Police Officer Sues Seattle for Toxic Exposure During ‘Homeless’ Cleanup

His $10 million lawsuit says he's been experiencing poor health and that the city provided no protective clothing or equipment for the task at hand

The city of Seattle deploys a “navigation team” to handle “homeless” camp “cleanup” tasks.

I’ve written about it before and criticized the team — not because it’s not worthwhile to help people in need, but because it seems intentionally onerous.

The very existence of the camps seems to obstruct the enforcement of laws that should apply to everyone in the city.

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The city will not allow cops to enforce city laws against trespassing and camping in restricted areas. Instead, a “navigation team” comprising multiple city agencies, including the police, must all be present before police can “evict” lawbreakers from where they are trespassing.

Now another unintended consequence rears its proverbially ugly head.

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Seattle Police Officer Timothy Gifford, who’d served as a navigation team member, is suing the city for $10 million, The Seattle Times reported last week.

Officer Gifford is accusing the city of negligently exposing him to “an extremely dangerous man-made toxin.” The toxic chemical is polychlorinated biphenyls — or PCBs.

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The cleanup took place at an encampment south of downtown Seattle.

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The CDC says that PCB exposure can cause several health conditions and can also be lethal. Officer Gifford’s suit notes he’s been managing a “life-long liver condition” since he joined the department seven years ago.

The CDC reports “increased levels of some liver enzymes, with possible hepatic damage” — which directly links the exposure to possibly affecting the officer’s specific medical condition.

Since the cleanup, the officer has experienced poor health, including “early onset Type 2 diabetes,” the suit indicates.

The city thinks enough of Officer Gifford’s claim that it reportedly sent notices of possible PCB exposure to some 58 city workers. The suit claims the city failed to properly prepare or equip employees for working at such a hazardous location.

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The city gave no warnings of possible exposure — and failed to provide protective clothing and equipment.

This seems just another example of a leftist city putting its religio-political ideology above the safety of its own employees, in my view. Shouldn’t the city treat such matters with an abundance of caution?

For the city’s virtue-signaling virtuosos, it’s always full speed ahead and damn the reality torpedoes.

The city seems to care more about the lawbreakers’ welfare than about its law enforcers. So shouldn’t they at least be concerned about all those “homeless” folks’ exposure to PCBs?

After all, it’s the city that allows them to trespass and illegally camp at potential toxic waste locations all over the city.

Recently, I wrote about unintended consequences that make me giggle.

However, this unintended consequence is nothing to laugh about at all.

Steve Pomper is an OpsLens contributor and retired Seattle police officer. He has served as a field training officer on the East Precinct Community Police Team and as a precinct mountain bike coordinator. This piece originally appeared in OpsLens and is used by permission.

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meet the author

Steve Pomper is a retired Seattle police officer. He's served as a field training officer and on the East Precinct Community Police Team. He's the author of four books, including "De-Policing America: A Street Cop's View of the Anti-Police State." He's also a contributor to the National Police Association.

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