In a proces that started after a string of videotaped incidents involving SPD “use of force” — including the August 2010 John T Williams shooting — the Department of Justice has told Seattle police chief John Diaz his officers must change the way they work as they patrol the city’s streets.
- Here is what the DOJ said Friday about policing in Seattle as the results of its eight month investigation were released:
The investigation, launched on March 31, 2011, and conducted by the Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington, focused on whether SPD engages in unconstitutional or unlawful policing through either (1) the use of excessive force or (2) discriminatory policing. The Justice Department found reasonable cause to believe that SPD engages in a pattern or practice of excessive force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The Justice Department does not make a finding that SPD engages in a pattern or practice of discriminatory policing, but the investigation raised serious concerns that some of SPD’s policies and practices, particularly those related to pedestrian encounters, could result in unlawful discriminatory policing. These practices undermine SPD’s ability to build trust among segments of Seattle’s diverse communities.
- Publicola shared some of the dirt from the report including this datapoint:
The DOJ found that over a two year period, officers committed civil rights violations in one out of every five of the 500 to 600 incidents a year where officers used force.
- Seattle Times sums up the key findings…
- Reports on the reaction from the brass: “The department is not broken”
- Reports on the reaction from the cops: “You’re talking about maybe 40 people who are knocking the crap out of people in a department of 1,200 officers.”
- And says the report puts the mayor in the hot seat
- Publicola says the report could be good news for Bruce Harrell
- The Los Angeles Times — which knows a little bit about issues with a police department — seemingly finds the bright side:
While insistent in calling for change, including a court monitor to check on progress, federal officials stopped short of finding that the police had engaged in discriminatory policing, and were gracious to the department, which has been under community fire after several cases of violence against minorities. U.S. Atty. Jenny A. Durkan cited the city’s cooperation with the investigation and willingness to make changes as reasons to be optimistic.
- Crosscut also says Seattle is in position to fix what’s wrong:
Seattle has a widely admired system of monitoring alleged and actual police misbehavior. Yet the number of highly visible incidents continues to be high, and if you dig into reports about citizen oversight you find that very often the offending officer has not been following policy (such as use of In-Car Video) or was allowed to gloss over the awkward details in reports to superiors.
- KOMO/PI illustrated the point with this newly released video showcasing some choice SPD behavior:
- SPD tells the Stranger it wants to “see the numbers” before committing to department changes.
- So, what’s next now that the report has been released?
The Seattle Police Department and the U.S. Department of Justice have agreed to meet shortly after the first of the year to discuss the findings in more detail.
They then will attempt to reach an agreement called a “consent decree,” which would be filed in federal court.
UPDATE: Here is the DOJ report: