Corporations tread on a slippery slope when renting cops

Safeway and the Seattle Police Department have been subject to criticism this year by a number of newspapers for a number of reasons. I have a complaint against them both.

This past February a Seattle policewoman, being paid by Safeway as a Rainier Beach Safeway guard, detained me. She falsely accused me of "attempted" theft of a 50-cent Seattle Post Intelligencer newspaper I had purchased from the nearby McDonald's.

This foolish endangerment came not from a minimum wage, unarmed "guard." Instead, it came from a taxpayer paid, taxpayer trained, taxpayer equipped and taxpayer armed city employee who insisted she was right. She even convinced the clueless store manager she was right, citing "video evidence" which they wouldn't allow me to see. The policewoman said I could see it "at the trial."

The cop and manager filled out a "trespass" paper banning me from all Safeway properties for a year. The document warned me that if I trespassed I would be prosecuted for "another crime."

I refused to sign their false declaration, upsetting the policewoman. She snatched it away from me. While this harassement continued, the food I had bought from the Safeway Starbucks just before the incident unfolded sat uneaten, cold and partly spilled on a nearby surface: the result of a stupid destruction of customer loyalty as well as trust in the police department.

The debacle occupied much of an hour in clear view of the store staff and customers. The manager informed me it was "his store" and I had no rights there.

"They all claim they're innocent," he told me.

It was clear I was not safe in Safeway.

I asked the manager to look at the camera view of me coming into the store through its southeast entrance. It would have showed me carrying the newspaper I had bought minutes before, but the manager said he didn't have time. He was about to lose a Safeway customer of over 50 years and make his corporation look like a bunch of destructive fools, and he didn't have time.

It occurred to me that when I bought the newspaper at McDonalds I had a brief conversation with the manager, who had seen me pay for the paper. Telling the cop and the Safeway manager this, I left for the fast food joint.

The McDonald's manager was still there, and she recalled my paper purchase. It took her 10 minutes to write a letter refuting the policewoman and grocery store manager's false claims. Just as she handed me the letter, the grocery store manager ran in, out of breath, and spouted apologies in front of the McDonald's crew.

I was no longer a criminal banned from Safeway properties for a year. I was again a valued customer, just like that. But I wouldn't touch the Safeway manager, the bungling policewoman or the grocery store with a dung fork. It was stupid, self-destructive and dangerous foolishness. How are such people hired?

By the time it was over darkness had fallen, with my bad cold in tow. The food I bought at the Safeway Starbucks remained there, uneaten, and I ordered something at McDonalds. They gave it to me on the house, the one class act of my day on February 27.

Safeway sent me a garbled letter of regret and a $50 gift certificate, but it was not enough for me to patronize any Safeway store anywhere ever again.

Well, that was the end of February, and now it's the end of December, and the taxpayer-funded police are still earning second incomes as security guards using our training and our equipment for the benefit of big business. When I think of my Safeway experience, the cops and the corporations are bungling even the simplest aspects of this off-duty arrangement. We are in trouble.

Recently, a home near mine was robbed, one of the homeowner's cars was stolen, and a teenage girl was assaulted in the process. Could that, and other recent harms, have been prevented if more police were protecting us instead of businesses like Safeway? Tell me, why should I feel safe in Safeway, or anywhere else in this "metronatural" farce of a city?

Artist, writer and longtime Rainier Beach resident Gordon Anderson may be reached via[[In-content Ad]]