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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How Many Lawsuits, Seattle?

The Seattle Times reported yesterday, (and that report has since been parroted nonstop elsewhere), that the city of Seattle has lost or settled three police misconduct lawsuits in the last year when they reported on the most recent settled lawsuit that involved a young lady who had to have reconstructive surgery after her encounter with the Seattle police in 2006.



Try again...

July, 2008
Brittany Beaulieu receives $115,000 settlement from the city over an incident where an officer slammed her face into the pavement resulting in a compound facial fracture when she was shouting legal advice to a friend who was being charged with DUI.

JUNE, 2008
The city pays out a $5,000 settlement for Brad Nebinger who accused SPD officers of roughing him up before transporting him the the King County Jail, where he was assaulted again by a jail guard (King County settled that case for $20,000)

May, 2008
Romelle Bradford wins $269,000 lawsuit over wrongful arrest and use of force when he was knocked to the ground by an SPD officer while he was working at a Boys and Girls Club event.

February, 2008
Seattle pays a $20,000 settlement to Aaron Claxton, a Boys and Girls Club counselor, who was repeatedly tasered and then left to sit handcuffed in his own driveway while SPD ACT officers, who pulled him over because they thought he didn't belong in the neighborhood, tried to think of what to charge him with. Ultimately he was charged with "obstruction" which the prosecutor promptly dropped due to lack of evidence.

November, 2007

Bogdan Mohora wins an $8,000 settlement from Seattle over an incident where he was arrested and detained merely for taking pictures of an SPD arrest in progress.

November, 2007
Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes wins a $185,000 settlement over an incident where SPD officers lifted and threw him to the ground by his crotch, brutally beat, repeatedly kicked, and then arrested him for asking an officer why he was citing his friend for littering when his friend put out a cigarette on the ground.

That is at least twice as many as you cited by my count and there is no sign that it's letting up either. In fact, as I hear it, there are several other lawsuits in progress against the city and it's police force, including:

  • An incident where a pregnant woman was tasered in her car for refusing to sign a traffic ticket.
  • another incident where a man arrested at an anti-war protest for allegedly throwing water on a pro-war protester was pinned to the ground and unable to breathe because officers pinned his arms under him so he couldn't comply with commands to put his arms behind him.
  • also, the well known Post Alley incident has spurred a lawsuit against an off-duty SPD officer who shot an unarmed defense attorney, the city has set aside $46,000 to pay it's private law firm to defend him and help him with his counter-suit.
  • and apparently a pending suit that includes the person who claims he used his cell-phone to photograph the Alley-Barnes beating and that SPD officers erased his camera-phone when he was arrested and then released for photographing the incident.

There are others as well... several it seems when looking through the federal court dockets... and this appears to starkly contradict the city's private law firm's attorney who told reporters that the relentless string of settled and lost civil rights suits against the city of Seattle were "just a fluke."

An inability to hold officers accountable for misconduct and then paying out the nose to hire private attorneys on the taxpayers dime to defend their behavior no matter what is not a fluke, it's a recipe for encouraging more misconduct, and this string of lawsuits that continues onward in the foreseeable future proves it.

Update: Looks like the Times fixed it by clarifying they were only talking about six-figure lawsuits... but it's still misleading later in the article as they talk about those suits as if they were the only ones that happened in the last 12 months.


Anonymous said...

I am participating in the Seattle Community police academy and have found it very helpful in uderstanding what and why of policing. It has been interesting and informative. Also, I did a reide along which really exposed me to the difficulties of being an officer and having to make split second decisions and have multiple people later question you because hinsight is always 20-20. Try it, you might learn something.

Packratt said...


So, a few days in a citizens on patrol camp and a ride along with a select cop chosen for his people skills has convinced you that just pinning a badge on someone's chest makes them somehow incapable of doing anything wrong? That's pretty effective.

Sure, there are good cops out there, something I do point out from time to time if you actually bothered to read more than just one entry on this site. But there are also officers out there who have done some pretty horrific things by misusing the authority granted to them. The difference between you and I isn't a ride-along, it's that I'm honest enough to admit there are both good and bad cops in this world... either that or just not as naive as you appear to be.

In any case, this article isn't about my judgment, it's about the judgment of the courts when they determined officers were in the wrong and the city in the cases it decided it was better to settle the case for less than what they would have lost by taking a case to court.

Thank you for the comment.

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