Selah holds an ironic distinction during the current debate over police reform. It's safe to say the town owes its current peace and tranquility to a few courageous police officers and their union. They're protecting against a threat from an unexpected source.
“Thin blue line” is a term used by police to favorably describe their role in standing between a civilized society and violence and chaos. Normally, they mean that they are protecting citizens from criminals.
Selah's police officers are in the unique position of protecting against potential violence because of city officials and city policies. Clashes this week in towns in Oregon could easily happen in Selah, fanned by public positions voiced by Selah officials. Selah police and their union deserve much of the credit for avoiding clashes.
Selah historically boasts the lowest crime rate of any incorporated town in Yakima County. One top city official reportedly attributes that to so many people carrying guns. (His claim manages to insult the Selah police and their role in crime reduction without offering any proof that gun-toting citizens are the actual cause of Selah's low crime rates.)
Antifa doesn't pose a risk to Selah's peace, either. After the city's position on chalk art set the stage for a confrontation, a number of folks showed up at a protest when social media posts warned of an imminent antifa invasion. (Surprise. The normally highly reliable information presented by Twitter and Facebook proved wrong.)
And even local law-and-order wannabes acting up is not creating a crime wave. Selah police have refused to let the wannabes escalate potentially volatile situations.
The biggest threat to the peace and tranquility in Selah appears to be practices and policies preached by city leaders.
Without the thin blue line, those practices and policies would take away fundamental Constitutional rights of some Selah residents and likely embolden violence. Selah police officers are protecting their citizenry simply by refusing to enforce unlawful city practices and policies. (In other words, they are upholding their responsibility to the Constitution.)
The irony of a law-and-order town needing the police to protect it from the decisions of its own city officials numbs the rationale mind.
The irony doesn’t stop there. Elsewhere in the nation, police unions have come under scrutiny for protecting "bad apple" cops and police practices.
Not so in Selah. It was the union representing Selah police officers that blew the whistle and likely kept the situation from spiraling out of control. (It still could...)
Specifically, Teamsters Local 760 business agent David Simmons reminded Selah city officials of the Constitutional issues involved. He warned the city that police officers were being placed in an impossible bind and individual officers could easily become targets of civil rights lawsuits.
A union official courageously stepping in to protect a town in Yakima County from lawsuits and possible violence holds an undeniable irony, given our area’s historic anti-union bent. ( If you read the history in that last link, you may cynically wonder why Selah and Yakima haven't erected monuments where the machines guns once stood. History has not been kind to our region's early attempts at vigilante "peacekeeping." Future historians will be no kinder to current events in Selah.)
The thin blue line is holding for now. Backed by their union, Selah police officers appear to be carefully and even-handedly keeping a lid on the controversy.
The police are getting it right. Their union is getting it right. Only the city leaders continue to threaten the public good and peace.
While the thin blue line still holds, Selah’s law-and-order advocates need to ask themselves one simple question: if we pay the police to keep the peace, why are we allowing the threat to the peace to originate with their employer?
One final question: how long can the thin blue line hold when the folks who sign their paycheck refuse to publicly acknowledge that city policies are wrong?