Why Do Seattle Cops Live In Seattle?

Here’s another letter from a Seattle cop who lives in town:

Count me in as another SPD officer that lives in Seattle.  I was a Seattle resident and homeowner before I was hired by the department, left a better-paying career to be an officer, and was one of those bright-eyed idealistic new hires that joined up because I wanted to make my community better.  That being said, I don’t live in the precinct I work, which is a good thing, but I love being a citizen of Seattle.

I would never fault a fellow officer for choosing to live outside of Seattle, the ability to GEOGRAPHICALLY unplug from where you work is important.  Where we live DOES have an effect on our off-duty lives, as well as our overall well-being.  Any wellness class you take talks about a separation of work life and home life.  The same holds true for police officers.  I haven’t been on for that long (less than 10 years), but I’ve definitely seen the best of people and the worst of people in the short time that I’ve been on.  I owe it to my family to come home physically, emotionally, and psychologically well.

Cops HAVE to unplug, decompress, and get rebalanced after we log off.  Read a book called “Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement” by Dr. Kevin Gilmartin and you’ll see what I’m talking about when it comes to psychological and physiological health maintenance.  Health maintenance is crucial in order to have healthy, professional law enforcement officers.  Unfortunately, the job itself and the toll it takes on our health is the reason why a high percentage of us die within 10 years of retiring.  Being able to get outside of Seattle and let your guard down a bit before getting home to loved ones would be wonderful.

Another officer that wrote in to your blog mentioned that they had been stalked or confronted off-duty.  So have I, both in person and online.  I’ve had bloodied neighbors show up on my doorstep demanding that I “do something” and intervene in their current crises.  I run into people that I’ve arrested while shopping for groceries, at gas stations while filling up my car, and I’ve even had people I’ve testified against in court walk by me on the sidewalk while I was mowing my teensy little Seattle neighborhood yard.

Am I complaining about this?  No, not really, but it does happen.  If it were just me, it wouldn’t concern me QUITE as much.  I know how to take care of myself both on and off duty.  I have my family to worry about though, and that’s the only reason I would consider moving out of Seattle city limits.  I don’t particularly like having people I’ve arrested leer at my wife in the local Safeway or make “bacon” jokes within earshot of my child.  There are some neighborhoods that I work in professionally that I don’t visit off-duty because I have had law enforcement contacts with 30-40% of the regulars I’d pass on the street. 

There are, however, a lot of upsides to living in the city which make it worth it for me to stay.  

I love that Seattle is MY city, I live here just like everyone else, and I’m obviously active in my community – not just professionally but as a neighbor and citizen of Seattle.  I vote.  I pay my taxes.  I attend public meetings.  I volunteer my time, and I’m active at my child’s school.  I can get to my precinct in about fifteen minutes.  Oh, and I guess I pay my own salary too…:)  I take a lot of ownership and pride in our city, and I wouldn’t want to be a cop anywhere else but here.  Seattle is one of the most diverse and beautiful cities I’ve ever lived in and it has simply TONS of untapped potential.  Living here however is MY choice, and it works for me and my family (and apparently 18% of other sworn personnel).  I can’t say it’s good for everyone else, and it’s not my right to tell them that it SHOULD work for them. 

Where we choose to live has NOTHING to do with our social, political, or cultural leanings.  I’ve seen just as many incidents of racism, sexism, ageism, elitism and downright mean-spiritedness inside of Seattle city limits as I have had outside of Seattle, in other states I’ve lived in, and in other countries I’ve visited or studied in.  If Seattle’s principles, morals, and social values were so in tune, I wouldn’t have to take malicious harassment reports, I wouldn’t respond to “gay-bashing” calls, there’d be no rape calls, no elder abuse or neglect calls, and our [Race and Social Justice Initiative] folks would be out of a job.  Social problems exist everywhere and Seattle is not exempt.  It is unfair to assume that Seattle PD officers that choose to live outside of Seattle city limits are somehow “less-progressive” than or “not in tune with” the citizens of Seattle based on the town they live in.