Keith Livingston is a longtime Federal Way resident and community observer. He can be reached at

Keith Livingston is a longtime Federal Way resident and community observer. He can be reached at

Police blotter blues and our sense of accountability | Livingston

Reading the police blotter in any newspaper proves that we as people will do just about anything and when caught, find a way to justify our behavior. Especially bad behavior. Cell phone cameras with video capability have us documenting our bad behavior as proof that at any given moment, we can be criminals or stupid as well as amateur journalists craving a moment of justice or celebrity.

The mob who stormed the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., proves the premise. They stormed and shared the video of their destruction and insurrection on social media with their friends. What were they thinking — the verbal note from the “principal” an hour or two earlier would be their get out of jail hall pass? They all believed they had justification and permission.

Piece it all together and we have lots of bad behavior to overcome. Not all crime gets the same focus. There is minimal to no accountability for “white collar” crimes, along with criminally unethical activity by corporations or presidents. The crimes that get the klieg lights are the crimes that deal with criminal cartels, drug lords and use, driving under the influence, robbers, burglars, murders, serial sociopaths, rapists, prostitution and teenage vandals. They are a risk and reward path for doing something known to be wrong, malicious, or hurtful and doing it anyway because they believe they won’t get caught.

If caught, they believe they can “lie” or justify their way out. Hey, it is the American way — innocent until proven guilty. Getting caught red-handed on video can often be defended or blamed away through deflection or social media celebrity sympathy — “I am delusional in my invincibility,” with enough likes on Facebook, and of course, a good lawyer.

We blame the police, schools, parenting, enablers, video games, choice of friends, religions, cults, peer influencers, or media, but the truth is collectively we are not taking responsibility. Taking responsibility is an act of courage.

We have a behavior problem — criminal as well as legal. As a nation we seem to enjoy playing cops and robbers. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, the American criminal justice system holds almost 2.3 million people in some level of detention at state and federal prisons, juvenile correctional facilities, local jails, immigration detention facilities, Indian country jails, military prisons, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in the U.S. territories.

The United States is the world leader in incarceration with about 25 percent of the world’s prison population. Considering that as a nation we represent about 4 percent of the world’s population, I’d say we have laws and not much order.

According to the Pew Research Center, the racial and ethnic makeup in the U.S. prisons is demographically disproportionate. In 2017, Black people represented 12% of the U.S. adult population, but 33% of the sentenced prison population. Whites accounted for 64% of adults, but 30% of prisoners. Hispanics represented 16% of the adult population, but they accounted for 23% of inmates.

These statistics represent a civil rights problem, pointing to the underlying racial divide this country has in how it deals with everything. Prisons are a microcosm of population control and reflect a white privilege caste-system intent on demeaning poverty and race. It is a “kick them when they are down, keep them down and excluded” philosophy.

President Lyndon B. Johnson once said, “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

Our society is built on looking for someone to look down on and to blame. Personal responsibility and accountability, not so much. The people held to the highest of standards tend to be those our society has singled out for targeted justice — Blacks, Latinx, new immigrants, non-Christians, the poor and others conveniently targeted to elevate the notion that a successful American is likely to be white.

Caught in the middle and on camera enforcing our racial conundrum are the men and women of our nation’s police departments. They serve on the front line wanting to do good by their communities, but their ranks are flawed, in some cases deeply, and challenged by this nation’s history of “caste system” policing. Create “fear” in the “right communities” and the behavior of “stress and conflict” will follow. Cops and robbers is a game we seem to perpetuate through policy and action with no incentive or intent to break the cycle.

Through our actions and political choices, we have created a very stressed, financially insecure and unequal society. For those who have reached a plateau of security — great. But, in a society that prides itself on being able to keep up with the Joneses as well as climb the financial and social ladder, the behavior at the top is exclusive and generally telling.

Reading police blotters in every city is also telling. They are stories of people in stress acting out in stormy relationships, families in crisis, mental health issues, domestic disputes, tawdry behavior, poverty, homelessness, property crimes, burglary, assault, robbery, theft, carjackings, drugs, sex crimes and murder to name a few.

What tends to be missing are the embezzlers, fraud artists, credit card scammers, bribers, non-delivery of purchased services or products, investment fraud, religious grifters or basically the white-collar crimes that affect the more affluent or people too embarrassed to admit they were deceived. These crimes are under-reported and difficult to prosecute, so they tend not to be a focus for local law enforcement.

So, living in a society that chooses to hold those at the top of the ladder to a minimal standard of behavior and the rest of us, especially our society’s people of color to a higher standard, the question really is, how do we overcome the unethical behavior, scams and lies told by those who believe they own the ladder? Our sense of accountability is out of balance.

Keith Livingston is a longtime Federal Way resident and community observer. He can be reached at

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Opinion

Robert Whale can be reached at
In search of fairness, morals and good sportsmanship | Whale’s Tales

Ah, the Golden Rule. We all know it: do unto others as… Continue reading

Robert Whale can be reached at
The key thing is what we do with our imperfections | Whale’s Tales

I have said and done many things of which I am not proud. That is, I am no golden bird cheeping about human frailties from some high branch of superhuman understanding.

Robert Whale can be reached at
Grappling with the finality of an oncologist’s statement | Whale’s Tales

Perhaps my brain injected a bit of humor to cover the shock. But I felt the gut punch.

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
Legislature back in session next week | Cartoon

State lawmakers return Jan. 8 to Olympia.

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
Santa doesn’t drive a Kia | Cartoon

Cartoon by Frank Shiers.

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
Salute to veterans | Cartoon by Frank Shiers

On Veterans Day, honor those who served your country.

File photo
Why you should vote in the upcoming election | Guest column

When I ask my students when the next election is, frequently they will say “November 2024” or whichever presidential year is coming up next.

Robert Whale can be reached at
Here’s a column for anyone who loves their dog | Whale’s Tales

It is plain to me in looking at dogs small and large that a decent share of them are exemplars of love on Earth, innocents who love unconditionally and love their chow.

Robert Whale can be reached at
Please protect your children from BS spreaders | Whale’s Tales

Among the most useful things I studied in college were debate, and… Continue reading

It’s time to change Kent’s City Council elections to districts | Guest column

If you were asked who your city councilmembers are, would you have an answer?

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He is a former president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. Contact
Dear government: Hold your horses when regulating trucks | Brunell

Next to gasoline and diesel, natural gas also has the greatest number of refueling stations.