add a third request: a more thorough and transparent system for police accountability.

0 thoughts on “Obstruction Charges Disproportionately Target Some

  1. Today’s P-I articles will be followed by Parts II and III tomorrow and Saturday. If today’s are a good sample, they are all well worth reading and thinking about. And they fit well with the exchanges and expressions posted today on this web site. Each person comes with his/her own story, background, experience, knowledge, and perceptions. And most of us from time to time fail to act in accordance with our best intentions, and sometimes we act without good intentions. With us coming from different points of view in the first place, and sometmes speaking or behaving at less than our best in addition, clashes and mistrust are almost unavoidable. I see this web site as an opportunity for a safe forum for expressing – and considering! – different perspectives. There will be some disagreement and some discomfort, but hopefully the arm’s length character of the discussion will allow the strongest emotions to be checked before replying and will allow time for reflecting on a differing opinion before discarding it. This is our community, and we’re all here together, and we need each other.