Sunday, June 27, 2010

C.O.P.S. vs C.A.S.H.

This post is in response to all of the apologists for the Seattle Police Dept of late.

I live in Seattle and have some experience with the intersection featured above. There is no argument about whether or not the girls were afoul of the law here. Yes, they jaywalked. Yes they assaulted a police officer. Yes they resisted arrest. None of that was ever up for debate. And while I'd love to chime in about the racial dynamics of the altercation, and how likely it is that these girls were being manhandled the way they were because they were young BLACK females, I won't.

The real story here is that the spot in question, located solidly in a predominantly POC area, functions as a racist ticket trap. A trap designed to lure this particular POC community afoul of the SPD.

This intersection is near the Franklin Highschool campus. The HS issues bus passes to its students either free or very cheap, so it is the most common mode of transport for the student body. The intersection is constructed in such a way that the bus stop (and now the light rail) is directly across the street from the Franklin High side, across four lanes of traffic and a median. There is no crosswalk, but there is a pedestrian overpass. Even so, Franklin kids (and quite honestly, everybody else emerging from that side) darting into traffic to catch the bus has historically been a problem, causing some accidents and injuries.

The nearest crosswalks to this intersection take on average 3 minutes to navigate from one side to the other at a hurry up and wait pace. The pedestrian overpass takes you up and over and around to the bus stop side, which is exactly what its supposed to do, of course. It only takes 30 seconds to cross the street by jaywalking, however. (That's why its called jaywalking, duh!)

If traffic is bad you get as far as the median, wait, then dart the rest of the way to the bus stop. It's not legal, it's not safe, but it is quick and easy, and 99 times out of 100, consequence free. If you're in a hurry to catch the bus, if you're a teenager naturally full of hurry and stupid, or even if you have trouble ascending stairs and walking longer distances, guess which option you're gonna pick?

An extra, closer crosswalk would greatly improve safety and compliance with existing traffic laws. From what I've heard, Franklin High asked the city for the pedestrian overpass because the kids were jaywalking even before then. But the overpass has not solved the problem, and ironically, may prevent the implementation of a new crosswalk at this point. Why? There is a silly municipal code that if a pedestrian overpass is present, then pedestrians lose right of way, even if there is a crosswalk.

Another solution: Have Seattle Metro move the bus stop a bit so as to not present pedestrians, many of them KIDS from Franklin, such a tantalizing target. Again, denied. Why? Because the new light rail stop has to be near connecting bus lines, and its even more expensive to move a light rail stop than a bus stop.

So Franklin High requested that there at least be more police coverage to monitor jaywalkers at this spot, in hopes of PROTECTING these silly kids... NOT, mind you, in hopes that police would lie in wait for them, confront them angrily and end up having to bust their heads open.

What happened above is the exact opposite of the intent of this community. A community that has repeatedly requested something be done about the danger of this intersection at the city level. This community's safety concerns have been repeatedly ignored and mismanaged at the city level.

A predominantly POC community. Hrmmmm.

Let me add that the City of Seattle is in no way averse to moving bus stops or creating crosswalks at the request of a particular community. It just depends on WHICH community is doing the asking.

Take MY neighborhood for instance. Right across the street from my building is a brand spanking new Retirement Complex. They built this over the course of two years and its a beauty. I am mad jealous of the building and the view... which obliterated my once pristine view of capital hill and eastlake but oh well. It's a NICE building. Full of nice old folks with more money than melanin if you know what I mean.

The main bus line along the street I live on had a stop that was directly across the street from this new retirement building. Not far... just on the other side of the intersection. When the building was complete, Seattle Metro promptly moved this stop to directly in front of the new building. Now the seniors living there have front door access to this busline should they need it.

Am I complaining? No. I don't have any problem with the city of Seattle anticipating the needs of these people. Old folks shouldn't have to toddle across a busy intersecton everytime they wish to hop the bus. Why that's very considerate of you, Seattle. Thanks!

BUT. Why is City of Seattle so easily able to accomodate safety needs in the above example, yet they have steadfastly refused to reconfigure the pedestrian "speedtrap" by Franklin High? Even after frequent complaints, documented accidents, a failed (or perhaps incomplete) overpass solution, and now escalating violence with the police? This intersection is MUCH MUCH busier than the one near the senior home. It actively endangers kids, traffic AND police officers (apparently), and the simplest solution of all would be to just move the damn bus stop to where a crosswalk is, or put a new crosswalk in.. but No Can Do.

I suspect the reasoning is, if a bunch of colored kids are getting in trouble with the law cuz they cant resist temptation, TOUGH. If brown ppl in a certain area are at DOCUMENTABLY greater risk of being injured, orarrested or worse becuz of the way the intersection just HAPPENS to be laid out... SO BE IT. That's not worth wasting any of the taxpayer's dollars.

But White Seniors with CASH??? OMG they might SUE or something. We had better make the area as safe as possible right???

It's these sort of institutional "gotchas" that wear me down honestly. Not just that they exist, but that they exist, and nobody who has the power to change anything will do so. I've written this long ass post just to be ignored. Ignored just like the community surrounding Franklin High. Fact is, anybody who's ever been to that intersection can see how easy, how LOGICAL even, it is to choose to jaywalk rather than use that clunky, junky overpass which takes you several blocks out of your way of the bus stop. From what little birdies have told me, Jaywalking in this area has always been common, and until the structure changes, will continue to be feasible. It's the City's responsibility not to put its citizens in this position in the first place. But only certain citizens seem to matter in the first place.


1 comment:

  1. Seattle has a lot of hidden racism (as well as other -isms). Hidden underneath the tradition of Seattle-nice. Of course, the rather noticeable population increase has brought in a lot of other folks who are not Seattle-nice, also, and voila, nothing special in Seattle. I'm not shocked. Very disheartented, but not surprised.