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Police union head criticized for comment on Capitol riot

Author: Lewis Kamb, Seattle Times staff reporter

Posted on January 11, 2021

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The president of Seattle’s rank and file police officers’ union is under fire from a state police group, the city’s mayor and other public figures for his comments on social media this week suggesting Black Lives Matter and other liberal activists are partly to blame for Wednesday’s deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by a mob supporting President Donald Trump.

Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) President Mike Solan’s recent tweets — including one Friday saying the “far right and far left are responsible for that sad day” — also are now the subject of an internal investigation, said the civilian director of the city’s Office of Police Accountability (OPA).

“We have received complaints about the tweets and will be opening an intake,” OPA director Andrew Myerberg said in an email Saturday.

Solan, a Seattle police officer since 1999, did not respond to several messages left for him Friday and Saturday.

The Washington State Fraternal Order of Police criticized Solan’s social media comments in a statement Saturday, saying they “undermine our efforts to rebuild the trust needed between law enforcement and our communities.”

“We believe that when peace officers allow their personal biases to influence their perceptions of events and behavior, it severely compromises our ability to fulfill our duty to protect and serve,” added the statement from the nonprofit advocacy group, which represents 3,000 officers statewide.

Former Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best and Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office also have called out Solan’s tweets about the matter as false.

“His statements do not reflect the values of the City of Seattle but instead echo the failed lies of a failed presidency,” Stephanie Formas, Durkan’s chief of staff, said in an email. “In fact, every officer at the Seattle Police Department has an obligation to not post ‘speech that negatively impacts the Department’s ability to serve the public.’”

Formas added that “Solan should retract his statements and apologize or resign.”

Scott Lindsay, a former city adviser on public safety issues and a onetime city attorney candidate, said Saturday that Solan should step down.

“I think he needs to resign,” Lindsay said. “It’s really important to me that rank and file police officers have a credible, trustworthy voice representing them. I don’t think that Solan can play that role anymore.”

The SPOG president has been a vocal commenter on social media since Wednesday’s siege.

A day after the insurrection, Solan retweeted a tweet from Andy Ngo, a conservative Portland blogger critical of Black Lives Matter and leftist causes, which identified one of the participants among the Capitol mob as “an extreme BLM activist.” Solan added his own comment to the retweet, saying that as the mainstream media “tells us who to blame for yesterday’s #troubles, @MrAndyNgo continues to be reliable.”

Solan’s comment drew a response from Lindsay, who called on the SPOG president to apologize or resign for spreading misinformation. Former chief Best weighed in to support Lindsay, tweeting: “BLM was not the cause of yesterday’s insurrection. We have to tell the truth.”

Solan later responded to Lindsay: “It is a major stretch for you to claim that I blame BLM solely. Not true. Far right and far left are responsible for that sad day. We all can do better as a nation. Conversation is the remedy.”

In an interview Saturday, Lindsay, who has been a vocal critic of liberal activists’ Defund the Police initiative in Seattle, said he initially tried to give Solan a chance to apologize for making a mistake.

“Instead, he doubled-down,” Lindsay said. “He said both the left and right are responsible.”

“Suggesting that there was dual responsibility here, to me that kind of spread of misinformation becomes disqualifying for the head of an officers union facing so many critical issues,” Lindsay added. “That organization clearly has some serious housecleaning to do if it’s going to be a serious part of the policing dialogue for this year. You just can’t have someone that politically toxic leading you at this crucial time.”

After Wednesday’s violence, some right-leaning activists’ and Republican politicians’ contentions that leftist “Antifa” activists largely orchestrated the insurrection have been debunked. The FBI’s assistant director said at a press briefing Friday there’s no evidence Antifa played any role.

Groups and individuals who organized Wednesday’s so-called “March to Save America” have been identified in various news reports to include dark money campaign allies of Trump, including “Women for America First” and “Stop the Steal.”

For weeks, plans for the rally drew chatter across conservative social media platforms and eventually mobilized thousands of conservatives and far-right extremists to the Capitol, including members of the Proud Boys and QAnon conspiracy theorists.
After Trump gave a speech to protesters, calling on them to march to the Capitol, photos and videos of the insurrection widely captured participants to include armed militants decked in MAGA gear, people brandishing Confederate flags and others flashing the “OK” hand gesture — a symbol for white power.

The rally also attracted police officers from across the nation, including employees of the Seattle Police Department. Two Seattle officers who attended have been placed on paid leave while the OPA investigates what role they played in events and determines whether and to what extent any other Seattle officers participated in protests that spawned the violence.

Lewis Kamb: 206-464-2932 or lkamb@seattletimes.com; on Twitter: @lewiskamb.

 

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