I was reading through the latest Seattle Police Department's "Office of Professional Accountability" auditor's report and ran across an example that highlights some of the more glaring problems with police brutality in Seattle and how the problem will continue to build distrust between the public and the Seattle Police Department.
The following was taken directly from pages 5 and 6 of the OPA Auditor's latest report, edited to make it more readable.
An individual involved in a "Terry" stop had been explicitly told he was free to leave. However, a second officer claimed he did not hear this and said he thought he saw the individual, who had his hands in his pockets, walk towards the first officer in what he claimed was "an aggressive manner". The second officer yelled what he claims was a command to stop, and the suspect ran. Another cruiser arrived at that time and, observing the chase, joined in the pursuit without knowing what the pursuit was about.
They then chased the man across Aurora Avenue, without even understanding what was going on. Pursuing officers drove the wrong way on Aurora, and then up onto the sidewalk to chase the man back into the street. An officer then decided to tase the man, "for public safety", but did so when the man was 15 feet away and in the middle of Aurora Avenue, which was described as busy, dark, and wet at the time.
The subject was tased in the head and went down head-first since he couldn't use his hands to break his fall after being stunned in the head. The resulting struggle between five officers and the wounded suspect included six additional tasings that lasted a total of 35 seconds, which all occurred in the middle of the busy street.
The man was then hit in the head multiple times to "get his attention" despite the fact that someone was holding his head against the pavement and he was bleeding from his head wounds at the time. One officer's knee and body weight held his left shoulder down, another's knee was on top of his head, and yet another's knee was on his upper arm all while yet another officer was hitting him in the lower back (kidney punches) and yet another kept tasing him because officers claimed he was "squirming".
The suspect could recall little of what happened because of the tasing and subsequent beating he received.
The OPA exonerated all officers involved in the obviously unnecessary chase and subsequent beating, as usual. However, the auditor had the following to say about the investigation by OPA officers, who are only regular duty officers pulled off street duty involuntarily to perform a stint as internal investigations officers.
I was very critical of the investigation by the OPA IS in this case. The interviews were full of leading and "conclusory" questions. The interviewing sergeant kept suggesting justifications to the officers and answers to the civilian witness, supplying words like "flailing his arms" or "animated" despite the independent witness' description that the suspect did nothing aggressive and appeared to be cooperating.
The sergeant was also incredulous when interviewing the suspect, criticizing him for not filing a complaint until seven months after the event. (delays like this are encouraged so that complainants can file claims after any criminal cases have been closed and the 180 day clock doesn't start until the complaint is filed anyway).
As I've said before, one of the biggest problems that the mayor's OPA Review Panel never addressed was the biases investigators have because they are regular line officers who were pulled from duty to perform investigations without volunteering for that duty. No amount of training will make them unbiased when they investigate claims of misconduct against fellow officers, and they will always treat people complaining of abuse rudely and as if they were automatically not credible simply because the police had assaulted them.
This is something that we've stated immediately after the review was released and base it on actual experience. Investigating officers are very rude to complainants and make their own biased disbelief in an complainant's claims very apparent right from the start... and this isn't the first time the auditor has complained about investigating officer biases interfering with investigations. This does not encourage confidence in the system, in fact it makes it clear to the public that the system will not take their complaints seriously.
Furthermore, this case highlights the biggest problem with the SPD and brutality in that the brutal assault on this suspect, after he had already been shot in the head with a stun gun and went down face-first into the pavement without breaking his own fall, is something that the policies encourage officers to do. They are encouraged to grind people's faces into the cement while kicking and punching them in the head and vulnerable areas not just to stop someone posing an active threat to officers or the public, but "JUST TO GET THEIR ATTENTION"... We've highlighted this problem before as well.
This policy of brutality without a reasonable escalation of force continuum results in case after case of what appears to the public as clear brutality without just case, which further erodes the public's confidence in the OPA system and the police force itself. With such a brutally repressive and violent policy, is it really any wonder why people run from the police in Seattle? Any wonder why complaints to the OPA are down? It's not because the police are stopping the assaults, it's because people know that the OPA system is biased against them from the start.