Buckley city councilor, retired SPD officer responds to report over his social media posts

Ron Smith is running to retain his city council seat.

Buckley Council member Ron Smith.

Buckley Council member Ron Smith.

Reflecting on his 25-plus year law enforcement career, Buckley city council member Ron Smith has had his share of accomplishments.

There’s the two Seattle Police Department (SPD) excellence awards he won in 2012 and 2013, plus his time as an SPD burglary detective, member of the Major Crimes Task Force and experience supervising detectives in the evidence unit.

However, a recent Associated Press (AP) news report spotlighted history that Smith, who retired from SPD in June 2019, is less eager to revisit: Several disciplinary incidents over his past unprofessional social media usage, one of which ultimately landed him on the local Brady List.

Smith was elected to the Buckley city council in 2017 and ran in this recent election to retain his seat. A former Sergeant with SPD and former president of the police officer’s guild, Smith has highlighted his law enforcement experience in the Pierce County voter’s guide and in Courier-Herald election coverage.

Running for re-election on that record, Smith agreed to speak with the Courier-Herald this week about his missteps and clarify his perspective.

The Courier-Herald only very recently became aware of Smith’s social media history, and was not able to publish this article in print before election day Tuesday.

An Oct. 21 AP article mentioned Smith in an article about “Brady List” officers. (Brady Lists are kept by prosecutors to keep track of officers whose credibility could be questioned during court proceedings.)

Smith’s entry on the King County prosecutor’s Brady List, which was reviewed by the Courier-Herald, cites a Seattle Office of Police Accountability (OPA) investigation in 2019 which determined Smith had engaged in “bias-based policing.”

That investigation was over derogatory, vulgar and sometimes simply juvenile Twitter posts Smith made while he was both employed by SPD and a member of the Buckley City Council.

Smith made the posts from a personal, non-work related account which had still been active as recently as Oct. 21, but Smith acknowledged that he’d deleted the account after the Courier-Herald reached out to him about it last week.

Smith regrets the posts and said in retrospect he should have been more civil, but he disagrees with the reasoning that landed him on the Brady List.

“(It) is not true at it’s core,” he said, of the finding that he engaged in bias-based policing.

“The SPD policy is a tangled web which allows for that, I suppose,” he added. “I am retired, all my cases have been adjudicated and no need for me to testify in King County Superior Court.”

That OPA report also cites two previous cases about Smith’s social media activity, both of which were disciplined with one-day suspensions and re-training.

Smith doesn’t deny that the tweets or posts contained in the three OPA complaints are his.

The situation is a familiar one for many politicians – local and national – whose social media activity has come back to haunt them.

For Smith’s part, he said he’s “pretty much done” with social media.

And overall, “rather than ‘flamethrowing’ those who I disagree with, I should be more civil in discourse,” he said in an email. “Social media tends to drag those not on point to a place you can put people on blast and not think twice about your choice of wording.”


Complaint No. 1 didn’t warrant a full investigation by OPA and the incident was handled between Smith and his supervisor, according to an OPA spokesperson. That means there is no OPA summary to review.

But Smith said that complaint was over a 2016 post he made on the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild when he was union president. The post, related to the fatal shootings of five Dallas police officers, landed Smith in hot water and preceded his retirement from the presidency altogether.

Smith told the Seattle Times that year that his post was misunderstood, but he apologized for any offense he caused when he wrote, in part, “The hatred of law enforcement by a minority movement is disgusting … #Weshallovercome.”


Complaint No. 2, made by an SPD Lieutenant, related to Smith’s posts prior to the 2017 Seattle May Day marches and protests, in which he identified on his personal Facebook page that he’d be working undercover during the events.

Smith posted a picture of himself captioned: “Ready for a long day tomorrow…Please pray for the safety of all Seattle Police Officers and neighboring agencies who will be dealing with MayDay tomorrow.”

He confirmed in the comments of the post that he would be working “undercover” during the demonstrations.

One commenter wrote: “Be safe … That crowd is unpredictable. ‘Cuff the councilwoman’ should be your game plan.” According to OPA, Ron stated in response to that comment: “I’m on a mission.” (The councilwoman referenced was Kshama Sawant, Smith confirmed.)

Smith told OPA that he realized the posts were inappropriate the following morning and deleted them, but those posts had already been observed by SPD employees who reported him. Smith ultimately was sent home and did not work the May Day protests.

OPA found Smith violated department policy by divulging confidential department tactics — specifically, that plainclothes officers would be working the May Day demonstrations.

OPA found that Smith’s comments also “appeared to suggest that he would target (the) City Councilmember and arrest her, simply for exercising her First Amendment rights.”

Smith says that wasn’t his intention at all: “I would never arrest someone for exercising their First Amendment rights. I don’t remember what I put, but this was late at night after a few drinks. I woke up in AM, saw what the comment thread alluded and deleted the post.”


Findings from the third and most recent OPA complaint cited five social media posts made by Smith:

• A post on February 26, 2019 that was directed towards Governor Jay Inslee read: “you weak wristed lefties don’t want border security… you want votes to keep your anti-American party in power.”

• A post on April 9, 2019 that was directed towards U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell read: “when is the last time someone told you that you’re a little b****?”

• A post on April 18, 2019 that was directed towards U.S. Representative Jerry Nadler read: “break yourself a** hat.”

• A post on April 23, 2019 directed towards Governor Jay Inslee read: “If their (sic) illegal they don’t live here… they are trespassing on our sovereign soil.”

• A post on April 23, 2019 directed towards U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar read: “thoughts? In the name of your religion, which isn’t of peace.”

Officers can’t use social media to show bias against any protected class of people (such as race or religion), according to SPD policy.

But the post toward Rep. Omar “[suggested] that the Islamic religion and all of its approximately 1.57 billion adherents were supportive of violence,” OPA said, adding that the post about “lefties” “identified approximately half of the United States population as being anti-American … even though liberals, like conservatives, have a wide range of opinions concerning immigration.”

OPA concluded the posts showed “ingrained” beliefs about Muslins and Democrats that were “the very definition of biased policing.”

Smith regrets the tweets, but disagrees that they impugn his police work.

“The way they have their policy written is so broad — they call it biased policing, that’s a stretch,” he said. “Because I didn’t police anybody. It had nothing to do with my performance or my duties as a law enforcement officer.”

That being said: “I regret the heat of the moment tweeting of my thoughts of how politicians I disagree with are handling issues in our Nation/State,” he wrote in a follow-up email. “Could have worded them much differently. One thing I should have remembered is something my mother told me 45+ years ago: if you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Ron said his tweet toward Omar was in response to statements she made during a March 2019 speech to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group.

Omar’s quote in question: “CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”

Omar’s point was that many American Muslims faced hostility after 9/11 out of misplaced anger toward the al-Qaeda perpetrators and collaborators of the terrorist attacks.

But Omar’s initial statements offended listeners who, like Smith, felt she had grossly minimized the horrors of 9/11.

“That was highly offensive to many of us,” Smith said. “Evidently, I let my emotions take the best of me and tweeted that to her. … I was just pissed off. For anybody to downplay what happened on 9/11 … to say that some people did something, that was highly offensive to me.”

Omar later clarified to CBS that 9/11 was a terror attack on “all Americans” and that she did not mean to downplay what happened. And Smith said he’s not prejudiced against Muslims.

“Obviously, we see that there are portions of the world that hate America, and whatever drives that,” Smith said. But he agreed that the average American member of the Islamic faith is “absolutely” just as American as anyone else.

To those concerned his statements could show bias or prejudice against some of the folks he represents, Smith said he cares deeply about the Buckley community and ran for city council in the first place to work for change and progress, work he wants to continue in a second term.

“Over the last three-and-a-half years, I have represented each and every person in this town equally,” Smith said. “This was over two and a half years ago. Here I am. This isn’t police work; this is taking care of city, legislative business, and should have no bearing on my ability to represent (constituents).”