Police, Politics


Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske has been all over local and national TV lately. Last week, the chief volunteered to be jolted by a Taser, along with Seattle NAACP President Carl Mack—local stations couldn't show that enough. Sure, it was a police chief doing something unusual, but just as unusual and possibly more significant has been Kerlikowske's recent and frequent national advocacy. Kerlikowske has emerged as a chief critic of the federal government and the Bush administration, even serving as a spokesperson for John Kerry's presidential bid. On ABC's Nightline, he dinged the feds for not compensating local law enforcement for the shift of personnel from the streets to fighting terrorism. His sharpest criticism has been for the GOP-controlled Congress, which last week allowed the 10-year-old federal assault weapons ban to lapse. Kerlikowske was one of the prime advocates for the 1994 ban, when he was police commissioner of Buffalo. He debated a National Rifle Association official last week on PBS's NewsHour. Perhaps no one should be surprised that the chief is critical of the Bushies; in the late 1990s, under the Clinton administration, Kerlikowske was deputy director of community policing programs at the Department of Justice. But some eyebrows rose when, on Sept. 13, the chief took part in a national conference call on behalf of Kerry's campaign "to discuss George W. Bush's wrong choices on crime," as a campaign statement put it. A spokesperson for the Bush campaign says that police chiefs, retired and active, have made campaign appearances for Dubya. But a spokesperson for the Kerry campaign couldn't name another instance of a top cop hitting the hustings for the senator. Kerlikowske did not respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, when Mayor Greg Nickels' 2005 budget proposal is presented to the City Council on Monday, Sept. 27, it will contain an expected $20 million in cuts. The mayor has been swinging the ax at budgets since taking office in 2001, but for the most part the Seattle Police Department has escaped serious injury. This time, Nickels is cutting 191 city jobs, including 19 civilian SPD positions, according to the mayor's office. In all, the cops are likely to take a $3 million to $5 million hit to their $174 million 2005 budget, sources say. PHILIP DAWDY


Last week, Pierce County Superior Court Judge Thomas Felnagle ruled that independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader will remain on Washington's November ballot. Democrats had challenged the consumer advocate's candidacy, saying that the informal nominating conventions, consisting of Nader supporters standing on street corners with petitions, were too inchoate to qualify. This argument failed because it ignored decades of precedent under Washington's very liberal ballot- access laws, says Assistant Attorney General Jeff Even, who successfully defended the secretary of state's decision to put Nader on the ballot. In Washington, a political convention can be—and has been—held anywhere, including next to the pig in the Pike Place Market, Even explains. The Democrats' legal challenge to Nader is part of a nationwide campaign to keep the consumer advocate off the ballot. In the past week, Even reports, Nader won the right to be on the ballot in the key swing state of Florida while being booted off in another swing state, New Mexico. Things seem to be going Nader's way in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, although no final decisions have been reached. Nader's campaign reports he is on the ballot in 37 states, but litigation is ongoing in seven of those. He is suing to get on the ballot in seven others. In 2000, Nader appeared on the ballots of 43 states. GEORGE HOWLAND JR.


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