Seattle police union chief after resignation: I was ‘taken aback’ by outrage over Facebook post

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SEATTLE -- Ron Smith, who  resigned as president of the Seattle Police Officers' Guild after his controversial Facebook post on the Dallas shootings, apologized again Wednesday night but admitted he had been "taken aback" by the strong criticism of his comments.

In a phone interview with Q13 News Wednesday night, Smith said "I deeply regret" offending anyone by words that were written "in a moment of extreme passion, extreme pain" while police officers in Dallas were being killed in an ambush shooting. "I meant no offense ... no disrespect" to anyone, he said, adding, "I would ask for your forgiveness."

He added that he resigned his union position Tuesday because he wanted to take responsibility for his action.

Smith had announced his resignation, effective July 31, on Tuesday night.

In the controversial Facebook post, since deleted, Smith wrote:

“Dallas PD and their officers are in our thoughts and prayers, the hatred of law enforcement by a minority movement is disgusting heads in swivels brothers and sisters #weshallovercome.”

On Wednesday, in the wake of Smith’s resignation, Mayor Ed Murray said Smith’s Facebook post surprised him.

“My experience with working with Ron is that somebody who even in the media said he needed a police department who understood diversity, who understood how to work with people of color, understood how to work with the gay and lesbian transgender community, and I appreciated that, that’s why I was so surprised by one of the posts we saw recently,” Murray said.

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James Bible, who represents NAACP in legal cases, says the post is offensive to African Americans.

“That wasn’t a deescalation type of statement, it was an escalator, it was a challenge, it was offensive. To couple that with a traditional statement that was used by Martin Luther King Jr. was further inflammatory,” Bible said.

In a letter to his membership announcing his resignation, Smith apologized for letting the union down, saying, “At no time was there any intent to apply blame to any organized group; only the small segment of society which has the propensity for violence toward law enforcement. We shall overcome meant just that.”

Bible said, "It’s a creative explanation after the fact, what I would say is deeply disappointing. He knows what he meant, he knows what he said.”

Since the post on the union’s Facebook page, the Office of Professional Accountability has received two dozen complaints.

“Twenty three different people who are upset enough about what they read to call or email or fill out web forms for OPA and complain about it,” OPA Director Pierce Murphy said.

Murphy added that police officers are held to a higher standard.

“If they're posting on social media, even on their own social media accounts, in a way that brings the department into the equation, expresses racial or other bias, they could be liable to discipline,” Murphy said.

But Murphy added that the OPA is trying to figure out if they even have jurisdiction to investigate this case since the post was made on the union’s Facebook page. Murphy says labor unions have unique rights in Washington.

OPA will likely make a decision on whether  they can investigate in the coming weeks.

Kevin Stuckey will take over as president of the police officers union on Aug. 1.

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