The feeling of powerlessness Norm Stamper experienced as a child growing up in a physically and emotionally abusive household motivated his decision to become a police officer. As an officer of the law, he vowed to protect the citizens he served from harm and to never ever be like his father.
But that’s not exactly how things went.
"I often found myself in the company of people who were abusing the citizens they were hired to protect and serve," Stamper says of his early career as a beat cop. He had power for the first time in his life, and surrounded by a culture that looked the other way, he too began abusing it. "I found myself enjoying it," Stamper admits.
"I had become my father."
In 1967, a prosecutor called Stamper out for making a false arrest, and everything changed. The prosecutor's words shook him out of his power trip. He vowed to work from the inside of the police force to stop abuse and call out cops for bad behavior.
It was Stamper's commitment to making the police an upstanding public force that lead to him becoming Seattle's Chief of Police. But having good intentions and making the right decisions weren't always as easy as it sounded.