Seems that the threats and harassment from police officers that we've been subjected to lately has frightened some visitors, which is unfortunate but understandable. While we do our best to protect the identities of those who visit the site with legitimate interests and the victims of abuse, it can be chilling for most people to see that just talking about police misconduct can result in retaliation by the police. It certainly surprised me at first, but I was still naive about the myth of police professionalism at the time I guess, especially before reading similar stories of death threats like this.
A few days ago I posted about those threats to try and figure out the possible reasons why officers all the way across the country might feel the need to threaten us. But one possibility I overlooked was that the threats were coordinated from an SPD officer in Seattle. Such a possibility seems out in the realm of conspiracy theory at first, so I didn't bother considering it...
Well, seems we had some interesting traffic come into the site last night right before midnight. One hit was directed from the chicago police blog that encouraged it's users to threaten us and at the exact same time we had a hit come in directly from the Seattle.gov network.
Coincidence? Well, the odds of a coincidence became slim as I read the logs because both visitors were browsing to the same pages on this site around the same time, as if the two people were talking on the phone or IM and telling each other to check out certain pages or links. Additionally, you have to consider how odd it is for Chicago cops to be interested enough in a site specifically devoted to Seattle police misconduct issues to issue threats because of it.
Seems to me that perhaps some SPD officers decided to call up some pals in Chicago to do their dirty work for them. Check it out and let me know what you think.
If I'm right, it'll be interesting to see who they send next to try and intimidate us. As I said before though, all this harassment by police officers only serves as proof that a site like this is necessary because it's just another form of misconduct and unprofessionalism.
Sure, I can't do anything about the threats... and if they're going to make good on the threats there isn't much I can do about that either, I can't go and call the cops after all. So might as well carry on irregardless.
Monday, March 31, 2008
Seems that the threats and harassment from police officers that we've been subjected to lately has frightened some visitors, which is unfortunate but understandable. While we do our best to protect the identities of those who visit the site with legitimate interests and the victims of abuse, it can be chilling for most people to see that just talking about police misconduct can result in retaliation by the police. It certainly surprised me at first, but I was still naive about the myth of police professionalism at the time I guess, especially before reading similar stories of death threats like this.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
I strongly believe that we not only pass on our genetic heritage to our children, but also our intellectual heritage as well. We share our experiences, the lessons we learn, and our moral values with them because we hope that this information will serve them and help keep them safe.
Therefore, an important part of the information we pass on to our children involves how to interact with others in a sustainable manner that not only enhances their own chances of survival, but also encourages the continuation of the social structures that we rely on as a species to improve our odds of survival and help us flourish as individuals.
A big part of the moral heritage I try to pass on to my children is based on a fairly simple assumption… that no one person is more human than another, thus all deserve equal respect and should be treated as you yourself wish to be treated. It always seems such a simple rule but is quite versatile and complex once you really discuss and apply it to situations with your children. It is the rule for an efficient and sustainable society, without it’s adherence society deteriorates, as does our chances of survival as a species.
However, we’ve had problems lately, as it’s hard to explain what happens when this rule breaks down because others refuse to follow it. To the point, it has become difficult to explain to our oldest son how he should not pass judgment on all police officers because of the wrongs they have done to his father and for all the stories of abuses he sees in the news... but it became especially difficult after he overheard us talking about how the damage done to me last year was permanent and the rehabilitation would be hard for us to afford.
But, it is hard to reason away his logical response to my assurance that all officers are not bad:
“If some officers are bad, and the good officers don’t stop them, how is it safe to trust any cops at all? If I can’t trust any of them not to hurt me, then isn’t it safer for me to hate them all? After all, you trusted them to help you and they hurt you instead, and now they refuse to do anything about it and keep doing it to others. So how can it be safe not to hate them when they can get away with hurting so many people? How can I trust any of them when the good cops let the bad cops get away with hurting us?”
I try to answer by asking how he would feel if people hated him because of his skin color because someone else got hurt by someone with his skin color, but that is countered too.
"A white person doesn't choose to be white, a police officer choses to be a cop. A regular person fears punishment when they break the law, a cop doesn't."
... it ended with him storming to his room, and my inability to find a good counter to that argument.
While we were fortunate that when I was mistreated by the police that our youngest was yet to be born, our middle child too young to understand, but our oldest knew what was happening and is now inconsolable in his anger with those who hurt his father. Even though I try to convince him that he shouldn’t be, that it is not the best response for him, he still hates all cops much to my own chagrin.
But as I continue to get death threats from the police, as he reads more stories in the news on his own, and as it becomes more clear to him that we can do nothing to right the injustices done to us, our arguments and protestations now fall uselessly against his hardening heart.
Indeed… How do we explain to an angry son that even though the police harmed his father wrongly, that he should not expect the same treatment from the police himself?
…how can we tell him otherwise and yet not violate his trust in us to tell him the truth and arm him with the knowledge he needs to survive in this world?
Because he’s right, I’m afraid… even though I wish he was wrong. Because I can’t honestly tell my son to trust the police while they continue to send me death threats even when I've done nothing to deserve it. It would be disrespectful to him, a violation of the morals which I wish to instill upon him, because these morals fail us when those we entrust with protecting our society are permitted to ignore the same rules which we must follow.
I find myself in the horns of a moral dilemma in a clash between the righteous anger of a child and the morals I teach that have been violated by others without consequence… and there is no right answer I can give to his anger.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Some of you might remember Salman Rushdie, the British author who wrote a book about the Muslim faith and as a result a fatwa, or holy war, was declared against him, and still is. While he was put under protection and wasn't attacked, many people associated with his book have, including translators who have been stabbed to death or severely wounded in assassination attempts. Because they helped write a book, a book that didn’t advocate violence or harm, they became an enemy to many Muslim nations and western nations decried that response as an example of radical extremism and intolerance.
Well, today we’ve just found yet another police run site that has issued it’s own fatwa against us, (we won't give them traffic by publishing their address), bringing the total to two known sites and five known police agencies in three states (Illinois, Iowa, and Washington) who’s officers have decided to advocate for violence against us and publicly declare that I should be threatened, imprisoned, beaten, tortured, or even killed… just because I write about detainee abuse, police brutality, and the need for better police accountability. I've even been told by Chicago police officers that if I come to Chicago, where I used to live for a while, that I would be killed for what I write. Seattle officers have declared I should be beaten and tortured again... These are just a few samples of the abuse and threats we get from abusive law enforcement officers that tarnish the reputation of them all.)
It’s funny, you know, this site is pretty moderate, we don’t call for violence against police, in fact we advocate against that and have sided with departments about cases of alleged misconduct from time to time. We try to be fair and we only wish to see the reputations of officers improved by helping the good officers have a mechanism to clean up their departments by accepting police accountability mechanisms, thus improving their relations with their communities and helping to enforce laws in a just manner. Pretty bland, huh?
Consider also that there are many sites out there, sites who go to the extreme and always side against the police, always call for firings, violence against police, and even open revolts… again, something we don’t do. But it’s funny that those sites don’t seem to get the death threats like we, a much more moderate site, does.
So, I wonder, why is it that these police departments advocate violence and intolerance against us? I figure there are at least five possible reasons:
1. Because they don’t want accountability reforms.
Many local governments across the nation are trying to implement accountability and oversight reforms in the light of an increase in misconduct cases across the nation. It may well be that the officers who have called for my death are afraid of accountability reforms and see us as the cause and will fight those reforms in anyway they can, even resorting to illegal tactics like this.
2. Because they can do it and get away with it.
What this site does is legal, we don’t name names, we advocate against violence, and we try to be fair. When we receive reports of misconduct and post them, we not only remove information that could identify the victim, we also remove information that identifies officers out of the same concern, we do not advocate for retaliation. However, without accountability, many departments still look the other way when officers step outside the law and illegally detain people, abuse prisoners, or otherwise break the law. Some officers get used to being “above the law” and act accordingly, like they do in this case. So, why not threaten someone if you can get away with it?
3. Because we’re vulnerable and can’t do anything about it.
Since officers have threatened us and told us to watch out if we call for help, we can’t call the police on an officer who threatens us illegally. All we can do is post the threat in the hope that it will act as a deterrent, but it doesn’t. People who study abuse sometimes say that it’s not personal, that abusers pick targets of their aggression based on who they think they can get away with abusing, thus why child abuse stops once a child grows large enough to seem capable of defending themselves against the abuser. We don’t have the same protections that other citizens do, we’re on our own because we used our first amendment rights, and they know they can do anything they want to us. So, why not do it?
4. The US vs THEM mentality and the vast Blue Wall of America.
Officers feel a strong form of ‘brotherhood’ with each other, to the point that if an officer in one department goes against the code of ‘never rat out a fellow officer when they do something wrong’ and offers truthful testimony against an officer that commits misconduct, that officer will be intimidated in any department he goes to or interacts with. Same for us, since we speak out about cases of police brutality and misconduct in Seattle, that sense of intolerance is shared by all departments… so, there is nowhere in the US that we would be safe now. Since one department has threatened us, now it is expected that all will do so as a matter of so-called “professional courtesy”.
5. They think that we’ll stop writing in response to threats and intimidation.
Unfortunately for me, I don’t like bullies, and in the face of threats, I get more resolute about what I do if I feel it’s the right thing and I’m too principled for my own good. When I was abused for doing a good deed and stopping a fight, everyone told me I wasn’t allowed to do good deeds anymore. But, just one month later I was on a bus when someone started abusing the female driver and got violent. I was at the back of the bus but everyone else was afraid to do anything, so I went to the front of the bus and stood between the driver and the assailant. I finally got him off the bus and we got back underway… I will not be intimidated, I will not encourage bullies and thugs to continue relying on threats and violence to get their way, I will not be a part of the cycle of abuse that allows you to continue that abuse.
So, it’s interesting that the same intolerance that was considered insufferable by the US when Muslims practiced it by issuing death threats to an author are somehow encouraged when police do the exact same thing. It seems, in the US, it’s expected and encouraged for the police to continue abusing victims of abuse like me, and unlike Rushdie, there is nobody I can call who will protect us.
Sure, it's a frightening feeling living in a country where you are not protected by laws like everyone else, where you're an easy target for anyone. But, we’ll keep writing, despite the threats and intimidation, until they make good on their threats. Given that there is nobody for us to call for protection, it seems that will only be a matter of time unfortunately. So, all I ask is that someone else take up the call and continue speaking up… and when you do, stay anonymous because, otherwise, you’ll be a target just like me.
All I can hope, though, is that when they come to carry out their threats, is that someone questions what happens to me, what they do to me, and hopefully brings about changes that prevent it from happening to others... because, even if I shut this site down now, I will always be a target no matter where I go in the United States, what I thought was the land of the free.
Stay safe out there.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
When I first found out about RateMyCop.com my first thought was, "Ok, sounds like a good idea." Then when several police departments made a big stink about it and tried to push legislatures to make such sites illegal I thought, "Yeah, their arguments make no sense."
But, then I started really thinking about the site, the premise behind rating cops by name without any way to verify who was rating them, and how this would actually solve anything about police conduct... and I couldn't come up with a good answer.
Here's the first problem, people don't choose which cop they'll be confronted with, so this information is relatively useless to citizens.
Next, this information is unverifiable, so it's useless in a court of law. This also means that there is no way that a police department will take any of these reviews seriously, they will not spark any actual investigations or policy changes.
Also, the cops being reviewed will not change their behavior based on a bad review, in fact it may instead cause retaliatory threats or just reinforce the "us vs them" mentality most problematic officers have.
Lastly, there are no real mechanisms to prevent gaming of the system. In other words, if a cop gets a bad review that is actually honest, nothing prevents the cop from having all his friends negate that review with a bunch of falsely positive reviews.
In fact, as I spent some time on the site in the Seattle Police Department section, I noticed that it appeared as though there were more cops posting reviews of each other than there were regular people posting reviews of the cops. Indeed, some of the remarks included "hides his true feelings." or just simply "wow" that included good marks after a bad review or "Head thumper. Outstanding cop." Indeed, some of the bad reviews even seemed to be cops messing around with other cops as in one review that gave bad marks but included the comment "I'm just jealous, she's perfect".
However, the most disturbing post made was this...
...from a cop calling another cop an "OPA rat" in reference to the Seattle Police Department's internal investigation department: the "Office of Professional Accountability". If a comment like this, intended to intimidate and stop officers from cooperating with internal investigations into misconduct, were made in person it would result in disciplinary action. That such comments can now be made anonymously by officers will cast a chill on internal cooperation with the OPA and make it less likely that officers will actually cooperate with investigations into allegations of misconduct, thus running counter to the site's intent.
At this point in time, I can find few redeeming qualities for this site and, in fact, see the potential for much more harm done than good. But, I wouldn't go so far as to say it deserved to be shut down by it's provider at the urging of police as it was earlier this month.
But I don't support it either.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Per the Seattlest and the Seattle PI, the local chapter of the NAACP is hosting a series of hearings throughout Seattle and surrounding areas in the next few weeks in order to assess police conduct issues with minorities and the poor.
The first hearing is scheduled for Thursday, March 27 at 6:00pm in the Garfield Community Center. The hearings will discuss police conduct issues including the disparity of police treatment towards minorities in light of the Seattle Post Intelligencer series that indicated the police arrest minorities on stand-alone obstruction charges 80% more often than whites and that 50% of those stand-alone obstruction charges end up being dropped as being unfounded.
The hearings will consist of a panel of two local Seattle University professors and two citizens who have been the victim of police misconduct and will issue a report of findings on police misconduct issues sometime this summer.
We appreciate and support their efforts towards keeping police misconduct issues in the forefront during contract negotiations between the city and the police guild that include several critical accountability and oversight reforms.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Monday, March 24, 2008
I’ve been debating whether or not to discuss this, but ultimately it’s better that I bring this out in the open on my terms instead of waiting for someone to bring it up as a way to attack what this site is about because there are more than a few people who already know about it.
I have what is sometimes called "An Invisible Injury"... otherwise refered to as a Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI.
Now, you might read what I write and say “I figured” or you may even say “you’re kidding”… I don’t know, I tend to be very critical of my own work so I would guess the prior before the latter. But, it’s true, after a grueling battery of tests that lasted about 14 hours total, the doctors at the UW Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitation Clinic confirmed what I feared.
They have determined that I have a combination of a traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder which occurred as a result of a brutal attack I suffered at the hands of at least 12 people last year, a subsequent intentional denial of medical attention by police and jail employees after I was arrested soley on the word of those who assaulted me, and a punishing month-long detainment at the brutal King County Jail for a crime I never committed and was ultimately cleared of doing by King County prosecutors and an SPD detective thanks to videotape evidence.
On the scale of things, though, I’m doing ok. My injuries only affect some of my cognitive functions, like memory recall and speech for instance… and the constant headaches. It could have been much worse, and I feared that it was, so I'm thankful for that. Yet, it’s still not as good of a diagnosis as I had hoped. See, I could tell that there is something different, something slower, that I was somewhat less than what I was before the attack… and while I hoped it was just PTSD since that is treatable, but it isn’t, and what is done is permanent… I will never be the same.
But, as I said, it only affects some specific aspects of my mental abilities, I still have the same critical thinking abilities and a strong ability for problem solving and analysis, in the 98th percentile in fact. But, unless I have time to think things through, I suffer from my new weaknesses, weaknesses that make it difficult for me to process information on the fly, such as during conversations or when too much information comes at me too quickly. So, typing a letter or a blog post is fine, but a telephone conversation is hard for me to keep up with, I tend to forget the details of what was said if I don’t write it down, and I’m hopelessly lost in meetings or large social gatherings.
Again, I’m thankful that it wasn’t worse… but it is bad enough that the doctors have suggested vocational rehabilitation, speech therapy, and that I might need to think about a different career. What happened to me has changed who I am permanently, and unfortunately I can’t do anything about that. In fact, unfortunately, I can’t even afford the therapy they’ve recommended because what happened to me was never declared a crime so I can’t apply for crime victim’s assistance and I have no insurance… and am now looking at having to change careers while being the sole bread-winner for my family.
But… I wanted to share this information and be upfront about me, the person writes what you happen to be reading at this moment. I’ve admitted time and again that I’m not the best person to write a blog about subject matter as important as this, about events that can permanently change people’s lives, cost them their freedom, and even their very life… but it needs to be done, nobody else was doing it on a local scale, so here I am. I am compelled to do this, to speak up for those who were like me and left to suffer without a voice. I do this because I must make something good happen from the horrible things I went through, and this is the only avenue open for me to accomplish that.
So, yes, I expect many people to try and abuse me for admitting this, to attempt to discredit the site because of my injury. But understand that I refuse to accept that my opinion is somehow worthless because of my injury, just as I would never suggest that anyone else who had an injury is somehow less worthy of having an opinion than anyone else. I’ve always been a firm believer that all people are indeed created equal, and that we all have equal standing for being human, and no one person is no more worthy of life and freedom... and an opinion... than any other.
Indeed, there are an estimated 5.3 million people who live with a brain injury and every 23 seconds someone will suffer a traumatic brain injury. You may be the next, so to discount all of us would be an injustice in it's own right. There are many of us, and the range of disabilities we deal with are just as varied. But all things considered we are still human, and still have worth, we are still loved by our families, and with a little help many of us still lead very productive lives.
Ultimately, once you distill everything down to a common denominator, this site is about the need to have respect for everyone's humanity, about our rights as humans and equal worth under law as such. This is just as true for how we treat the accused, and the injured as well.
If you would like to find out more about traumatic brain injuries, or if you know someone with a brain injury and would like to find out about resources for brain injury patients and their families, please visit the following sites:
The Brain Injury Association of America
The Traumatic Brain Injury Survival Guide
The Brain Injury Association of Washington
Sunday, March 23, 2008
The Seattle Post Intelligencer recently printed an article about 65 cited cases of MRSA at the King County Jail within the last 5 months. While it's good that these sort of stories are being reported, there are some unfortunate inaccuracies in that report and it really doesn't do enough to describe how this should matter to the average citizen.
First, the article mistakenly suggests that the DOJ report only found fault with infection related issues:
"In a report released in November, investigators with the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division suggested jail officials were failing to take basic measures to prevent the spread of such diseases, something they said could be accomplished by focusing on the personal hygiene of inmates, keeping the facility clean and laundering inmate clothing adequately."
That DOJ report also cited failures to provide medical care to detainees that resulted in at least one preventable death that occurred during the investigation. It also cited the jail for failure to protect detainees from sexual abuse by guards, failure to provide sanitary conditions, failure to prevent physical abuse by guards, and failure to adequately protect detainees from self-harm. Indeed, the civil rights violations at the jail are numerous and have been proven to be deadly, to understate them is a disservice to the community.
Next the article states that the jail has fixed those problems:
"Jail officials said they have taken several measures in recent months to improve conditions.
All inmates are now screened by nurses at booking. A new computer system allows arresting officers to determine if someone in their custody has previously been treated for tuberculosis, and a new Electronic Health Records system went online last summer, which is expected to help Jail Health nurses better track treatment of sick inmates."
...which is patently false. All inmates are not examined on booking and their treatment needs are not being tracked, as this woman's account of her recent experience in that jail proves. The problem is that they may have implemented these systems, but it appears as though there is no way to force the guards and medical workers to FOLLOW any policies to ensure they are used. Indeed, other allegations of lapses in medical care seem to indicate that denial of medical care isn't necessarily due to mistakes, but intentional withholding as a form of punishment.
Next, the report claims this:
"For years, upon booking, inmates have been given two sheets, a blanket, a towel, a pair of sandals, a single uniform, and one set of undergarments -- socks, underwear and, for women, a sports bra."
Which again isn't necessarily true, inmates have been known to go weeks without any footwear when there have been shortages in the past, this can be very problematic in the jail where the bathrooms and floors are not properly disinfected and flooding does occur from faulty bathroom drainage systems.
They also claim the following about hygienic concerns:
"As a rule, inmates can buy more underwear if someone on the outside deposits funds into an inmate account. Jail officials could not say how frequently inmates make such purchases.
"Our policy is if an inmate comes to the officer and indicates that he has some kind of soiled linen, bedding, or blanket, we exchange it at that time," Hayes said. "We don't play games."
Justice Department investigators heard something different during their review.
"Inmates informed us that the only way to obtain clean underwear is to purchase it from the commissary, or wash it themselves in the cell area using their hand/shower soap," investigators wrote in their report."
This is a bit misleading because a detainee in the jail cannot purchase items from the commissary until they are placed in the general population, until that time they are detained in "holding cells" which are large rooms that house up to 25 or more detainees (some on the floor when overcrowding occurs) in a single room. Some detainees will spend over a week in these holding cells before put in a regular cell block.
Now, detainees in general population are only allowed to order commissary once a week, and if you miss that day you must wait another week. So, many detainees transferred from holding to a regular cell can have to wait up to TWO weeks for new underwear and the soap to clean them. Plus, since they are only given a small hotel bar of soap that has to last until they make it to GP and they are not allowed to hang clothes to dry them, this means that they really don't have the opportunity to wash their underwear and clothes. Even once they make it into GP, they still can't hang underwear anywhere to dry them if they do wash them with that small bar of soap.
To say that the jail has a problem letting inmates stay clean is an understatement. Some inmates with open wounds have been left without treatment or bandages for days, and then left to use the same soiled and bloody clothes and blankets for two weeks since they are not offered a change of clothes or bedsheets until they get into a regular cell and this also happens once a week.
Now, the other problem is that people don't understand, which is made clear when you read the comments section of this paper's story, how this problem might affect them. Well, first, these detainees do get released into the population eventually and if left untreated with MRSA or TB they will spread those infections to the general public.
But, also, these are mostly pre-trial detainees at this jail. Some of whom do end up being found innocent yet were still forced to suffer that hell hole without compensation for being punished by the conditions in there despite not deserving to be punished there.
For those that think it's rare for people to mistakenly get put in that jail... think again.
Read Here and Here for recent cases of innocent people detained there, it happens quite a damn bit.
And as for the King County Councilperson's response to the article:
"King County Councilman Bob Ferguson, who is participating in settlement discussions with Justice, said the county is committed to making those improvements.
"You don't lose all your civil rights when you walk in the jail," he said."
That's not what the county executive Sims and DAJD head Holgeerts, who is in charge of the jail, seem to think. Since the council agreed with the county executive's statements insisting such conditions were not a violation of anyone's civil rights, we question the council's commitment to fixing these problems... and it's a valid question considering that these problems still appear to exist.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Sorry folks, I do have some stories I want to work on but I've been pretty preoccupied the last few days because of my test results and probably won't be posting for a few more days unless any important new stories come up.
If you're curious, which I doubt, send me an email... otherwise, I don't think anyone needs more fuel for their abusive tendencies that my posting about personal stuff would provide.
In any case... Enjoy the holiday weekend everyone, and be careful out there.
As promised earlier this week, we've analyzed the stories generated in the media stemming from the findings of inadequate care in King County's animal shelters and compared it to the number of stories generated a few months ago stemming from the Department of Justice's charges of inadequate care of human pre-trial detainees in the King County Jail. We wanted to use the media as a guage to determine whether people in Seattle cared more about human abuse or animal abuse, especially after the King County Council took such a hard line about the animal abuse findings while they were much more reserved about the detainee abuse findings.
The answer? If the media is a guage, King County residents care about animals being abused twice as much as they do about humans being abused on their behalf. The results break down as follows for a one week period following the story breaking for the report on King County Animal Shelter Conditions and the DOJ Report Of Constitutional Rights Abuses at The King County Jail:
Now, I was going to analyze the comment sections of the relevent reports to determine which stories generated the most positive responses, but the answer was pretty clear, people overwhelmingly thought abusing animals was bad, while most people appeared to think abusing potentially innocent pre-trial detainees was a good thing... so much for the right to due process and the idea of the punishment fitting the crime.
So, the results were pretty much as expected... PETA would be proud, and the results explain why the abuses at the jail are still ongoing and as a result there were 65 cases of MRSA infections at that jail within the last five months.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
On the City of Seattle's Seattle Police Department Office of Professional Accountability website you supposedly can view the findings of OPA investigations into allegations of police misconduct. In fact, according to the site:
But... What's that you say? It's nearly the end of March and...
...they haven't published any reports for this year whatsoever.
So much for "making the work of the OPA transparent in order to promote the confidence of the public."
We, of course, have issued a request to the OPA to get their response...
The OPA gave a pretty quick response, which was much appreciated.
According to a representative from the OPA, they are planning to release a combined January/February report because their caseload has been high and they've been having to work through a support staff transition, which has resulted in some delays in generating and issuing their reports. Their intent is to still issue monthly reports within the specified time frame, though, so they have not updated their website becuase the reporting delays are not a change in actual policy.
I had wanted to say more on this but I posted the update on the way out the door for an appointment at the TBI Rehab clinic. (An aside, the folks at the UW Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitation Clinic are increadible, I can't get over how great and professional they've all been!).
In any case... The delays due to support staff transitions points out a problem that I noted previously (here) with the SPD's OPA, in that they pull their investigators and support staff directly from the rank and file and give them minimal training. What makes this worse is that it's a rotational assignment and it is not voluntary, as the current president of the Seattle Police Officer's Guild complains about frequently as he had also grudgingly served time in the OPA department, (imagine having your case handled by that outspoken opponent to police accountability efforts!).
The current transition sounds serious though, given that the delays in reporting have been going on since October of 2007, and it makes me wonder if the slowdown in internal investigations and reporting might have something to do with the contract negotiations and animosity towards the accountability process?
Whatever the case, it'll be interesting to parse the next series of reports.
Is a person who is accused of a crime worth less than an animal and should that person be treated as such?
It seems that we have the chance, in Seattle at least, to put that question to the test. I've been a bit stunned that the King County Council has put more weight into fixing the problems discovered at the King County Animal Shelters than it did when they were told by the DOJ about the inhumane conditions at their King County Jail.
But... What is far more interesting is that the media seems more willing to report on animals being abused by county officials than reporting on when humans are mistreated by county officials. To me, this would point to a more definitive answer to that question, of whether people care more about mistreated animals or mistreated humans.
So, at the end of the week I'll add up all the stories in the press about the King County animal shelter story and I'll compare it to the stories put out about the DOJ report of deadly abuses at the King County Jail, along with comparisons of public reaction to those stories.
And, finally, we'll have an answer to the question of whether people care more about people being tortured in their name or animals suffering in their shelters.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
This attack from a police blog...
...should be threat-tacular. Wonder if the good-ole-boys in blue out there will come up with better threats than the ones here in Seattle?
Guess it just proves that they really are "the same everywhere", unfortunately.
(and people wonder why I moderate comments here)
Monday, March 17, 2008
King County Executive Ron Sims has started a so-called crusade to examine issues of social injustices. This would be admirable if this weren't the same Ron Sims who insists that abusing pre-trial detainees and denying them medical care in the King County Jail wasn't a violation of their constitutional rights in response to a Department of Justice investigation that found deadly rights violations at the jail.
What's interesting is that it appears that the jail is continuing to practice the same abuses while Sims pretends to be concerned about issues of injustice and while King County tries to convince the DOJ that those problems no longer occur.
If Sims would have accepted the findings and pledged to make sure they don't happen anymore, and if there weren't new reports of abuses continuing to come from people who had been detained there as recently as this month, then maybe he would be a credible speaker as to the issues of social justice. Instead his track record in this regard only serves to undercut his message and makes it sound like a sick joke in the same vein as if Eliot Spitzer were to take the pulpit and speak out against the injustices of prostitution.
One would think that even he would see the obvious absurdity. Indeed, an editorial in the Seattle Times asks "Sims is doing some agitating, putting this in everyone's face. We won't know whether it will work until the county has to make a hard choice that tests its commitment, and ours."
...Seems that the DOJ investigation already tested that commitment and Sims failed to rise to it... unless, of course, he really does feel that abusing potentially innocent civilians in his jail is socially just.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
I know, this post is a departure from the norm, but I have an autistic son, so it's a personal thing.
This 14 year old girl has been missing since Thursday and she is autistic so doesn't do well with remembering directions or phone numbers.
Her name is Jordan King, last seen wearing light pink denim pants, a black tank top, black tennis shoes, and black hoodie with silver detail.
If you see her, please help her and call 911.
For more information, visit the West Seattle Blog, Thanks!
UPDATE: Latest reports are that she's been found and is safe. Thank you to those that found her and those that tried to help, definitely nice to hear good news for a change!
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Washington state's legislature is passing an "anti-gang bill" that includes provisions to fund police anti-gang taskforces, increased penalties for gang-related crimes, and supposedly deter recruitment by punishing adults who recruit teens into gangs.
However, the most troubling part of the anti-gang crime bill is how it defines a gang and the implementation of a state-wide gang watchlist database that will include the names of anyone a police officer accuses of belonging to a gang.
First, the bill defines a gang as an association of three or more individuals who share a symbol or name either formally or informally and who's members participate in a crime. Now, let's strip away the extraneous terms and, simply put, anyone who has an informal relationship to anyone who commits a crime and that informal relationship includes three or more people would be considered as a gang member. So, let's say a member of your bowling team commits a crime, that would mean that you could technically be labeled as a gang member.
Now, all of that aside, what burden of proof is involved in being labeled as a gang member? None.
Is there a way to make sure the names put in that database are really gang members? No. There is no oversight. There is no due-process. There is no judicial overview.
If a police officers decides to put your name in that database, it's there, you're profiled, and there is no mechanism available for you to appeal that designation and no way for you to clear your name in a court of law. This is the unconstitutional portion of the bill, allowing the executive to take punitive action on citizens without due process.
So, if your name gets placed on that database because, oh, let's say some officer decides he doesn't like your opinions about police accountability... then there is nothing you can do about it, no way for you to appeal, no judicial avenue available for you to plead not guilty... Nothing.
Guess what happens when you apply for a job and go through a background check. Well, you've been denied employment because your name was on an unconstitutional list of gang members and there is nothing you can do. (not to mention the absurdity of suggesting that denying alleged gang member employment will help induce gang members to go straight!)
This bill is, on the very face of it, illegal and unconstitutional. Without mechanisms of appeal and judicial oversight, it is a stark violation of civil rights that grants the executive branch unchecked power to harass citizens at will and without any burden of proof or consequence for abuse... and I guarantee that it will be abused.
...and I don't foresee anyone who will be willing to challenge it.
Friday, March 14, 2008
We received a rather disturbing email earlier this week from a single mother of two who told us her story of a very frightening encounter with King County Sheriff's deputies who had ransacked her house without a warrant despite her refusing them permission to search it, detained her when she insisted that they stop searching her home, drove her to an abandoned lot to intimidate her while she was partially dressed in the back of a cruiser in an attempt to garner a coerced confession... and then forced her to go to the hospital against her will after she didn't confess...
What crime did they allegedly try to intimidate this woman into confessing to?
They did all of this to her because they accused her of, get this, being a victim of domestic violence.
...and it doesn't end there, here is the first part of her story:
"The police came to my house and told me they received a call about a potential case of domestic violence and that they believed that I was the victim. I answered the door and told them nothing was wrong but they insisted that they needed to come in and search the house to make sure that nobody else was in there anyway. I was at home with my two kids and I told them there was nobody other than the kids in the house. The police came in anyway and after they determined there was nobody else in the house they decided to conduct a more "thorough" search instead of leaving.
During this second search I kept asking them to leave but they opened my pantry and saw what they must have thought was an entrance to an attic. One of the officers then started to bang on the wood that sealed the crawl space between the ceiling and the roof where the insulation of the house is, yelling that he saw my boyfriend up there and to come down so he wouldn’t have to hurt him. He actually ended up breaking it, as it was not really a door and couldn’t be opened.
Then they decided to go into my closet and into a zipped suitcase where they found some guns (the guns are legal and my boyfriend has a concealed weapons permit). By this time I was extremely angry and kept demanding that they leave since they were destroying things in my house and going through my room searching in places where a person couldn’t even hide.
In response to my demands that they stop searching my home they handcuffed me and put me in a police car parked in front of my house. I asked the officer if I was under arrest and he said no, I was being detained because I was getting in their way. I asked to talk to my kids, who were asking for me, and he said no.... all he kept saying was that he knew that my boyfriend had hit me and that I needed to tell them that. I repeatedly told them that what they were saying was not true. But every time I told them that he did not hit me, they just seemed to get angrier at me.
They then drove me to an elementary school parking lot well after midnight and asked me if I was ready to talk to them now. I told him he couldn’t just hold me there and that he needed to arrest or release me, he then told me, “I can do whatever I want.” The officer got out of the car and left me sitting in the back of the police car while he was talking and laughing with other officers that were there. I tried to get the attention of the other officers by banging on the window because I was really scared after that officer told me he could do whatever he wanted to do to me, especially since I was naked except for a t-shirt and robe.
What I didn’t realize is that the police had called and ambulance and I was forced, against my will, to go to the emergency room. They claimed that I needed to go to detox, which is really funny considering that this had been going on for well over an hour and they didn’t decide that I was that drunk until they wanted me out of the way, (not to mention that all they did at the hospital was keep me in the hallway strapped down to a stretcher)."
It doesn't end there, unfortunately for her, because the police were quite busy after they got this alleged victim of domestic violence out of the way...
"I finally got back home later that morning and discovered that, in my absence, they called out the swat team and busted holes in my ceiling and trashed my home. They tried to justify it by saying that they thought my boyfriend was hiding in the crawl space between the ceiling and roof, but my boyfriend wasn’t even there.
They ripped my bed apart throwing my mattresses all over my room, flipped my couches over and dumped out my dresser drawers.
They went through my kitchen trash, which they left dumped all over the bathroom floor, and kicked in my bathroom door which wasn’t even locked or closed.
They took my son’s cell phone from him and left it outside in the rain on the neighbor’s driveway, which I didn’t find it until the next morning.
They also took my house keys and car keys but never returned them. They later tried to claim that they gave my keys to the ambulance attendant, but when I called the ambulance company and the hospital they said they had no record of any keys being given to them that night."
Oh, but it doesn't end there... You know that complaint process for the King County Sheriff's department that's been getting good reviews... welll.... Maybe that review panel didn't check to see what complaints the department refused to document:
"After the incident I tried to obtain the police report for almost a week but they kept telling me that the Sergeant hadn’t approved it for release. I also tried to file a complaint with the internal investigations unit for the King County Sheriff’s office and spoke to a Sergeant who was rude and would not even document my complaint saying, “Since you received the paperwork to file a claim for the damages to your residence, what else was there to complain about?”"
Now, before someone comes along and says that the police tore apart this woman's house without her permission, detained her for obstructing an investigation for which she was the purported victim, intimidated her and her children in an attempt to illicit a coerced confession, and then forced her against her will to got to a hospital for which she was left with the bill for... all for this woman's own good...
I remind you that the woman insisted that she was not a victim of any crime. To suggest that such aggressive tactics that would normally be considered a violation of a criminal suspect's civil rights should be permissible for use against a possible victim of abuse is patently absurd, irregardless of whether or not she was the victim of any crime. Because if she had been abused, the actions of the police that night only served to further traumatize the victim of a crime, thus making them abusers as well... and if we apply the tenet of presumed innocence in this case, the police should have been forced to accept her insistence that she was not the victim of a crime.
In other words, to suggest that the police were somehow justified in traumatizing someone they suspected of being a victim of a crime is patently insane. But, more than that, if the police can use an excuse like this to violate search and seizure laws, detain people without just cause, use coercive interrogation practices on them, and involuntarily institutionalize them... essentially allow the officer to do as he or she pleases with you... all without consequences or proof that a crime even occurred violates every tenet of the US justice system and the constitution.
Then imagine how easy it will be for them to do things like this to you or me, all without fear of any repercussions.
We certainly hope that she and her family can at least recover their losses from the damage done to their home, even if the police refuse to help her recover from the abuse she may have suffered that night by investigating her complaints of police misconduct.
The person who reported this story has given us permission to publish her story, but because of our policy regarding the protection of identities for people who may have been mistreated in custody, we have removed any identifiable information in order to protect potential victims of abuse from any further abuses.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Imagine receiving a call one day telling you that your sister, who was heavily medicated and recovering from reconstructive surgery, had gone missing. Imagine searching everywhere with your family and friends for days, only to discover that she was in the last place you thought to look... in jail. Imagine then that, once you found out, you contacted the jail to inform them of her medical needs and was assured that her medical needs would be taken care of... but they weren't.
Last week we received a report from someone who told us just such a story. It seems that while King County officials were busy assuring the DOJ that they have taken care of the medical care problems at the King County Jail, they repeatedly ignored his sister's and her family's repeated requests to give the post-operative medication and care that she had already been prescribed.
Her ordeal started when she was arrested and detained under suspicion of shoplifting while she was under the influence of medication prescribed to her after she underwent reconstructive surgery a few days before. His sister had no previous record and several people who know her insist that such a charge seems contrary to her character. Indeed, whether or not she might have knowingly did anything wrong, she didn't deserve to suffer in needless agony for it.
When he contacted us, her brother had this to say:
"...What is most frustrating, is I'm her brother and the rest of our family didn't even think to call the King County Jail as to her location... (we were) doing a complete manhunt to find her car downtown(figured this was the best first step). We put out a missing persons report, and the police were delayed to arrive. While waiting for the police to arrive to her house, I took off and was driving towards downtown to where she last was known to be...
Thereafter, when we found she was in jail (thank god somebody had the idea to call). My sister had medical needs... and she had medication she needed for pain. My father had called the jail to let them know about her situation and what medication she needed and they told him that she would be taken care of. Long story short, is they did not take care of her and she was in serious pain her entire duration of her stay.
At the end of the day, this was bad luck for her that she experienced a knee jerk mechanical, unintuitive, and uncompassionate system for people (of which is there to serve and protect us as citizens).
Yes, is the experience, and when I saw that you had some info. online decided to send this email, cause I honestly have a hard time living in this town knowing that sometimes guilty but sometimes innocent people are treated this inhumanely."
Her brother was finally able to forward his sister's own account of her experience to us with permission to publish it, and his sister had this to say about her ordeal:
"A police officer came and handcuffed my hands behind my back, I requested he do this in front, so I could continue to wipe my nose (that was bleeding at the time), but he denied my request. He took me to the police station and put me in a holding cell while he did paper work. I have no idea how long I was there and was cold and my nose was a mess.
Finally I was booked in King County Jail, my belongings were taken into evidence, and I was put into a holding cell with phones that allow you to make a collect call but I keep all my phone numbers in my cell phone and don’t know any by heart. I must have asked several times to have someone look up a number for me on my cell phone (that was taken during booking), so I could let people know where I was, but my requests were ignored. Finally, I was told I would have an opportunity to use a phonebook later that evening, but by then my pain medication had worn off. I tried again to get the guard’s attention (to ask for medical care) but I was ignored.
I was crying, in pain, and worried that my family would be scared that I didn’t come home when I was put into another room where it was smaller with no phone. I was very cold, in a lot of pain, and very scared by then and I tried to get someone’s attention to ask for a blanket… but when I finally did get someone’s attention they just ignored me again. To stay warm I curled up in a fetal position with my face down even though I was not supposed to do because of my surgery… but I was too cold not to. Around 11pm they took me straight to my cell to sleep for the night and they never did let me have a phonebook to call someone like they promised.
The next morning I asked some of the other inmates how I could get a hold of a phone book and how to request medical attention. They showed me a wall where there were forms that I had to fill out and give to one of the officers, so I filled out forms (called kites) requesting medical attention and a phonebook. At some point, late in the afternoon, I finally saw a nurse who took my vitals. I told her again about my medical condition, the medications that I need, and the care instructions for my surgical care. I also told the person that my splint had come off early last morning and I was scheduled to see my doctor today to have it put back on. I told them if they called my roommate that I had the splint at home and she could bring it to them to put it on.
I gave my roommates name, and told them that they could find her number in my cell phone that was detained with my belongs and they said that they would contact her… but, they never did. I was given some Neosporin, a blanket (which was to elevate my head…it did about one inch), 2 antibiotics, and a nasal spray… which I guess considering the stories I have heard from other inmates was generous. This might have been appropriate care for someone with allergies and a nose rash… but very negligent care for someone who had just had 3 hour reconstructive surgery for a broken nose.
I sent repeated medical slips (kites) requesting my medication, my nose splint, and icepacks, but they were ignored. I sent 3 kite forms requesting a phonebook to contact my family and they were completely ignored as well. I told anyone who would listen that I needed to contact someone to let them know I was alive but the doctor, the officers, and everyone continued to ignore me. I didn’t know what the status of my case was and I wasn’t told when or if I was going to see a judge. I became so afraid of the lack of care and communication that I spent most of my time in my cell. For two nights and three days I was in King County Jail and I spent most of my time lying in a fetal position on my bed crying and believing that they had forgotten about me… I even started thinking that I might be there for months.
I know this sounds dramatic and it would to me if I was someone else reading this, but it is difficult to understand without experiencing. I have never been to jail, never arrested for shoplifting. I was locked in with no information about my case, while knowing my family was going to be worried sick but denied the ability to contact anyone. I heard several stories of some of the other inmates who have been neglected medically for months. I never realized how poorly the King County Jail system was run, and I found it to be very cruel and inhumane."
The King County Jail gives powerful narcotics to junkies as soon as they are booked to help them avoid the symptoms of withdrawl. They also don't have any policy against giving prescription pain medication to suspects injured in the course of arrest... that they would ignore repeated requests to supply prescribed medication to a woman recovering from surgery over a simple shoplifting charge is beyond comprehension. To ignore her family's concerns as well as her own agonized pleas for help is unconscionable.
Now, before anyone dismisses this as an overreaction, consider this... Imagine that you were disoriented and injured and put in a cell without being told anything about what's happening to you. Imagine then that the pain grows worse and your pleas for help are ignored... There is nothing to distract you from the pain you feel and this amplifies your agony as it's the only thing you have to think about. You've been cut off from your family, friends, everyone... and the only people you have to turn to for help seem to take perverse joy in your suffering... Believe me, it's nothing short of torture.
Fortunately, at least, it appears as though the case against her has been dismissed. We sincerely hope that she and her family are doing better and that this horrible ordeal has not hampered her recovery.
The brother and his sister have given us permission to publish their story, but because of our policy regarding the protection of identities for people who have been mistreated in custody, we have removed any identifiable information in order to protect victims of abuse.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
A number of developing stories have caught our concern, not individually, but when paired together in the context of the current battle between the city of Seattle and the Seattle Police Officer's Guild over police accountability reforms.
Contract talks had been derailed for over a month between the city and the guild over pay raises and the widely-hailed accountability reforms proposed by mayor Greg Nickels' Police Accountability Review Panel. But today there is some rather secretive news out today that the guild has just come back to the bargaining table despite the guild's insistence that they would not accept at least one of the key accountability reforms on the table. This resistance to proposed reform items was cited as a cause of the breakdown in talks earlier this month which forced the city to take it's contract offer of pay raises up to nearly 34% in exchange for acceptance of those reforms directly to rank and file members.
We wondered, what would cause such a radical shift when the guild had just filed a grievance with the state's Public Employee Relations Committee over the city's attempt to appeal directly to rank and file members of the guild when contract talks failed?
According to the guild, the city's move supposedly garnered more support for the guild's anti-accountability position from it's members. If true, it wasn't internal pressure that caused the guild to reconsider it's position.
Nor has the guild been unwilling to take talks to arbitration in the past to combat accountability reforms, as they did in 2001 when the originally proposed civilian oversight system was weakened as a result.
Certainly the guild wasn't worried about public perception nor pressure from city officials since they had bragged many times about how they always win PERC rulings against the city's efforts to implement accountability reforms.
So, what was it?
The only thing we can see that would get the guild back to the table would be if the city had retreated on it's efforts to get all 29 proposed accountability reforms into the contract, especially the key reform item that would allow the city to extend a 180 time limit on investigations of police misconduct when officer's brought new "evidence" late into the investigation in an attempt to beat the accountability system that the guild insists it will not allow under any condition.
Clearly, the most likely possibility is that the city negotiators are going to allow the guild to cherry pick which reforms they will allow and which ones they won't, and this is what brought them back to the bargaining table... there really are no other real logical conclusions we can draw from this event. (and we wonder if the guild might have pressured the city to abandon reforms by having officers refuse to cooperate with politically sensitive prosecutorial efforts?)
But, combine this development with the move by the guild-sponsored councilman, Tim Burgess, to remove the only experienced civilian oversight member of the Office of Police Accountability Review Board from her position and replace all members with one ex-cop, one lawyer (probably from this firm), and one civilian activist (that cannot be associated with police accountability causes per Burgess's listed qualification requirement of "The ability to gain the respect of officers..."). This move is an apparent move to weaken the accountability process from the inside while the guild itself continues to defang it from the outside via PERC rulings and ruthless contract negotiation tactics.
The police guild appears to have lined up a perfect multi-pronged coup against police accountability in Seattle. Not only do they keep the accountability system from being improved via contract talks, they'll actually weaken it by having their candidate hand-pick guild-friendly members to sit on the civilian oversight review board, giving it a unanimous anti-accountability bias.
The worst part, the public won't figure out just how badly they've been duped until long after the contract has been signed and finalized and new members have been seated on the civilian oversight board.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Last week we received a few rather nasty and uncivil complaints about our site, (aside from the usual threats to have the site taken down that we often receive). To be precise, we received complaints about the matter of providing sources for our claim that we’ve received information about ongoing abuses at the King County Jail as jail representatives and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division are in continuing talks to determine whether the jail will take sufficient steps to resolve the deadly constitutional rights violations it has been found to be committing at that facility.
Our policy is thus: When we receive a private communication from anyone, we will not publish the contents of that communication without the express consent of the sender so long as that communication is civil in nature. we will also remove any identifying information from the reported case of abuse if requested to protect the identity of abuse victims and witnesses to cases of abuse.
We do this for a specific reason, to protect the people who have already been abused or have witnessed abuse from further abuses that could be performed by the same individuals who abused them or the supporters of abusers. The goal of this site is to stop abuse, not facilitate it, and more often than not governmental officials and abusive authorities will commit personal attacks on the character of anyone who claims to be abused as an effort to cover up for that abuse. We feel that this is a form of abuse as well, a despicable form of psychological abuse and intimidation in the form of kicking a person who has already suffered and as such is utterly reprehensible… and we will not be a party to such abuse.
Furthermore, we also feel that the potential of retaliation against injured parties by their abusers necessitates that we always offer to redact any identifying information about a case of abuse that is reported to us in order to protect the identity of the person reporting abuse at the hands of police or corrections officers, this includes changing the dates abuse occurred and any other specifics of abuse that might identify the abused or witnesses of abuse to the abusers. So, even when we do publish reports of abuse we will often not identify or source that report unless it also appears elsewhere with identifying information.
Now, sure, this puts us in a predicament, how can we credibly report cases or claims of abuse when we don’t source that information to a source of that information so that it can be validated? We can’t, and we won’t, because to do so could put an abused person at risk of further abuses at the hands of the very people who abused that person, and we feel that act would be far more unethical than risking our credibility when we make statements about how we’ve received reports of abuse or publish redacted accounts of abuse.
Also, this policy of non-disclosure extends to any public officials who share their opinions or information about police misconduct or detainee abuse with us, we will not disclose that information without express permission in order to protect those people from retaliation by the police or corrections officers or their political organizations which is necessary to facilitate a free flow of information that is necessary to help combat conditions that enable the abuse of authority to go unpunished. We've done that several times already with no complaints either.
If you feel this is somehow wrong, remember that the public is often prevented from seeing unaltered reports of police abuse and disciplinary information in order to "protect the identity of officers" who abuse citizens; even our own police accountability boards cannot view original and complete cases of confirmed abuse. So, it is only fair that we protect the identity of abused citizens and innocent witnesses to abuse when we report cases of police abuse since the identity of known abusers is so zealously protected as well.
If you disagree with this policy, or think there is a better way, we’re more than happy to hear from you so long as it’s civil and productive… and your information will be kept confidential just like anyone else’s. However, if it’s full of cursing, insults, and threats you will be ignored or we may publish such communications as examples of cases of misconduct or criminal activity when such communications merit such. I think I've shown repeatedly that I am happy to hear suggestions or complaints and respond in a civil, respectful, and receptive manner... all I ask is the same in return.
Otherwise, you will either have to accept our word when we state that we've received reports of ongoing abuses, or simply stop reading our site. Because we will not sacrifice the safety of victims of abuse or innocent witnesses of abuses just to gain noteriety or satisfy our critics, most of whom are likely to be abusers or their coworkers anyway.
Friday, March 7, 2008
Jonah Spangenthal-Lee "double-dog dared" me and a few other persons who talk about police accountability issues (one other was anti-accountability vs my pro-accountability stance, not sure about the third) to apply for vacant positions on the City of Seattle's Office of Professional Accountability Review Board that acts as a civilian oversight component of Seattle's police oversight and accountability system.
I, unfortunately, jumped the gun and fell for the subtle prodding by accepting the challenge... all others did not. So, being a person of my word, I looked into the the process and checked the actual qualifications.
Sure, it's clear that being an advocate for misconduct and abuse victims and exposing police misconduct publicly like this is far more useful towards resolving the corruption problems within the Seattle Police Department than it would be to sit on a board that meets for 4 hours a month to go over heavily blacked-out closed investigation files that were "randomly" selected by the police department, only to make suggestions to a powerless city council that can't act on them because of the police guild... but my word is my word.
Anyway... first I got a hold of the qualifications from Burgess' OPA Review Board Appointment Fact Sheet, dated March 5, 2008 (I've highlighted the qualifications I do not meet:
Members of the OPA Review Board must have these qualifications:
- A reputation for integrity and professionalism and the ability to maintain a high standard of integrity.
- A commitment to and knowledge of the responsibilities of law enforcement and the need to protect the constitutional rights of officers and citizens.
- A commitment to the purposes and roles of civilian oversight as defined in the Seattle Municipal Code.
- A history of leadership experience and ability.
- The ability to gain the respect of officers and citizens, and to work effectively with the City Council, Police Department and other agencies.
- Experience working with diverse groups and an ability to work with people who have different perspectives on the relationship between the police and the community.
- The ability to work effectively under pressure in sometimes stressful and conflicted situations.
- A capability to comply with the appearance of fairness doctrine. That is, they must be impartial, not prejudge issues, not have a bias towards either side in disputes, and not have conflicts of interest.
- OPA Review Board members must be high school graduates, United States citizens, and at least twenty-one years old, and not have any felony convictions.
- At least one member of the OPA Review Board must be a lawyer member of the Washington State Bar Association
- one must have five or more years of experience in law enforcement
- one must have significant experience in community involvement, organizing and outreach.
So, clearly, my application isn't going to make it far... But ff it were to be accepted, this blog would have to be deleted and I would not be able to write about misconduct issues anymore because of non-disclosure agreements and to maintain an appearance of fairness. (and before anyone cracks on my fairness I have written posts where I site no wrongdoing on the behalf of officers).
Now, the only position I could make it on is as the member who has "significant" experience in community involvement, organizing, and outreach (I'm no lawyer and not an ex-cop). Of course, I have volunteered my time to local organizations when I lived in a different state, I've refurbished and donated computer equipment to people and organizations who could not afford it otherwise, and I've worked with large companies to establish their donation processes and facilitate donations to non-profit organizations like local hospitals and youth centers... but that's a different state.
There is this blog, but it doesn't count, and puts me at odds with the qualifications... the membership is supposed to lean pro-police by design given that one must be an ex-cop (pro-police), one a lawyer of any stripe (neutral), and one an activist not involved in police accountability issues (neutral), so my membership would be excluded on this alone, plus the blog and my experience being a victim of police misconduct means the "appearance of impartiality" and "ability to gain the respect of police officers" would exclude me from the running right there.
So, hopefully my other experience will qualify, though I doubt it. I've also sent feelers out to people who work in city hall to see what they thought my chances are... the concensus: None to less than none.
But, in any case, I'll keep everyone in the loop and I'll even post the rejection letter I get, if they even bother to send me one.
If you would like to try out too, here's the process:
"Applications should include a resume and cover letter which explains how the individual meets the required qualifications and why they want to serve on the review board. Applicants should include three references and their contact information. Applications are due March 28, 2008, by 5:00 p.m. Applications may be mailed to Councilmember Tim Burgess, Chair, Public Safety, Human Services, and Education Committee, Seattle City Council, P. O. Box 34025, Seattle, WA 98124-4025; e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org; or faxed to 206-684-8587. If faxing, please note on a cover sheet that the materials are to be delivered to Councilmember Burgess.
For additional information, review the accompanying OPA Review Board Appointment Fact Sheet, or call Councilmember Tim Burgess’ office at 206-684-8806."
If anyone has any suggestions before I write up this resume or if anyone wants to act as a reference... or if anyone just wants to laugh at me for agreeing to this utter foolishness, let me know.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
As negotiations between the US Department of Justice and the King County Jail continue over findings of deadly constitutional rights violations that the DOJ investigation found to have occurred at the Seattle jail in November 2007, we've continued to receive credible reports that those same abuses are still occuring at that facility.
As recently as last week we have received reports of pre-trial detainees being denied medical care and suffering needlessly before even getting their day in court, including at least one case where a needlessly mistreated detainee was later cleared of wrongdoing. This type of abuse goes against everything the United States is supposed to stand for and illustrates how these inhumane abuses are clear violations of constitutional rights for pre-trial detainees... detainees that should be considered and treated as innocent citizens prior to their day in court.
Such ongoing cases of mistreatment in the King County Jail clearly illustrate how King County's public relations efforts are clearly just attempts to whitewash the problems that still occur at the facility and how their belief that such abuses are not a violation of constitutionally protected rights directly affects detainee treatment.
After all, if the county government and director of the department of corrections believe that detainees have no rights, then the corrections officers will not see any reason to treat detainees humanely. This also makes statements by Reed Holgeerts, the director of the Department of Adult and Jeuvenile Detention, that offering officers OPTIONAL training is a valid solution for mistreatment clearly mistaken.
Unfortunately, these ongoing incidences of mistreatment also seem to indicate that the DOJ is not continuing to monitor the jail while negotiations over the findings continue, which indicates that they would not likely continue to monitor the jail after reaching an agreement with the county. This essentially allows the county to continue abusing pre-trial detainees and denying them their constitutional right to protection from cruel and unusual punishment while being investigated for doing just that.
Our sympathies to all who continue to suffer needless abuses at the deadly King County Jail.
*updated 2:08pm with correction to clarify that we've received reports of abuse (see comments).
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Just days after running a stunning series of articles that served to expose several instances of institutionalized misconduct within the Seattle Police Department, the Seattle Post Intelligencer issued forth an unfortunate opinion piece from it's own editorial staff entitled "Seattle Police: Healing Reviews".
This flawed editorial is full of apologetic spin and questionable assertions in an apparent attempt to kowtow to the police department and the Seattle Police Officer's Guild. While this is understandable given the intense pressure from and threats made from officers and members of the police guild in response to the series; it is still regrettable because it only serves to nullify any possible progress the investigative reporting might have brought to the city's desperate efforts to bring about police accountability reforms against the fierce opposition by the police guild.
Within this flawed editorial, the editors cite one of their own paper's articles that served to demonstrate the utter powerlessness of the police department's own internal investigative branch, the Office of Professional Accountability (OPA), by showing that it is only capable of making recommendations and not investigating problems on it's own, here they state:
"It's encouraging that a ranking officer promised last week that a systematic review of some obstruction arrests would be recommended. In the context of other changes being made by the department, even the rather limited pledge speaks to continuing efforts to improve accountability, professionalism and community relations."
A limited pledge indeed... in fact, it's a pledge that means absolutely nothing at all because even if the OPA's recommendation was followed and an investigation found evidence of wrongdoing, the guild will simply step in and refuse to allow the city to discipline any officers, which it can do because such investigative findings could not be used to discipline officers because it would go against their contract with the city.
This brings us to another flawed part of this editorial which states:
"In a sweeping reorganization announced last week, Chief Gil Kerlikowske created a new Office of Ethics and Professional Responsibility, which will be headed by a veteran officer with a reputation as a disciplinarian."
This misstates the importance of the new office of ethics which is actually just as powerless as the OPA since it can only make recommendations as well... it cannot actually DO anything about misconduct at all. Therefore, this new Office Of Ethics and Professional Responsibility isn't much of a "sweeping change", especially without all of the other 28 recommended accountability changes made by the mayor's review panel (PARP), the same recommendations that the guild has fought tooth and nail.
This brings us to the unfortunate falsehood in the editorial, here:
"Those steps follow on impressive efforts by Mayor Greg Nickels, Kerlikowske and, to some extent, the police guild to follow up on an accountability task force's recommendations."
There are NO indications anywhere that the guild has done anything other than fight the recommended accountability reforms and it has completely denied that any problems exist in the department whatsoever as a basis for it's resistance against accountability reforms.
We call on the Seattle Post Intelligencer to cite a specific case of the guild making any effort whatsoever to improve the police misconduct accountability process within the Seattle Police Department that it wasn't forced to accept via arbitration in early 2000's when contract negotiations broke down over the guild's utter refusal to accept accountability reforms... just as they did this time as well.
The unfortunate fact is that they cannot, there is no effort that the guild has undertaken at any time to "bring about healing" by improving police accountability and professionalism, in fact they've only fought against such efforts to heal the gigantic rift that exists between the Seattle Police Department and the community that they supposedly serve.
Healing any injury requires that we identify that injury, diagnose it's cause, and then commit to a treatment plan... Sadly, such irresponsible pieces of journalistic bias only serve to further injure the relationship between the police and the community by pretending that placing a colorful bandaid over a deep and festering wound is all the healing we need.
Saturday, March 1, 2008
The contract talks between the Seattle Police Officer's Guild and the City of Seattle appear to be completely shut down after the city revealed details about the salaries the guild was turning down. The guild's refusal to accept all 29 of the mayor's Police Accountability Review Panel's (PARP) recommended reforms to the Seattle Police Department's police accountability and oversight system cost members as much as 33.9% in salary raises and the city appealed to guild members themselves, who were unaware of just how much money their guild was sacrificing in it's battle against accountability improvements, to try and restart the failed contract talks.
While guild representatives have stated to the press that they were close to a deal, sources close to the negotiations have said that talks had completely broken down as early as the beginning of February. The assertion that talks had stalled long before the city's appeal to members appears to be backed up by the fact that the guild itself had started plans on February 8 to picket city hall and disrupt city functions by pressuring other unions to not cross their "informational pickets".
The main matter of contention appears to be one of the 29 recommended reforms that deals with the current 180 day limit to investigations on police misconduct. This time limit was cited as the loophole that allowed an SPD officer who was found to have brutally assaulted Alley-Barnes to go unpunished, and ultimately promoted, because the 180 day limit on investigations expired.
The Stranger interviewed guild sources, where the president of the guild said this about the recommended reform to the 180 day rule:
"One of SPOG’s major objections was to one of the mayor’s 29 Points for improving police accountability. The current SPD contract requires internal investigations into misconduct to be completed within 180 days, which has allowed several officers to escape punishment. The City wants to remove the 180-day window, and have investigation be at the discretion of OPA’s director.
According to O’Neil (president of the guild), that’s just not going to happen. “There’s no amount of money we’re ever going to agree to for that.” he says.""
The PARP recommendation concerning the 180 day rule was intended to shut down a very specific loophole in the disciplinary process when officers who had been found to have been guilty of misconduct by an internal investigation would reveal "new facts" to the chief in private meetings that would sway the chief to overrule the internal investigative findings as a way to bypass the internal investigative process all together, thereby not allowing the investigators to substantiate claims made to the chief that resulted in exonerations.
This recommendation seeks to shut that loophole by working with other recommendations that would force the chief to defer "new facts" uncovered in his disciplinary meetings back to internal affairs for further investigation. Without a way to exempt the 180 day limit, an officer can avoid punishment for misconduct by using delay tactics and then revealing "new details" to the chief, which would force deferral back to investigations which would result in an expiration of the 180 day limit while the new details were investigated.
As we can see, all of the 29 recommendations are intertwined and the loss of one recommendation during negotiations can render all of the reforms completely powerless... and as expected, the guild is fighting against the key reform items that would render all of the reform recommendations powerless to hold officers accountable when they participate in acts of misconduct or abuse.
Currently, since talks have completely melted down, we expect that the contract negotiations will move to arbitration, which will ultimately result in no accountability reforms and minimal pay increases for officers as well. Indeed, as council member Licata mentioned in one reply, the only way to enable the city to discipline problematic officers may well be for the courts, or the feds, to get involved by issuing injunctions.
The chances for a federal investigation may be possible now due to recent investigative reports by The Seattle Post Intelligencer that have unveiled clear patterns of abuse and civil rights violations, which are what federal authorities typically look for to initiate investigations like the one they performed at the King County Jail.
Indeed, as it appears the city is powerless to stop the police guild from protecting problematic officers, the citizens of Seattle Washington may have to turn to Washington DC for their only hope in protecting their rights from a police department that refuses to be controlled by the city it serves.
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