Sittin here resting my bones, and this loneliness won’t leave me alone…Otis Redding, Dock of The Bay 1968
Greetings Seattle! This is the kickoff of a new forum presented by the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild and I hope it will be a place to share ideas, stories, and concerns. A place not for tales about fantastic heroism or distorted truths, but a spot to share the perspective of a story that never gets told. The perspective and rational thoughts of a police officer that lived in dirty boots and was covered in the dust of a thousand homeless camps.
The Guardian has been a long running newspaper that has shared the perspective of officers with other officers. That provides some insight about management with the rank and file. A lone voice sometimes of support in a media storm that seems unfair most of the time. I spent almost 20 years working on the streets of south and southwest Seattle as a uniformed officer and needed this voice.
I am proud of my service, humbled by the opportunity to have provided help and assistance to people in need. I put people in prison. I put people into mental health facilities. I sat with family members when a loved one died. I hugged children lost in a childhood full of uncertainty and devoid of love. I fought people who refused to follow the law and acted out violently. I laughed, I cried, I grew quiet and old and bitter. I survived. I was offered one last opportunity in the last few years of my career to serve the community as a community police officer in the Southwest Precinct. I was given a specific mission, and a peculiar opportunity. I was given a voice. The opportunity to talk to my community via the Nextdoor platform.
My captain asked me to go out into the homeless community in SW Seattle and find out what was going on. I did that. At some point I was given access to the Nextdoor platform and asked to communicate with the public and I did. For those of you familiar with me, you will remember my writing about my experiences down the hillsides, in the motorhomes, and in my homeless camps down in the White Center area. For those of you unfamiliar with me, my name is Todd Wiebke, formerly Officer Wiebke.
I shared my perspective as an officer. I shared my emotions at dealing with death, filth, poverty, violence, and addiction. I truly loved my job, my indoor neighbors, and yes, many of my outdoor neighbors. It was the highlight of my career, and then it was over. I left the department last year due to the ever-shifting political voices of a few who refused to listen to the many and placed blame on the blue. A lot of my brothers and sisters are leaving. Some are retiring as we always have, but we are losing a lot of our younger, brighter officers who have decades of service left to offer. I had more to give but I could no longer work in the hostile working conditions of a government without a soul.
What broke? Can we fix it? What can I do? Which politicians? What about the new chief? What does the mayor think? Here is my offer. I am a very busy retired guy living on his ranch and finally at peace with the world. Nobody calls me names or looks at me like I smell. Nobody accuses me of being things that I never was. But, the majority of you, those of you who came up to me and said thank you for your service, I feel like I left you hanging. I am still willing to share with you what I can and what I know if you are willing to ask me what you want to know.
I am not a poet, or a writer, or even particularly intelligent. I am just a guy with a chance to share a modicum of knowledge that is unique to a few. So ask me and I will tell you what I know. Until then, I will be sitting in the morning sun. I miss you Seattle. We can fix this, it ain’t as broke as it looks.
Retired Seattle Police Officer