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by Peter Moskos

January 13, 2009

$815,000 for fired Seattle-area cop

Mike Carter of the Seattle Times reports:
A former Mountlake Terrace police sergeant whose views supporting the decriminalization of marijuana led to his dismissal in 2005 has won his job back and an $815,000 settlement from the city and Snohomish County.

However, Sgt. Jonathan Wender will not return to the streets. In addition to the financial settlement, the city has agreed to keep him on administrative leave and to pay him a $90,000-a-year salary for the next two years, when he will be able to retire after 20 years with the department.

In addition, he won back pay dating to when he was fired and the restoration of his retirement benefits, said his lawyer, Andrea Brenneke.

In a lawsuit, Wender, 42, had claimed the city and county violated his right to free speech by targeting him for his political beliefs. Wender, who holds a Ph.D., teaches full time at the University of Washington and has written and lectured extensively about police work and drug policy.
Read the whole story here.

Officer Wender's is a fellow member of LEAP (though I don't know him). Too bad I couldn't get wrongfully fired when I was a cop! But then that might not have been the wisest career move at the time.

Officer Wender's dissertation title was, I'm not making this up: "Policing as Poetry: Phenomenological and Aesthetic Reflections Upon the Bureaucratic Approach to Human Predicaments." Wow... that title is straight out an Onion parody on PhD dissertations! On the other hand, the line, "There is a tragic beauty in working the streets, [and] I miss the intimacy of making order out of chaos," is kind of poetic.


Anonymous said...

My father, a retired police officer, once told me that he lost his 1st Amendment Rights the moment he put on the badge. I don't know if that's true, but the story of Officer Wender is a poignant example of what can happen to dissenters in the field.

As a potential recruit, I think I just saw my career plans flash before my eyes. Could be a rocky road ahead, but I anticipated that. Peter, do you have any advice on how an officer can speak his mind (as a private citizen), uphold his principles, yet avoid the kind of static Wender encountered?

PCM said...

Don't be a passionate stubborn dogmatic S.O.B.

Or work for a large department.

I was amazed how much freedom there was within the police department (at least my police department) to work and think and act as one wished.

Do your job, get along with your colleagues, and have a drink after work. You follow all three, you're aces. Following two out of three is probably enough.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the advice, Peter. I greatly appreciate it. Most of my job searching is w/ in Central IL., so I've got the not working for a large dept. part covered already. I also won't have a problem w/ doing the job, getting along or having a drink after work In fact, if you ever have any speaking engagements in my neck of the woods, I'll have a pint on order for ya.