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Monday, July 14, 2008

Seattle Settles Yet Another Excessive Force Suit

According to KING 5 News today, the city of Seattle has agreed to pay Brittany Beaulieu $100,000 in a settlement over an excessive force lawsuit filed by her attorney, Allen Ressler, over an incident that occurred in April, 2006. The case was covered earlier this year in the Seattle Post Intelligencer's "Strong Arm Of The Law" series on Seattle police officers who were never disciplined despite findings of excessive force on the part of the police department's internal investigations unit, the "Office of Professional Accountability" (OPA). We also mentioned her story in our post about police brutality being a part of departmental policy.

The incident in question began when Beaulieu was shouting legal advice to a friend who had just been stopped for suspicion of DUI. An officer, who had a history of excessive force complaints, grabbed her from behind and performed a "Leg Sweep" after grabbing her arms which prevented her from halting her fall as her face slammed into the pavement, resulting in three facial fractures that required cosmetic surgery to correct.

A later complaint against the officer was sustained by the OPA, only to be overturned by the chief and then director of the OPA, Sam Pailca, who noted it as a "training issue" instead. The trainer who that officer was sent to reported that he felt the incident was the result of the officer not being forceful enough, even though the original OPA findings indicated that the amount of force used was more than necessary to affect the arrest of Beaulieu on charges of obstruction.

When asked about the settlement her attorney told reporters that while the settlement brings a close to Brittany's case, larger issues remain. "The police should not police the police", he says, noting that "the process is skewed now towards exonerating the officer." ...and we couldn't agree more.

As usual, the news item wrongly mentions that all 29 recommendations aimed at improving police accountability were adopted when, as we showed when comparing the newest contract with those recommendations, the proof shows that they were not adopted. As we said, this is a trend that should continue so long as the city refuses to take a serious look at how officers are encouraged to abuse citizens because the broken system cannot hold them accountable for their actions.

We wish Brittany all the best and hope this settlement helps her find closure with what must have been a very frightening and painful experience.

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