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Thursday, December 27, 2007

The SPD OPA Year In Review - 2007

The following are a small sample of complaints and investigations taken from the public files of the Seattle Police Department's Office of Professional Accountability for the year 2007. While these highlight some of the confirmed complaints, it should be noted that many complaints are dismissed merely because it is an officer's word against the complaintant's word and the officer always wins when there are no witnesses.

01/07 – Beating Detainees In Their Cell

Complaint - It was alleged that the named employee used physical force upon his son, who was being detained in a department holding cell.

Result - The evidence supported that the son was arrested and was being held in a department holding cell. Though the employee did not interfere with the arrest or processing of his son, the evidence did support that he had physical contact with him while the son was in the holding cell.


03/07 – Kicking Heads Is A “Training Issue”

Complaint - The complainant alleged that the named employee kicked the subject in the head, while he was attempting to surrender to police.

Result - The investigation determined that the employee’s actions were not a willful violation, and that the violation did not amount to misconduct. There were training issues identified that would be beneficial to address and correct with the named employee.


04/07 – The Alley Barnes Case

Complaint - It was alleged that the named employees used unnecessary force during the arrest of a person involved in a dispute with a sergeant outside of a nightclub and that the sergeant also used unnecessary force in dispersing a crowd. It was also alleged that the sergeant’s enforcement actions were excessive, unwarranted, and motivated by racial bias. The complaint was received internally; the subjects of the force and arrest declined to participate in the internal investigation.

Result - The evidence showed that sergeant contacted a subject for littering outside of a nightclub. The subject’s companion protested the sergeant’s actions, and the sergeant directed an arriving officer to arrest him. The officers state that this subject resisted their efforts to handcuff him, and they used significant force to affect his arrest. This force was documented and reported. However, the evidence indicated that the force used was excessive, under the circumstances.
The evidence also substantiated that the sergeant’s supervision of the scene was inadequate, and that his use of force on members of the crowd was excessive. The evidence did not establish by preponderance that the sergeant’s actions were motivated or influenced by racial bias.

Finding as to two employees–SUSTAINED.

05/07 – Death Threats Are “Questionable Judgment”

Complaint - The named employee is alleged to have been involved in a road rage incident off duty, where he pulled over the complainant and put a gun to his head after his personal vehicle was struck by objects(coins) thrown from the complainant’s vehicle on the

Result - The investigation determined that the employee’s judgment and discretion in this incident were questionable. The issue of conflict of interest was less clear. The allegation of misconduct was neither proved nor disproved by a preponderance of the evidence. Given the risks associated with the pursuit in this incident, the investigation determined that the employee should have discontinued the pursuit.

Finding Discretion—SUSTAINED.
Finding Integrity—NOT SUSTAINED.
Finding Pursuit—SUSTAINED.

06/07 – Assaulting Wife's Ex-Husband = No Jail

Complaint - The complainant alleged that the named employee assaulted her estranged spouse, who had driven to the named employee’s residence to pick up their child for a scheduled visitation.

Result - The allegation was supported by the preponderance of the evidence along with information documented by the arresting agency and the named employee entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the Court.


08/07 – “Horse Play”

Complaint - The complainant alleged that the named employee, while in partial police uniform, in a saloon/bar where he was stopping to get a food to go order, acted unprofessionally by locking the complainant in a closet, handcuffing her to a bar stool, and repeatedly going behind the bar after the complainant instructed him not to do so.

Result - The named employee stated that he had stopped by the saloon/bar to pick up some food to go. The named employee described his actions as “horse play,” which had occurred inside a public tavern filled with up to 30 patrons. It was determined that
his behavior led the complainant and witness to question his professionalism and reflected poorly on the Department.

Finding Courtesy & Recognizable Uniform—SUSTAINED.

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