'You lost a good one': Local officers question future in law enforcement amid intense backlash, civil unrest

SEATTLE -- As protests continue over the killing of George Floyd and the death of Manuel Ellis here at home, calls for arresting officers and defunding the police have left local law enforcement questioning why they continue to protect cities that will "protest my funeral and cheer when I'm laid in the ground."

Clashes between protesters and police have been escalating in Seattle and across the globe in response to the killing of George Floyd, most recently prompting city council members and activists to push for reducing funding to the Seattle Police Department by up to 50 percent.

Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best have sat down at the table with protest organizers and announced a wide range of proposals to address community concerns. Still, council members Kshama Sawant and Teresa Mosqueda have publicly called on Durkan to resign.

Seattle Police Officer Josh Johnson has responded to the last 12 days of local unrest in a lengthy Facebook post that had been shared more than 2,000 times as of midday Tuesday.

Johnson said he and his fellow officers were as angry and disgusted as the rest of the world over George Floyd's death. He said initially, he hoped that "something beautiful and good" could come from the tough conversations that need to be had about police brutality and racial injustice.

"That hope has been extinguished," he said. "I am all about reform. I am all for accountability. And I am all about ensuring justice for all. And my department is a national leader in all of that. In the last years I've ... made a point to get to know the people in the area I work (a largely minority community), and worked ... to bring about better results when people need help beyond what I am trained to do.

"But the actions of the last two weeks have shown me that does not matter," he continued. "Progress counts for nothing. Discussion is off the table ... I don’t know how to reckon with the fact that I could lose my life trying to protect a city that will protest my funeral and cheer when I'm laid in the ground. And it has made me consider leaving it all behind."

Meanwhile, Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards has called for four Tacoma officers to be fired and charged in connection with the death of Manuel Ellis, a 33-year-old black man who died March 3 while he was handcuffed and restrained by Tacoma police.

Like Floyd in Minneapolis, Ellis' death was ruled a homicide - respiratory arrest due to hypoxia caused by physical restraint.

"The officers who committed this crime should be fired and prosecuted to the full extent of the law," Woodards said late Thursday after video surfaced showing the final moments of Ellis' life.

The Tacoma Police Union offered a harsh rebuke to Woodards' calls for the officers to be immediately fired and charged.

"This is not a time to sacrifice dedicated public servants at the altar of public sentiment, especially when that sentiment is almost wholly fueled by the uninformed anger of a theatrical politician," the union said in a prepared statement last week.

Now, the union is asking the community to take a step back and let the Pierce County Sheriff's Office investigation - as well as an independent investigation by the state Attorney General's Office - run their course before directing so much vitriol at police.

The statement from the union reads, in part:

Know that our Union is fully committed to a thorough and transparent outside investigation by the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office. Central to those independent investigations is the need for those investigations to be free from interference," the union said in a news release Tuesday. 

But our own City officials are interfering with the independent investigation by spreading inflammatory and false statements. The Mayor and the City’s Chief Equity Officer have called Tacoma police officers criminals, racists, and white supremacists who lynched a black man in the City of Tacoma. Those are awful, false words.

We are not racists. We are not white supremacists. We did not lynch a man. We are mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons. We are Black, Caucasian, Asian, American Indian, Pacific Islander, and Biracial. We are gay and straight. We are proud military veterans and college graduates. We are humans. We are members of the Tacoma community.

We call on our City leaders to cast aside their hateful, mean-spirited, and false words. Cast aside divisive rhetoric. Cast aside media soundbites. Allow the full and transparent investigation into Mr. Ellis’ death to remain objective and unbiased. The public, Mr. Ellis’ family, and our officers deserve untainted facts – the truth – to come out.