This site is devoted to increasing public awareness of police misconduct and detainee abuse in addition to providing support for victims of police misconduct and detainee abuse. If you or someone you know have witnessed abuse or have been abused, please let us know.
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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Seattle To Appeal Anti-Oversight PERC Ruling

The Seattle PI has reported today that mayor Greg Nickels supports appealling the PERC ruling against Seattle which bars the city from allowing civilian police oversight agents from viewing un-altered disciplinary reports to identify patterns of misconduct and disciplinary gaps. While the official decision of whether to appeal is expected on Monday, after the city council, mayor, and city attorney have reached a concensus, there is no expected opposition to the effort to overturn the ruling at this time.

The argument centers on the guild's reason for contesting the legislation enacted unanimously by Seattle's city council based on recommendations from a review panel that was formed after Seattle police chief Gil Kerilowski refused to follow disciplinary recommendations made by the department's internal investigations agency against several officers in high-profile misconduct cases without explaination.

The city states that the PERC ruling is fatally flawed since the guild's complaint is that the change affected disciplinary issues that must be bargained into their contract but the city states the changes do not affect the disciplinary process since the civilian oversight committee (OPARB) only reviews closed files after findings and discipline have been decided upon and they have no authority or input over the disciplinary process itself.

The OPARB only reviews closed files in order to identify patterns of abuse and discipline and report those patterns to the city, police department, and the public. Members of the OPARB must sign a confidentiality agreement that bars them from revealing any details about disciplinary decisions or identifying officer information, which they have never violated to date.

The appeal is necessary for the city to have any chance at implementing 29 recommendations for civilian oversight reforms suggested by the mayor's oversight review panel in addition to other recommendations made by the council's oversight review panel as well.

The guild has issues statements that indicate it refuses to discuss the reforms until it's next contract negotiations are scheduled, which are in 2010, despite stalled negotiations on it's current contract which expired over a year ago.

The review panel and city officials worry that if the guild can delay negotiations or refuse to accept the reforms during current talks that they will not be implemented at all, especially if the PERC ruling is allowed to stand, which gives them precedence if contract talks go into arbitration. The panel emplored the police union to not hinder the much needed reforms, to no avail.

Of The OPARP Report and Media Bias

Before I offer an analysis of Mayor Greg Nickels' Police Accountability Review Panel's report and the reactions to it, I wanted to stop for a bit and help everyone process how the report was reported on and maybe demonstrate why this site, and blogs in general, can help people grasp the nuances that can be missed in mainstream media reporting.

Of course, this site is intended to be more than just a storehouse for reported issues of police misconduct and detainee abuses in Seattle, it's also meant to be a place where people can report instances of misconduct and get information to help protect themselves from Seattle's aggressive police force, especially for tourists and new residents who may not know about the misconduct problems here.

Anyway, as you may know the Police Accountability Review Panel, that was formed by the mayor of Seattle to review the oversight and accountability processes in Seattle after several high-profile cases of police misconduct went unpunished last year, released it's final report yesterday. After the release city officials, panel members, and police union representatives all gave their opinions on the report and it's 29 recommendations.

However, each media outlet had a slightly different take on what the accountability and oversight foe, the police union, had to say about the report... and some outlets didn't even say anything at all.

Of Seattle's 2 major daily newspapers, 3 major television outlets, two major independent weekly papers, and numerous blogs; the following was reported:

The Seattle Times gave a pretty balanced and well written report and did a fair job explaining that the Seattle Police Officer's Guild (SPOG) refuses to consider the oversight reforms during current contract negotiations, instead they might consider negotiating some of the reforms in 2010, it also presented the city's and the panel's positions in a detailed manner as well.

The Seattle Post Intelligencer offered a very different and somewhat pro-SPOG perspective by suggesting SPOG was eager to discuss the reforms with the city while it gave the city's and panel's concerns very short shrift in a rather one-sided piece of reporting.

King 5 News did a very in-depth piece that gave detailed interviews with all sides which revealed that SPOG's position was clearly that it felt there was no real need for these reforms and that it intended to fight the reforms unless they are negotiated in contract talks, but will only negotiate those terms several years from now. It also reported that city officials are insisting that they are going to be assertive about implementing these reforms, and that panel members have pleaded with the union to not hinder these reforms to no avail.

KOMO 4 News only briefly mentioned that SPOG will not accept any changes unless they are negotiated and was very sparce on details, giving the issue very little consideration overall.

KIRO 7 News refused to report on the story.

The Stranger Weekly and it's blog refused to report on the story.

The Seattle Weekly and it's blog refused to report on the story.

All other Seattle blogs refused to report on the story.

So, as you can tell, sifting through all these different reports is required in order to get the whole story since there are so many biases involved with issues surrounding police misconduct and accountability. Most people are very biased towards having absolute trust in police officers, it's ingrained into our psyches at a very young age and it flows through the reporting done by many Seattle reporters and media outlets. So it takes a great deal of effort and time to sift through all the information to find the truth of the matter.

That's why I see this site as filling a vital role, especially here in Seattle when one paper or station will report on a story of misconduct and the others will completely ignore it, like this case or this case or this case which were only reported at one place for example. But also to sift through the contradictory reports and find the heart of the issue and give it more analysis than general interest news outlets would.

Police misconduct, accountability, and detainee abuses are very serious erosions of constitutionally protected rights in the US, it slowly corrupts the entire premise upon which the American government and society were based and can utterly destroy lives and families without just cause and without recourse when allowed to continue unabated. These are very serious issues that must be reported on and thouroughly analyzed or else it will cause the foundations of our society to slowly rot away.

I wish I didn't have to write about this stuff, I'm not the best person to do it because of my condition... but nobody else in Seattle does it consistently... so I do.

Let me know if there's a way I can do it better... not for my sake, but for your's.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The OPARP Report Has Been Released

The Seattle Mayor's OPARP committee has finally released the final report and recommendations regarding Seattle's police accountability and oversight system today. A PDF of the report is here for right now and the Seattle Times has published some details as well.

The mayor is slated to give a briefing on the report later today and I'm going to take some time to review the report and give an analysis later when I have some time, so long as my severe headache gives me a moment's reprieve today... which it never does... so expect more details to come later anyway.

UPDATE:
The mayor committed to enacting all 29 recommendations for improving police accountability efforts that were released by his Police Accountability Review Panel today. He also stated that he will release a list of the recommendations the city considers possible for implementation and those that will require the acquiescence of the traditionally anti-accountability Seattle Police Officer's Guild in contract negotiations order to be implemented.

The "official" response from the police officer's union is less encouraging: "SPOG (Seattle Police Officer's Guild) looks forward to discussing the recommendations with representatives from the City of Seattle at the appropriate time at the bargaining table."

As mentioned in previous posts, (here and here for example) the guild was responsible for inserting the weak points into the current program through contract negotiations when it was first implemented in the early 2000s and they have declared that they will not consider oversight changes for the current contract negotiations currently underway, but may consider very small tweaks to the accountability programs during the next talks slated for 2010... for the right price. (one guild member, posting in response to a version of this story written by the apparently pro-guild Seattle PI reporter Scott Guitierrez, laughed about how the guild intends to hold the accountability changes hostage for $4.00 more per hour per member, which would cost the city nearly $10,000,000.00 just to regain the ability to protect the constitutional rights of it's citizens).

The guild currently has precedence legally to overturn any accountability efforts due to the recent PERC ruling in their favor that overturned legislation recommended by the SCCPAP, city council's version of the mayor's panel. Therefore, if negotiations go into arbitration without the decision being appealed, the union will win arbitration to remove any accountability changes they want.

In fact, due to the dubious nature of the PERC finding in favor of the police union, all of the 29 recommendations may be up for challenge by the guild, even the few that the city might think can be implemented without guild approval at the bargaining table.

Therefore, the recommendations, while seemingly well thought out and apparently supported by the mayor and city council, are unlikely to be implemented for several years, if at all, because of the fierce Seattle police opposition to oversight and accountability efforts. The ball is in the guild's court, and historically they have chosen to take it out of play, and by what's been said so far, this time will be no different.

UPDATE:

King 5 News has just released a new report about the OPARP recommendations, specifically it seems to have gotten some clarification from the Seattle Police Officer's Guild about it's stance on the recommended reforms after some other reporters mistakenly suggested that the guild "was eager to negotiate the changes"... and it's just as I said it would be.

In the interview with guild president Sgt. O'Neil, the guild's position is that it will not negotiate any changes to the accountability processes currently in place during this round of contract talks, even though they have been working without a contract for over a year.

Additionally, the guild states it will fight any changes implemented by the city that aren't negotiated as part of contract talks, and the earliest that it will even CONSIDER negotiating those conditions will be 2010. The guild states that the current system that has resulted in confirmed cases of misconduct going unpunished and intensive public outcry is just fine and there is no pressing need for changes.

The mayor, the panel, and other city officials strongly insist that all panel recommendations must go into effect as is and as soon as possible if the current accountability system is to be fixed and that they will do whatever they can to assert their right to implement them. Yet the guild has made it clear it intends to fight the changes, and as of now it seems as though they might win the fight against oversight and our civil rights.

A Little More Advice

A while back I wrote a post offering some tips for people who find themselves in the unfortunate event of an interaction with members of the Seattle Police Department either as a potential victim of police misconduct or as a witness to police misconduct. I promised some more advice eventually, and I'll work on a more refined list when I have some time, hopefully with the help of a real legal professional this time.

In any case, I would like to give people another useful tip in the meantime, it's one that I use all the time these days.

If you are walking in Seattle alone, I highly recommend that you do so with your cell phone in hand and ready with an easy to remember speed-dial entry for both a number of someone that you trust and who is a reliable witness. I personally have my speed dial set for a civil rights lawyer I know, since I know that even if he doesn't pick up his number goes straight to voicemail. In case I get attacked by some rogue cops for what I write here, there will be an audio record of the unprovoked assault or a reputable witness to the event that can't be harmed and silenced by corrupt cops.

If you're walking with a friend, make sure you both have cell phones, ones with video capabilities are better, and ones that can quickly upload images to an internet site are the best since the police here have been known to confiscate cameras and cell phones and destroy images on them when they capture misconduct or even normal arrests. Some have even been known to attack and arrest witnesses recording misconduct, so be careful if you're trying to record misconduct in action or else you might become a victim of the abuse you're witnessing as well.

Whatever you do, don't fight, don't argue, don't resist, and don't run. Ask questions about the officer's name, badge number, and the reason for the contact, but otherwise be quiet. Also, if you are recording an instance of suspected police misconduct, make certain that you do not interfere in any way while you are doing so.

If you've done this and do encounter a Seattle Police officer, hit that speed dial as soon as you can and keep the phone at a distance where it can still capture your voice without being a provocation to the officer. While doing this, give a narative of what's happening and, if possible, start off by asking for the officer's name and identification. Again, keep narrating what's happening, it will help you remember details and will provide the person or recording on the other end of a record of the encounter.

The idea that the encounter might be recorded may be enough to make an officer think twice about abusing you... and if it doesn't, it may well be the difference between suffering injuries without recourse or having a successful lawsuit against the officer. You would be suprised to hear how many people have to pay for their own injuries and suffer in silence because of police abuse, don't be a victim if you can help improve your odds by using a simple technique like this.

Yes, it is sad that I have to make these kinds of recommendations in this otherwise very nice city, me and my family love this town... but we're all frightened to death of its police force... and honestly, I'm about as straight-laced as they come.

I'd like to admit it's paranoia, but it's not... sadly enough, the fear of police in this city is all too real and too justifiable. So don't take any chances out there, especially when you can take a few inconspicuous and simple steps like this to help improve your chances of surviving a chance encounter with one of Seattle's worst.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Regarding Lying Cops

Remember the preview of the mayor's OPARP review of Seattle's police oversight problems, where a few of the 29 total recommendations deal with officer dishonesty being an offense worthy of automatic termination?

Well, the Seattle Post Intelligencer's investigative reporters Eric Nalder and Lewis Kamb just published a report about an investigation they performed into what happens to Seattle police officers who are found to have lied to investigators, fellow officers, the department, and on reports.

The report is pretty convoluted, but the meat of the matter seems to be that Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske appears to have a soft spot for dishonest cops while other departments tend to fire them:

The Seattle Police Department opened at least 13 internal investigations from 2005 through mid-2007 involving officers accused of dishonesty, among other allegations, according to internal records provided to the P-I.

Of the 13 Seattle cases, four remained open as of late last year. Four other cases were "inactivated" when accused officers resigned before the investigations were concluded.

...In at least three of the five (remaining) cases, lower commanders or then-Office of Professional Accountability Director Sam Pailca recommended dishonesty-related charges be sustained against accused officers. And in a fourth case, a high-profile case involving two officers accused of roughing up a drug suspect in a wheelchair last year, a civilian review board later said internal investigators should have sustained dishonesty violations against two accused officers. (the fourth case prompted the creation of the OPARP and SCCPAP due to public outcry over the chief's exoneration of the officers in question, that story is here.)

But in each case, Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske opted to sustain only other lesser charges, for which he implemented discipline far less severe than termination.

Requests to Kerlikowske for comment about these cases were not returned Monday.

Of course, the Seattle Police Officer's Guild defended the chief's overturning of dishonesty findings, saying that what the internal investigators considered as dishonesty wasn't really dishonesty, er, exactly... Meanwhile the article does go on to describe some of the cases that would have met the criteria for being an offense that merited termination elsewhere, but did not in Seattle... Apparently we in Seattle have a higher tolerance for dishonesty in our sworn defenders of, er, truth and, um, justice?

While the pending results of the OPARP review of SPD accountability procedures, due tomorrow, is generating quite a bit of interest. The fact is that, due to the Seattle police union's continued efforts, the recommendations will likely not be able to be implemented anytime soon, if at all.

So, don't expect to see any dishonest cops being held accountable for their actions in Seattle anytime soon.

King County Review Panel Gives Sheriff Good Grades!

This is the kind of story that I like to write about, that I want to write about, police management doing what it takes to improve discipline and accountability and getting results. King County Sheriff Sue Rahr is doing what it takes to reign in officers that are involved in misconduct, according to an oversight panel established by King County to review King County Sheriff's department policies and procedures after scathing reports of misconduct were appearing one right after another in the local news.

The report states that the sheriff has made disciplinary procedures more transparent and has positioned more line supervisors into positions where they can spot misconduct and react to it much faster. Additionally the sheriff has implemented changes to the citizen's complaint process that has improved accountability and transparency. This has resulted in noticeably fewer reports of misconduct from that department for a while now, especially when compared to the SPD's increasingly common reports of abuses and brutality.

Now, that's some real results! In fact, I commented on this back here about a story where the sheriff fired a deputy and another resigned over falsification of testimony charges. Indeed, some officers have been whining about these common sense policy implementations, but just like children who can't raid the cookie jar anymore, that will settle down when they realize throwing a tantrum won't grant them the right to misbehave again.

The panel and the sheriff both say more needs to be done, especially with contract negotiation rights between the sheriff and the police union, currently done between the County Executive and the union. They both say the sheriff needs more input in that process, and given the results the sheriff has brought about so far, I couldn't agree more.

The same problem that Seattle and King County face in regards to fierce union opposition to oversight and accountability efforts is playing out across the entire country, says a representative from NACOLE, the National Organization for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement. So, while Sue has made great strides to correct corruption problems in her department, without changes to the contract she's limited to what she can do just as Seattle is now.

Of course, It's still a sad contrast between the progress made at the King County Sheriff's Department and the Seattle Police Department. Sue Rahr has empowered her department to deal with misconduct issues while Gil Kerlikowske seems utterly unable and unwilling to manage his officers... in fact, the officers of his department and the guild seem to be managing him instead.

Congratulation Sue, your efforts are greatly appreciated and we hope you're able to keep up the great work on behalf of the public you serve!

Thanks for giving me something nice to write about for a change!!!

Licata's Response to Anti-Accountability Ruling

Council member Nick Licata, the main proponent of a piece of police accountability legislation that was ruled against by the Washington state Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC) after the Seattle Police Officer's Guild (SPOG) complained has sent out his reaction to that ruling via a newsletter. Within that letter he explains the purpose of the legislation, why it was needed, and why PERC's ruling does not make any real sense.

First, the legislation gave the Office of Police Accountability Review Board (OPARB) the ability to review unredacted disciplinary case files after the investigations have been completed and any discipline has already been enacted. In other words, the OPARB only reviews findings and decisions, it has no authority to discipline or change findings, only make suggestions based on any patterns of abuse that it finds.

The OPARB is a civilian oversight committee that reviews internal investigation files that have been closed by the officer lead Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) which is Seattle's version of an internal affairs unit. The OPARB does not have any say in those findings nor disciplinary activities, it merely reviews files to identify trends and report those findings to the chief and city council.

Members of the OPARB must sign a confidentiality agreement, which none have ever violated. But in addition to that, they could only view reports that had identifying information blacked out so the reports were difficult to follow and took quite a while to generate before the OPARB could review them. Also, since the reports contained no officer names, it could not identify patterns of repeated abuse and ineffectual discipline, making their role pretty much useless.

The council passed legislation to allow the OPARB to view unchanged reports and gave them immunity from civil suits like those that the SPOG and individual officers used in the past to intimidate lawyers and people who reported abuse.

The SPOG filed an Unfair Labor Practice claim with PERC by stating that the legislation was a change to the disciplinary process which must be negotiated into their contract, not legislated. However, again, the OPARB does not have any control over disciplinary findings, it only reviews closed files and reports identified trends to the council, mayor, and chief of police.

The PERC's ruling makes little sense and demonstrates a lack of understanding about what was ruled upon, as Nick explains here:

"...the PERC Examiner made the ruling that voided ordinance 122126 (and)...PERC further ordered the City to purge all OPARB "findings" based on unredacted files and to return all unredacted files back to the OPA.

The PERC Examiner's unfamiliarity with our system shows through in this order since OPARB does not make "findings" on individual cases but rather makes general policy recommendations. Consequently, there are no OPARB "findings" to purge."

Licata also seems to recognize what I did, that unless the city can successfully appeal, it will never be able to create a real oversight system to protect the civil rights of its citizenry from overzealous police officers who are protected by their guild. Even on the heels of the OPARP and SCCPAP recommendations that are designed to fix the fatally flawed system currently in place, there would be no way to implement those changes if this ruling stands.

Indeed, the SPOG has announced that it plans to file another complaint over legislation that requires the chief to explain in writing why he deviates from OPA recommendations or overrules findings since he has exonerated several officers who had been found at fault by the OPA over the last few years without explanation. Indeed, this is one of the recommendations from the OPARP and SCCPAP.

Since this ruling sets precedence, and since both the PERC and any contract negotiation arbiters rule on the side of precedence, if this stands that legislation will be overturned as well, as will any other OPARP or SCCPAP recommendation. If contract talks go into arbitration, arbiters will decide in favor of the SPOG when it contests any accountability and oversight changes, which it will do as it has done in the past, thus making it impossible for the city to investigate and discipline its police force.

Remember that the bargaining table between the SPOG and the city is what brought the currently broken system into being, as a direct result of language put into the contract at SPOG's urging that weakened the civilian oversight portion of the OPA to the point where they could not function. If efforts to enforce civil rights laws becomes a mandatory subject of bargaining instead of the laws of this nation that the police must follow, one wonders what other laws the police might be able to subject to contract talks... Because allowing this ruling to stand is essentially that, it allows the SPOG to determine who has rights and who does not, all at the expense of public safety.

Currently it is up to the City Attorney to make the determination of whether or not to appeal PERC's ruling. For all of our sakes, I certainly hope he follows Nick Licata's suggestion and appeals it. Otherwise, we effectively have no rights in the eyes of the Seattle Police Department and their guild.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Analyzing The OPARP Report Preview

An interesting glimpse of the planned Office of Professional Accountability Review Panel's final report to Mayor Greg Nickels was revealed today by the Seattle Times, (see sidebar), even though it reportedly isn't due until January 29.

The recommendations revealed so far seem to be on course and include:

  1. Expand the duties of the SPD Internal Investigation's Civilian Auditor to include more in-depth reviews of the SPD's internal affairs cases and to improve transparency of investigative findings for the public.
  2. Make the falsification of testimony, during internal investigations or otherwise, by officers an offense that results in an automatic termination of employment.
  3. Require the chief of police to explain his reasons, in writing, anytime he does not fire officers for false testimony.
  4. Require the chief of police to explain his reasons, in writing, for deviating from the Office of Professional Accountability findings and recommendations in regard to officer discipline in cases of confirmed misconduct.
  5. Require the chief of police to refer cases back to the Office of Professional Accountability anytime an officer provides the chief with testimony that deviates from what was given during an internal investigation.
  6. Prevent officers from using vacation or sick time when they are suspended without pay as the result of a finding of misconduct.
These recommendations seem to go pretty far towards addressing the problems which prompted the mayor to create this panel, and so far the city government seems to be behind these ideas, even the mayor. Indeed, the city council has already enacted some of these recommendations when they came from their own review panel, the Seattle City Council Police Accountability Panel (SCCPAP).

However, the big question now is whether or not the city can even implement any of these changes since the Seattle Police Officer's Guild (SPOG) has successfully fought some of these reforms through complaints to the Public Employee Relations Committee (PERC) when they were enacted by city council last year (here).
Indeed, the guild insists that it will only consider "small tweaks" to the current system in 2010, even though Seattle police officers are currently working without a contract thanks to stalled contract talks between the SPOG and the city. Given the recent ruling by the PERC, the SPOG has the ability to refuse any changes to the currently broken accountability process, which will likely delay any contract negotiations indefinitely.

Since the current PERC ruling effectively makes the city powerless to hold officers accountable for misconduct, council member Nick Licata is insisting that the city must fight the ruling through appeals. Otherwise, even the best recommendations in the world made by the OPARP and SCCPAP won't be worth the paper they are printed on because they will never make it past the contract negotiating table. This delay only serves to make the guild's anti-accountability position stronger as it continues to invest money in public relations firms and advertising campaigns against the city.

Indeed, after the public has waited all this time to see if these review panels would recommend any meaningful changes, it is utterly frustrating for everyone to see that the Seattle city government is receptive to these reasonable recommendations, yet utterly powerless to enact them thanks to the Seattle Police Officer's Guild's rabid opposition to accountability and transparency to the public they supposedly serve. One wonders if maybe the US Department of Justice might have to step in if the city cannot successfully appeal the PERC ruling since such a result will effectively mean that the Seattle Police Department will become a rogue agency that cannot be managed by the local government anymore due to their overwhelming advantage at the bargaining table and their persistent resistance to changes to the broken accountability process.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Police Guild Wins Ruling Against Accountability Efforts

Updated

The Public Employee Relations Commission (PERC) ruled in favor of the Seattle Police Officer's Guild (SPOG) to reverse Seattle city government's efforts to improve the police accountability process that were enacted after an onslaught of high-profile police misconduct cases inundated the city's police department with lawsuits and intense public scrutiny.

The SPOG has sworn to fight any efforts to improve accountability and insists it will not even consider accountability issues for negotiation until 2010 at the earliest. In the meantime the city has been clobbered by the fallout from numerous police misconduct cases and the police chief's refusal to hold any officers accountable out of his fear of the SPOG.

The PERC generally rules in favor of unions and this case was no exception as it appears as though the PERC only gave the issue a cursory glance before deciding in the Guild's favor.

The issue revolves around the Seattle city council enacting an ordinance last year to allow the Office of Professional Accountability's Review Board (OPARB) to have access to unredacted closed case files in order to identify patterns of abuse. The SPOG complained that this was a change to the disciplinary process that has to be negotiated into their contract, even though the OPARB only reviews closed cases after disciplinary decisions have been made and has no real authority to intervene, only make findings and recommendations.

Nick Licata, the ordinance's sponsor and pro police accountability proponent on the city council, will likely try to encourage the city to appeal. Especially since the basis of the SPOG's complaint was that this was a disciplinary issue that had to be negotiated yet the OPARB process only occurs after discipline, if any, has already been decided upon and has no effect on disciplinary actions. If the city does appeal, the city will not have to reverse the ordinance until the appeal process is completed. However, the decision over what to do next is currently being analyzed by the City Attorney.

Another ordinance recently passed that requires the chief to explain his reasons for refusing to hold officers accountable after OPA investigations find them at fault for misconduct is also being contested by the SPOG as well. Given the PERC findings in this case, it seems likely the PERC will rule against the city again, giving Seattle police officers free reign to abuse citizens as they please, without fear of being held responsible for their misconduct.

Additionally, if this ruling is allowed to stand, the pending recommendations due from the mayor's Office of Professional Accountability Review Panel (OPARP) and the city council's Seattle City Council Professional Accountability Panel (SCCPAP) will be rendered moot and utterly impossible to implement due to the SPOG's ability to kill any accountability issue at the bargaining table.

The Stranger's Jonah Spangenthal-Lee believes this will lead to a complete restructuring of the police accountability system. However, the guild would be able to kill any new systems at the bargaining table as well with the backing of this ruling. Even now it has the power to flat out refuse to even consider accountability changes until it's next scheduled contract talk in 2010, despite currently working without a contract because of SPOG's refusal to compromise on the current contract talks.

Besides, with the recent addition of SPOG backed candidates to city council, the idea of meaningful reforms being brought to the table are questionable, and if carried forward it's unlikely the guild would agree to them if they truly risked making officers accountable for their actions.

Indeed, as Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis said, "(this ruling) will be a defining moment for police accountability in terms of what has to be bargained and what is a management right." It appears as though the ramifications are far more reaching than even this statement portends. The Seattle Police Officer's Guild may very well be powerful enough to shield the most aggressive violators of civil rights from any accountability from this point on, thanks to this ruling.

The city of Seattle has no choice but to appeal, if there is to be any way for them to have any say whatsoever about how the Seattle police force is policed. Otherwise, it's going to be a free for all.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

SPD Tries To Spread More... Thin Credibility -Updated

Yes, folks, I try not to swear on this blog. But the SPD is really spreading the manure on pretty thick concerning this story about an officer who crashed into a carload of teenage girls, sending their vehicle into an apartment building, and then smacking an SUV before coming to a stop.

Both the accident victims in the SUV that were hit after the initial crash and other bystanders who witnessed the accident state that the SPD officer ran a red light without his lights or siren activated, which is what caused the accident.

Now the SPD is claiming that he was responding to a call and that SPD officers don't have to use their lights and sirens when responding to calls and disobeying traffic laws. (contrary to section 2.077 of Seattle Police Policies and Procedures which states Emergency equipment is supposed to be activated when a patrol car is driven to an incident in a manner that is substantially outside of a normal traffic pattern.)

BUT... Here's where they lay it on real thick: SPD spokesperson Deanna Nolette (no stranger to being at the center of controversial auto accidents herself) insists that the officer did not run a red light, despite several witnesses stating that he did!

Here's the kicker though, Deanna insists that the dashboard camera in the SPD cruiser shows the officer did not run a red light... BUT... The SPD is steadfastly REFUSING to show anyone the video that allegedly clears the officer of wrongdoing!

If the Seattle Police Department, the same department that has faced lawsuits from other SPD accident victims who were the target of similar cover-ups (among countless other misconduct suits they now face), and has lied about the reasons they have for not releasing other condemning video recordings, really thinks they have any credibility with which to make such absurd claims that counter several witnesses without showing PROOF, they are living in a fantasy world.

Yes, folks, it is clearly yet another botched cover up by your favorite keystone cops, the utterly unaccountable SPD.

Seriously, could you imagine the actual BOOST in confidence the public would experience in their police department if they actually manned-up and said "we admit we made a mistake, we're working on making sure it doesn't happen again, and will make it right."?!? Not only would Seattle start to believe in their police department again, but the SPD officers themselves would start to believe in their management and feel better about their jobs and relations with the community.

But when the SPD practices such outlandishly obvious attempts at avoiding responsibility for their mistakes, it only makes us less likely to believe them if they are not at fault in the future. Instead, the SPD sacrifices the morale of the public and their officers for what? Getting out of a traffic ticket?!?

Please stop this foolishness, Seattle.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Accountability Review Panel Update

I wrote a post earlier today questioning the delay of Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels' Office of Professional Accountability Review Panel's (OPARP) final report that was due in November but was rescheduled with very little warning and no explanation.

I decided to check, in the spirit of fairness, to see what was going on and was told that the OPARP has been meeting in private since November to finalize the report, which may be finished as soon as this week... but still no information on why the report has been delayed for so long.

Meanwhile, the Seattle City Council's Police Accountability Panel (SCCPAP) has been trying to meet with the OPARP to collaborate on it's final report, which should be done shortly after the OPARP report is released, depending on whether Nickels' panel is willing to meet with the council's panel to put recommendations together.

In any case, I'm hoping against hope that the final reports will bring about some real and meaningful changes that are not contested by the rabidly anti-accountability police guild. Hopefully the two panels can work together to make solid recommendations and that they are taken seriously by the council, mayor, and SPD.

Injustice In Seattle Rated a 6.9 at Blogged.Com

A site called Blogged.com, which apparently performs reviews of blogs, rated your's truly a 6.9 out of 10, or "Good" in their parlence. This places the Injustice In Seattle blog at position 34 in the Law catagory.

I appreciate that, sometimes I think I'm rating about a 3.

But, as always, we'll strive to improve.

Thanks for the honest review!

Mayor's Police Accountability Review Panel is MIA?

Last year, after a string of high profile police misconduct cases resulted in exonerations by Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske which resulted in the entire accountability process and the chief's interference being blasted by the Office of Professional Accountability's (OPA) civilian review board (OPARB), Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels created a "blue ribbon" Office of Professional Accountability Review Panel (OPARP) to review the investigative and accountability process to see if there were problems. The Seattle City Council did the same and created their own review group (SCCPAP).

The problem from the start was that the mayor's group had the appearance of being a stonewall attempt because of the mayor's steadfast backing of the chief and the SPD officers who were found to have been involved in cases of misconduct by internal investigations, but cleared by the chief anyway. Meanwhile, the city council's review board started issuing suggestions fairly quick. Some of those recommendations have already been passed, even though they are now being fiercely fought against by the Seattle Police Officer's Guild (SPOG) in litigation attempts.

The Mayor's OPARP was due to issue it's report in November of 2007, but so far still no report. The OPARP then changed the date to January with very little notice (on most city government web sites the due date is still listed as November).

Well, January is almost over... and still no word from the mayor's OPARP. No recommendations on how to fix Seattle's out of control police department, no word on why the misconduct review process is so easy for officers to game even when they are found guilty of misconduct.

In fact... Since November, not a single word from the mayor's panel at all.

So, were the findings and recommendations not to the mayor's liking? Are they trying to make it all go away by quietly killing it? Or is the city still trying to tweak the report to make the problems sound less problematic than they really are?

Two months overdue, and very little word about when it will really be out and why there was a delay is very suspicious, and makes me think that the report will be a watered down stonewall attempt... which is what most people and news outlets thought it would be from the start.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Did Seattle Police Union Hire A PR Firm?

This story was retracted, further fact checking indicated that the information was unfounded.

...However, it's still within the realm of possibility based on past allegations.

Police Misconduct and Crime Statistics



NOTE: For the latest police misconduct statistics, refer to the April 2009 National Police Misconduct Report or for realtime information on police misconduct refer to the National Police Misconduct News Feed on Twitter.

A Seattle Times columnist, Nicole Brodeur, put up an interesting opinion piece today where she rightly questions the timing of Seattle mayor Greg Nickels' announcement that crime statistics in Seattle are at an all-time low "thanks to the Seattle Police Department" while there have been a slew of incredibly violent high-profile attacks on citizens that have gone unsolved in the first few weeks of this year.

Generally, studies show that a reduction of civil rights in conjunction with increases of police brutality (studies show a 25% increase in police misconduct cases since 9/11) can result in short term reductions in certain types of criminal activity. However, those studies also suggest that after the initial reductions, criminal activity will rebound quickly and grow beyond previous levels.

Researchers suggest that the reason for such sharp increases in criminal activity after an initial crackdown on civil liberties by more aggressive police forces is that citizens quickly grow distrustful of those aggressive police departments and become less willing to volunteer information to them or even unwilling to call them in the case of an ongoing incident.

Indeed, the SPD's recent difficulties in solving cases combined with more vocal complaints of a percieved "no-snitch attitude" of many citizens by officers (the same officers that are publicly vocal about their own policy of "never rat out a fellow officer") seem to indicate that this may very well be exactly what is occurring after years of increasingly blatant cases of police brutality and misconduct tied with the very visible unwillingness of the police chief to hold officers accountable for their brutal conduct.

Typically, such situations tend to spiral down as local governments act to disable controls on their police forces and further reduce checks on their power as an effort to reign in an increase of criminal activity. This results in an increasing sense of distrust from the public and an attitude shift from a fear of consequences for breaking the law towards apathy towards consequences which are just as likely to occur whether you break the law or not. This is caused by increase in arbitrary arrests and cases of police brutality without cause. (as seen lately with the incredibly frequent violent assaults on jaywalkers by undercover officers).

It is surprising to see this dynamic being played out in Seattle and just how well the research models predict these patterns of cause and effect.

Yes, Nicole, it may all be relative, but what you are seeing isn't a casual aberration, but a very stark case of well documented and researched cause and effect... the result of a police force run amok and a city government at first unwilling, and now unable, to reign them in. Expect to see even more blatant cases of police misconduct this year, more announcements by city officials defending obvious abusers, and a further increase in more brutal crimes as a result.

Monday, January 21, 2008

SPD Officer Crashes Into Two Vehicles After Running a Red

image courtesy of KOMO 4 News

Just after 8pm tonight an SPD officer rammed into an SUV after running a red light at high speed without its emergency lights or siren activated, sending the SUV into a nearby apartment building before the police cruiser continued onward to smash into a Jeep.

Was this a case of misconduct or just negligence? It doesn't matter.

SPD spokespersons insist the officer was responding to a call (without lights or sirens) but I've seen so many instances of SPD cruisers speeding down the street and running red lights just to slow down a bit later in a way that certainly makes it seem like they weren't responding to a call, but just asserting their ability to act as if they are above the law with complete impunity.

Indeed, given the Seattle Police Department's constant efforts to cover for officer wrongdoing at all costs and the chief's repeated exonerations of cops that are found to have participated in misconduct, I wouldn't be surprised if the SPD spokespersons don't just make up excuses on the spot automatically and without thought.

Thankfully, in this case, nobody was seriously hurt. But there have been too many instances of officers disobeying traffic laws out of convenience and, ultimately, getting into accidents. For their own sakes, and for the sake of public safety, officers must be made to comply with the laws they enforce, if they are responding to a call they must use their lights and sirens, and if not they must obey the rules of the road we all follow.

The longer the city of Seattle continues to encourage this type of behavior by ignoring or covering up for this type of misconduct, the more likely it becomes that eventually there will be serious injuries or even fatalities that could have been avoided. This is why, in such cases, there is no difference between negligence and willful misconduct.

King County Sheriff Officers Update

Here's an update on a post I wrote earlier about two sheriff's deputies being caught falsifying reports:

Some additional details have come to light thanks to a disgruntled King County Sheriff's Deputy who leaked details about internal policy changes in an effort to try and defend the accused officers on a public message board. This deputy states:

Rahr has a new policy. ANY complaint from the public having to do with any KCSO deputy goes straight to Internal Affairs. Bypassing any immediate management. The old policy was that any complaint would first be looked at by that persons immeidate sgt.

This seems to me as though it is a very good policy that fits with the same model most modern police departments use since most corruption spreads by higher ranking corrupt officers promoting and pulling other corrupt officers into their command and demoting or harrassing any good officers who complain about corruption or misconduct. By bypassing immediate commanders when complaints occur, you prevent any corrupt commanders from blocking potentially valid investigations due to favoritism or bias.

While this sheriff's deputy, who is probably using government resources on government time to post opinions and leak internal information on a public message board in an effort to smear her boss, is of the opinion that this process makes officers who are accused guilty until proven innocent, it is clear that officers still have the right to defend themselves and the officer's opinion is that internal investigators are "against them" which is indicative of a corrupt force that views the public and anyone who is not a part of their little group as being the enemy.

Furthermore, the officer's viewpoint ignores the fact that when police officers abuse civilians and detainees that they are treating people as though they are guilty before they have had their chance to defend themselves. Also, when people are branded with an arrest on their record, even when proven innocent in court, they are treated by police as though they were guilty anyway, despite being proved innocent.

So it's clearly disingenuous for police officers to complain of being treated as though they are guilty before they had a chance to defend themselves while they still treat innocent civilians that way. Besides, Sue Rahr's new policy is clearly fair and not at all unusual in any way. I commend her for implementing this obviously necessary measure to ensure that all complaints of misconduct are dealt with in a fair and balanced manner!

King's Dream Remains Unrealized in Sleepless Seattle

Last year brought us news stories detailing accounts of an upstanding African American being chased, repeatedly tasered, and detained for simply being black in the wrong neighborhood. Videos of a black man being tasered on the ground after being pepper sprayed and pummeled by cops simply for talking back. Reports indicating that people of color are more likely to be charged with drug related crimes and cases of police brutality occurring more often to minorities than any other group. Reports of racist graffiti and leaflets continue to increase and often go unpunished while violent assaults against homosexuals and their friends go ignored by the police.

No, this isn’t from the intolerant south, not Mississippi nor Louisiana… These stories are from “progressive” Seattle, here in the new millennium, where people still struggle to realize Martin Luther King Jr’s dream of equality for all before the eyes of the law and in the eyes of the people. Yes, King’s dream is still but a daydream here in sleepless Seattle, even though the city insists that it celebrates that dream and that man today. Yet they let go of that dream by letting their police forces continue their brutality while turning a blind eye towards injustices against those for whom the dream was dreamt... which ultimately was all of us.

Here in Seattle, way up in the north, deep in the bluest part of this blue state, in the county with the namesake of that great dreamer; the dream is still sleepless and restless to become reality. Today deserves not celebration, but instead a realization that the dream remains unfulfilled and a recognition that King’s dream is still yearning for more dreamers... people who dream of equal, human, rights for all of humanity.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Gil May Be Incompetent, But Sue Isn't


King County Sheriff, Sue Rahr, has taken a hard line on police misconduct within the King County Sheriff's Department while Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske has proven to be utterly impotent against the Seattle Police Officer's Guild's efforts to protect corrupt officers at any cost.

As an example of her commitment of maintaining the public's trust in their police and justice system, two King County Sheriff's officers are no longer on the police force after being caught providing false testimony on written police reports. Sheriff's office spokesperson Sgt. Urquhart told reporters "The Sheriff has been pretty consistent. If you lie, cheat, or steal, you're going to get fired." This, of course, is the polar opposite of Gil Kerlikowske's apparent policy of "Lie, brutalize innocent citizens, and interfere with federal investigations and I might promote you."

One officer resigned over the incidents, and another was fired. When contacted by the press, the fired officer told reporters "I wouldn't testify against my partner.", as if the unspoken code of silence between police officers was some sort of legal defense for corruption and misconduct... as it apparently is in the Seattle Police Department.

While I remain consistently baffled by how many stories of police misconduct the Seattle Police Department consistently provides this site and the major news outlets with, we should be mindful of how few stories of misconduct there are from the King County Sheriff's Department lately, even though that department was the subject of many high profile misconduct stories just a few years ago. I think this kind of hard work towards fixing problems should be praised in this day and age where cover-ups and absurd excuses are the norm.

Indeed, thank you Sue Rahr, for providing me with so little to write about lately by performing the obligations of your job and your duty to the people... which is something that Gil Kerlikowske consistently refuses to do. Sure, you may have made mistakes in the past, but I think it's better to forgive and encourage someone who ultimately does what is right than dwell on their past mistakes. So keep up the effort towards running a clean department, it is appreciated by the public you serve.

Stranger Reporter Describes SPD Brutality Video

There's another Hays Case update over at The Stranger's blog (SLOG) where Jonah Spangenthal-Lee describes a video he watched of the Hays and Lujan case where undercover SPD "Anti-Crime Team" officers repeatedly bashed Hays' head into the pavement in front of a stunned crowd of witnesses over an alleged jaywalking offense.

Jonah says the video, which he claims to have viewed thanks to a source other than the SPD (who have refused repeated FOIA requests for that video), as coming from a patrol car mounted camera that responded to the incident aftewards but captured officers repeatedly pummeling and grinding Hays' head into the pavement that left pools of blood on the ground and on the officers while he was face-down on the ground and witnesses were screaming that he didn't do anything and asking for badge numbers.

The questions in my mind at the moment are, where did Jonah get a tape of a camera mounted on a patrol car when the SPD is notorious for denying access to such videos?

My first thought is the defense, but I know someone put the fear of god almighty into my defense lawyer who, while we're on great terms, instantly goes silent whenever I ask for the video and pictures the police have of my blood soaked and mangled face from last year.

Also, how did Jonah get access to disciplinary records for the ACT when reporters often site the SPD as the only department in the state that keeps it's disciplinary records secret?

Sure, the accounts of the SPD's ACT are documented in news articles all over the place, but I'm not aware of anyone ever being given access to SPD disciplinary records, it's a pretty big thing with them and the SPOG.

In either case, the video did not capture the begining of the incident, where officers claim Hays tackled them despite the absence of this claim from any of the several witnesses who watched the incident. Hays faces trial for assaulting an officer on Jan 22, again, despite witness accounts calling the officers' claims into dispute.

While it doesn't look good, I certainly hope that Hays and Lujan are cleared of any wrongdoing, the reaction by the ACT officers was clearly over the top, something the witnesses have all said as well.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Whitewashing the Deadly King County Jail

King County issued a press release yesterday regarding how they are taking steps to address the Department of Justice investigative findings of blatant and deadly constitutional rights abuses that have been occurring at the King County Jail located in Seattle. While this would seem like a positive step at first blush, when taken in context with other statements coming out of King County government and specific statements from Reed Holtgeerts, the head of the King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detentions (DAJD), who is responsible for running the King County Jail, it becomes an obvious whitewash effort.

King County Executive Ron Sims and DAJD head Reed Holtgeerts issued a slightly different press release just prior to the official release of the DOJ findings of potentially deadly civil rights abuses that agreed with the findings of abuse but disputed the fact of these findings equating to abuses of constitutionally protected rights. Now, since they agree with the abuses that occurred to detainees in their jail, some of which happened while DOJ investigators were visiting, their insistence that these abuses are not a violation of civil rights can only be taken to mean that Sims and Holtgeerts are of the opinion that detainees have no rights to be protected from potentially deadly abuses at the hands of their guards.

Since both appear to be asserting that detainees have no rights to protect, and since the King County council also agreed with this press release in their latest hearing on the subject of the DOJ investigation, it appears as though the King County government is insisting that there is no reason to comply with the DOJ investigation’s resulting recommendations of what it would take the King County Jail to become constitutionally sound.

When this insistence that detainees have no rights is viewed in combination with other statements from Holgeerts regarding past abuses of detainees this perception is further justified. Consider that Holtgeerts insisted that the issue of guards being caught sexually abusing detainees was merely a “training issue”. Yes, Holtgeerts insists that sexual abuse is a training issue, which we can assume means rapists should just be offered training.

But now, yet again, in the case of these latest abuse findings he is still insisting that abusing detainees and intentionally denying them access to medical care is another “training issue”. What’s worse is that he insists these problems can be fixed by offering guards “the option of additional training”, which makes King County’s response to the DOJ findings especially troublesome.

Also consider that, while King County insists that it is working to improve internal investigative capabilities, it is still not fixing the biggest problem involved with catching abuses, that being the kite system. Detainees can only make reports of abuse via a kite which is a paper form that is filled out by the detainee and handed to a guard on duty, who is supposed to turn the form over to the proper channel. What happens is that nothing really prevents that guard from just throwing the kite away.

The kite system is also the method detainees must use to request medical assistance, which is how guards can intentionally deny medical care to detainees that they have been told to ignore. So, we see that these deadly abuses are more than a training issue; it is a fundamental flaw in the abuse reporting system that no amount of training will fix. Therefore, by saying these problems are training issues, Holtgeerts is being flatly disingenuous.

Clearly, King County’s efforts are not geared towards fixing the problems, but towards a thinly veiled PR initiative that they hope will mollify the Department of Justice so that they won’t be required to actually fix any problems and continue to allow guards to abuse detainees. Until there is more pressure made to bear, it appears as though these deadly problems will continue despite the DOJ’s scathing investigation, and despite Holgeerts and Sims efforts to cover up the fundamental flaws at their brutally deadly jail.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Rethinking Burgess

In a previous post I despaired at the prospect of Tim Burgess, the ex-police officer council member recently elected thanks to the heavy-handed efforts of the Seattle Police Guild, taking over the reigns at the council's Public Safety board where Nick Licata, a long time police accountability advocate, sat until this year.

I've decided to do some more contemplating and digging to determine just how bad it could be. I've found that councilmember Licata, while no longer the chair of the Public Safety committee that is also responsible for police accountability issues, is still a member of that board and has become the chair of a new city council position that deliberates policies regarding labor relations issues, which includes the negotiation of the Seattle Police contract.

As you might be aware, the Seattle Police Officer's Guild insists that accountability is a bargaining rights issue, which is a pretty unique stance, and one that has been a major reason for the stalled contract talks which have gone nowhere since the police guild insists on lowering the effectiveness of accountability while netting officers a pay increase. (A current article about the guild's efforts to keep bad officers from being held accountable is on the sidebar or here).

In any case, it seems that even if the SPOG support Burgess is anti-accountability like the guild is that there is still some hope that the guild's efforts to rid the department of any sense of professionalism is not going to be unopposed for now. But that leaves another question... Is Tim Burgess really as anti-accountability as the guild that supports him?

I did some searching and found this news article he wrote for the Seattle Times about Seattle Police Cheif Gil Kerlikowske's refusal to punish officers who interfered with an FBI investigation into police corruption: A Failure Of Police Leadership.

Now, if he really does hold those same opinions as he wrote about in that article, then maybe my fears are misplaced... But if not, if the guild really did place it's high-priced bet right on Burgess in that as an ex-cop he would oppose accountability efforts with them, then there could be problems come next election cycle when the guild will back more anti-accountability allies.

But... for now. I think perhaps I've been a bit harsh on Burgess and I should just give him the benefit of the doubt to see what he does with the position the guild helped him get.

Monday, January 14, 2008

First KCCF Inmate Death of 2008

Another inmate at the King County Jail died yesterday. The name and cause of death are being withheld for now, but the timeline suggests the usual culprit.

The SUSPECT, a 49 year old male, was arrested December 28th under suspicion of auto theft. He was taken to Harbourview on Jan 2 and died 3 days later on Jan 5.

While the cause remains undisclosed, it sounds as if it was a slow death, one typical of past deaths from infections due to denial of medical care that the King County Jail is notorious for.

However, one report states the Seattle Police Department is investigating the death, which could also mean it was the result of an assault.

Was he guilty? If so, did his alleged crime merit a slow painful death?
...Nobody will ever know, he is another lost soul who never lived to see his day in court.

More when I can find out additional details.

UPDATE:

I'll eat some crow on this one with my predictions. This inmate, Marc Wicker, died of natural causes, an aneurysm caused by hypertension, that probably wouldn't have been diagnosed whether he was in the jail or not.

This one doesn't appear to be the jail's fault at this time...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Responses to KCCF Prisoner Abuses: Update


As frequent readers may know, I've been a bit critical of the apparent hypocricy of human rights groups who have protested in Seattle against suspected human rights abuses in Guantanamo while known abuses occur down the street from their protest site in the King County Jail.

Frequent readers may also know that I wanted to be fair about it so I sent messages to all those groups asking what their official position was in regards to prisoner abuse in the KCCF and if there were any planned demonstrations to defend the human rights of those prisoners as well.

Here are the responses I received from those organizations:

  • ACLU of Washington - Replied that they only talk to established media outlets, not bloggers like me.
  • NAACP of Seattle - No reply
  • The Alliance for Justice - No Reply
  • Human Rights First - No Reply
  • Human Rights Watch - No Reply
  • Amnesty International USA - No Reply
  • The City of Seattle Government's Human Rights Committee - No Reply

Given the response I received at the "Close Guantanamo Protest" yesterday and the responses at various message boards and forums, it's pretty clear that if I were a suspected terrorist then I would deserve protection from cruel and unusual punishment, but since I was a suspected criminal who was later found innocent, I deserved to be tortured.

In other words, the human rights organizations like AI and the ACLU agree with what Mr. Sims and Mr. Holgeerts say; prisoners have no rights in the King County Jail.

So, we non-terrorist victims of torture are on our own, as one representative from Amnesty International said to me on another forum, "Go have your own protest." Which is an intersting thing to say to a victim of torture who has every reason to believe he would be abducted and tortured again for demonstrating against the government that tortured him by himself in public. "Go protest and get tortured again, we're not going to help."

It's just more injustice in Seattle, as usual... their silence confirms they believe as the banner up top reads, it's not human rights for all of us, just some of us.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Red vs Orange

A lot of things are bugging me today.

One of these things is the "Close Guantanamo Day" protests being sponsored by the ACLU and Amnesty International on Friday, Jan 11. The ACLU of Washington state, who are also supposedly responsible for monitoring conditions at the King County Jail that was slammed by the DOJ for deadly rights abuses a few months ago, is sponsoring the event and urging people to "wear orange on Friday" in order to remind people about the abuses at Guantanamo.

That's nice and all, people should be mindful of those abuses of the 300+ prisoners held there, but it seems that there are a multitude of rights organizations that are keeping us mindful of those abuses and, perhaps, the ACLU should be devoting it's attention to the abuses going on just down the street from where they are holding their protest for people thousands of mile away.

Point A is the ACLU protest, Point B is the King County Jail.

...Perhaps, instead of orange, they should ask people to wear red; the same color multitudes of abused and murdered prisoners that have been held at the King County Jail in Seattle were forced to wear for weeks on end without being allowed to wash or a change their clothes instead.

Now, before anyone says, "but Dave, don't be mad at the ACLU for not taking your case." It's not that, it's that I know I'm not the only one who suffered there, the DOJ knows this too, but the ACLU doesn't seem to care that this equates to a class action suit with hundreds, if not thousands, of potential victims. It's not just about my case, others have suffered and have even died there in ways most horrific.

Also, before you suggest that the ACLU needs do nothing since the US DOJ did their job for them, I remind readers that the King County and KCCF leaders have declared that abusing and torturing prisoners is not a rights issue, so it appears that any changes will not be permanent, if they occur at all. In other words, there is ample evidence that the abuses will continue despite the DOJ findings, especially with the lack of attention from organizations like the ACLU.

And if you think that the DOJ report by itself will change things while everyone else remains silent... Think again. This from the Seattle Weekly that initially wrote about the abuses which spurred the investigation:
"As a practical matter these DOJ suits against prisons and jails are not even a paper tiger. They are pretty meaningless." I agreed but said at least there's an embarrassment factor, which might prompt other officials to act. "Yes," he responded, "but the embarassment quickly passes and nothing changes."

If the torture and deaths of prisoners in King County Jail don't bother them enough to spur a protest, then Gitmo shouldn't bother them either. Protesting one while ignoring the other is pure hypocrisy, nothing more.

UPDATE: I plan to go down to the protest site in order to counter-protest by wearing red and distributing flyers asking people to consider why the ACLU and other group are willing to protest against the abuse of prisoners thousands of miles away while remaining silent about the abuse of prisoners a few blocks away in Seattle.

Since I've already been threatened with arrest and abuse by King County officials and some SPD officers, I'll likely be arrested and abused again, just for speaking for those victims who have nobody else who will speak for them...

So, if you don't see any new posts, it's because I was arrested and abused or worse while the ACLU looked on and did nothing. I won't do anything that would provoke an arrest, just ditribute flyers, but I don't think my doing nothing wrong would stop them from making something up as an excuse to harm me again.

Wish me luck, if you care.

Indeed, protester, your silence about prisoner abuse in Seattle is yellow.

UPDATE: I only had time to go a bit before the protest officially started. And I'm a bit ashamed to admit that my nerves wouldn't let me hand out more fliers after I was yelled at and harassed by the people who were supposedly protesting torture.

I handed one to a protester, who read it before she snarled at me "Just what can we do for THEM?!?"

I was taken aback, and already shaking as the last thing I wanted was a scene that might attract the police who would recognize who I was pretty quick, so as my jaw dropped I replied "Probably more than what you are doing for prisoners thousands of miles away from here".

After some more abuse I just left, all while shaking horribly and shocked. Apparently it's a lot more difficult than I thought, trying to reason with people who are protesting against torture when you're a victim of torture yourself.

...seems they like to think they are helping victims of torture, but hate them when face to face with one. But I'm still ashamed of myself, I'm still so full of dread from what happened to me in that jail that I couldn't even stand up to those protesters. When will the torture and dread stop?

...for them, and for me?

While there are still people like this, who play politics while pretending to wave the banner of human rights?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Planned Site Updates

Pardon Our Dust

I'm planning on restructuring the site so that it's easier for people to review cases of misconduct. While it would work better on a regular hosted website instead of a pure blog like this, I don't have the resources to host a site. As you know, I do this on my own without any public or private support and I'm still in (growing) debt from my own encounter with police misconduct and prisoner abuse.

So we're going to be using this format for quite some time.

Anyway, I digress... Here's what I have planned, let me know if you like it or not

1. Refining the "Seattle Misconduct in the News" sidebar by splitting it into a list of years and case titles only.

2. Each year link will go to a blog post that lists all news stories of misconduct for that year with descriptions and links ordered by date.

3. Each case link will go to a blog post dedicated to that specific case with a timeline of news stories so that each case can be viewed in entirety, this way you can see the whole story from start to finish even if it's spread across different news sources and articles.

4. Otherwise, posting will occur as stories come in, but in addition any new post that is relevent to an existing case will also be followed up by an update to the posts dedicated to those specific cases.

It'll take me a lot of time to make these changes, but I think it'll really help people get a better idea of the magnitude of misconduct problems that are occuring in Seattle and give people who are trying to follow and make sense of any specific cases better resources with which to do so.

Unfortunately, the one thing we can't do is give people any idea of what happens to the officers involved with any specific case because the Seattle Police Department is the only department in the state of Washington that does not make it's disciplinary files public and refuses any freedom of information requests issued for such information. So keep that in mind when you read these cases, we never know if anything at all happens to officers even in the rare events when internal reviews and the Office of Professional Accountability finds those officers at fault for misconduct.

...given Seattle Police Chief Gil's record for clearing officers found guilty of misconduct, it's safe to assume nothing happens at all.

So, anyway, let me know what you think, and thank you for reading. Being aware of and staying informed of problems is the first step in fixing those problems.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Hays Case Update

Again, from The Stranger... as you may recall the Seattle Police Department charged Hays with Assaulting an Officer after Hays was first restrained and then repeatedly had his face bounced off the pavement by undercover officers for jaywalking.

The officers claimed Hays had attacked them first after they restrained his friend, for jaywalking, but multiple witnesses have not corroborated the officer's accounts of the arrest. Instead dozens of bystanders seem to insist that Hays and his friend were tackled by the plain-clothes officers and brutally beaten by those officers even after they had been handcuffed for nothing more than, well, jaywalking.

Hays is due in court for assault on an officer on January 22. But, as you can see, it seems that the charges are trumped up as an excuse for the brutal over-reaction by the same group of undercover officers with a history of unprovoked attacks and who have been in the paper numerous times for beating jaywalkers and other assaults where they failed to announce themselves as officers until after the fact, as reported here.

Cases like this prove to me that nobody is safe in Seattle, especially not me. It's clear that the police here are free to attack anyone they want for any reason they want without fear of being held accountable... and worse, that they can punish the people they attack even more afterward by falsifying reports without any fear of being held accountable for it whatsoever.

I wish Hays the best of luck, but historically the SPD gets away with making these kinds of accusations, I hope he's one of the exceptions.

In the meantime, lord save me if the SPD spots me in public... because nobody else in Seattle will when they beat the life out of me.

An Example of Selective Enforcement

Over at The Stranger's blog (SLOG) David Schmader posted up a message he received alleging that the SPD had ignored a request to look into a case of assault where the victims and witnesses had descriptions of the attacker along with his license plate information.

From the post in question:

Last night, January 6, my heterosexual male roommate and his friend were buying beer at the Shell gas station on Broaway and Pike when they were confronted by an angry man in line, who stated the he “fucked up faggots.” He then asked my roommate’s friend if he was a friend of gays, and he told him yes, and that the angry man should not speak about gays like that. The man then called him a faggot and told him that he would be waiting outside for him. When they went outside, both of them were blindsided and my roomate had his nose broken.

The most fucked up thinng about this is that a man in line heard the entire ordeal, called the police, but they didnt come! They only came after several other people had called the police, and a while after the incident happened. These guys are not gay, but the point is that we have a serious issue on Capitol Hill with people attacking anyone they think are “fags.” Also once the police arrived, my roomate and co. were told that nothing much would probably come of it (even though they had the license plate of the getaway car, a rental), although this technically qualifies as a hate crime under Washington state law.

So that’s my fucked-up Hot Tip, and I hope that these motherfuckers get caught so they can’t harm anymore innocent people, gay or straight.
Of course, it is suggested that the SPD officer who did eventually respond may have refused to take down the complaint because it involved discrimination against homosexuals, even though the victims themselves were not homosexual. This is borne out by what I've experienced and read as it's not the only example of selective enforcement on the part of SPD officers. Officers are obligated to at least record the complaint, the refusal to do so for any reason is misconduct and is percieved as a license for the public to assault anyone who the SPD refuses to protect.

Selective enforcement is misconduct, plain and simple. The only solution here is political pressure focused at the top, that means people have to make it a media issue and make a lot of noise, complaining to the officers or the OPA will have no effect, unfortunately. Until more people understand that selective enforcement can affect them too, it will continue to become a larger problem.

Update: And SPD spokesman refuted the claims in a call to The Stranger by insisting the officers did everything they are supposed to, they took the report and are actively investigating. Though the spokesperson refused to speculate as to why officers told the victims that they shouldn't expect anything to come of it despite being given reliable identifying information about the attacker.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The "Simple" Case of Marcel Richardson

Video Frame taken a second before SPD Officer Fired Taser Into Marcel's Back

Ken Schram, with KOMO 4 TV, has an opinion piece entitled “It’s Simple, Don’t Run From Cops” where he talks about the case of Marcel Richardson.

Marcel was tasered on the ground while surrounded by police with nowhere left to run… after police chased him as a result of nothing more than a verbal dispute. Sure, Schram insists he shouldn’t have ran, but also admits it seemed there was no reason to “juice him” (as he describes it) in the back after they had already punched him numerous times until he was already down and compliant... as shown in the video here.

Now, I agree in an idealistic sense that it’s not a good idea to run from the police, in a simple world this is the best advice and I’ve given the same advice to people before. However, it’s not that simple since not running from the police in Seattle does not mean you won’t still get beat down, as we’ve seen so many times in the news when story after story bears this out.

But running only gives them a verifiable excuse.

Sure, they can manufacture an excuse if you don’t run, but as I posted elsewhere the only hope you have when being assaulted by the police is that there is a camera somewhere capturing the fact that you never ran and never resisted, even though the police will claim that you did.

So, Schram is somewhat right, you shouldn’t run, but he’s wrong about the simple part.

However, Schram asserts one more point of interest in that he claims that the police are a gang that people hire and authorize to go after the “bad guys”.

Indeed, a great many gangs start off this way, as a group of people that are supposed to protect themselves and their neighborhood from bad guys. But a funny thing happens to these gangs, they draw people attracted to unaccountable power and those people are prone to abuse it under cover of being against the bad guys… even when it’s not the “bad guy” that they end up attacking or killing.

See, the bloods gang started out as such a gang, a merger of two smaller gangs that were started to protect neighborhoods from gangs affiliated with the crips, now they are just as much a threat to public safety as that which they were brought into being to defend against… and indeed that is the threat behind what will happen if we fail to keep that gang we hired to “chase the bad guys” accountable for when they put public safety at risk by not following the rule of law themselves.

...and that rule of law includes that authorized use of force allowed by the police does not include retributive strikes made after a suspect is already compliant as they did to Marcel. All gangs grow beyond their intended purpose when not held in check by the rule of law, the police are no different.

Indeed, again, Schram is right. Yet not in quite the simple way in which he intended.

addendum: As for why Marcel bolted, we'll likely never know the real reason, could be the police used their oft quoted phrase; "You're under arrest, we'll figure out the charges later." But seems to me that a verbal exchange, the quoted reason for the chase in the article, is not a legal excuse to chase someone down, beat him, pepper spray him, and then taser him in the back when he's already down.

...one thing is for certain, if having a verbal dispute with an officer merits this sort of over-the-top reaction, I do not even want to think about what the SPD will do to me for writing about their misconduct.

An Ex-Cop's Story

While it's not a Seattle story, I think this former police officer's reflection on police misconduct is very interesting and, judging by the types of messages left by officers here and on other local sites, seems to accurately explain the "Us vs World" police mentality.

His post was left on a message board in response to an interesting story from Radly Balko's TheAgitator about officer Sam Costales, his "officer of the year", who has recently filed suit against his own police department for being harrassed due to his testimony that confirmed a case of police misconduct by officers in another department, (in other words, for busting down the blue wall of silence).

Coming from a former LEO, that is hosed up, but not horribly surprising to me.

While I can only speak for the single department I worked in (and maybe for the dozenish I had regular contact with officers from), this isn't something that is isolated to a single department or even a bad apples issue. It started when we were in the academy. From one side of the field, you have instructors teaching you about honesty, integrity, and how once those qualities are questioned in you, that you are forever tainted as a credible witness in any case you testify in. Then from the other side you have the instructors, mostly in defensive tactics and at the range, drilling it into your head about backing up your fellow officers no matter what, the mantras of "I'm going home tonight no matter what" and "Better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6."

Which is all well and good, until you get on the street at your department and the first two things that your FTO tells you are "Don't listen to anything I say about the other officers, you need to form your own opinions" while at the same time badmouthing everything and everyone in the department, and "You don't want to be out here alone, so make sure you don't do anything to make anyone not want to back you up."

Then it starts out with small things. You see someone swipe the money from a found wallet before they log it into evidence, and you don't say anything. You bust up a party and confiscate all the alcohol, but "Hey, we don't need all this for evidence, and they're just going to pour it down the drain, lets have a party after work," and you play along. Because, you tell yourself, it's minor poo poo on the grand scale of things, and noone is really going to care.

Then you get into a knock-down drag-out fight with someone. There's 4 or 5 of you trying to subdue one suspect, and he's going apeshit. You get popped, or spit on, or scratched, or some other minor insult that goes with the job. So once he's down, your buddies give you a couple free shots on him before he goes in cuffs. Or while you're still fighting with him, maybe you crank his arm a little harder than you should, or dig your knee into his groin, or some other "minor" retaliation. Hell, maybe you get out the tazer and zap him a couple times. He deserved it, right? But because you're already heading down that road, you don't realized that for all intents and purposes, you're no better than the guy laying on the ground in cuffs with the ruptured testicle, or the bloody nose, or the tazer wires stuck in him. He committed assault, and so did you.

I guess I don't really know exactly where I'm going with this. It's been over two years since I left the PD after I started calling people on their bullshit. It ended up getting me a job offer withdrawn 4 days before I was supposed to start, and after it was too late to withdrawn my resignation from my current job. And I've been defending officers tooth and nail in a lot of incidents on this board since then, because I know how scary those situations really are, and I know what if feels like to have to make a major decision in a split second with little to no information, and then have dozens of people scrutinize it for weeks and months based on information that you didn't have available to you at the time.

But some of this poo poo just kills me. The corruption, the arrogance, the belief that they can get away with anything because the only people who would ever testify against them are people that would never be believed. Who's gonna believe the crack dealer with no front teeth, or the single mother addicted to meth who witnesses it, compared to 4 pressed and starched officers of the law.

It's hard to explain the mentality of all of this to people who've never worked the job before. It doesn't help that the officer selection process is geared to weed out many of the most practical candidates for the job, leaving you with malleable, impressionable wide-eyed no-life-experience young people on one end, and pathological liars who can tell anyone exactly what they want to hear on the other end. Nowhere near everyone falls into these two extremes, and the process is getting better as minor transgressions of youth are more and more overlooked, but you still get a solid number of people that are either already partially corrupted and dishonest, or are so impressionable that they get molded into being that type of person.

Again, it's hard to explain without doing the job. You have it drilled into your head that everyone out there would rather kill you than say "hi" to you, that around every dark corner lies a cop killer in wait, and you must exercise CONSTANT VIGILANCE (to quote JK Rowling) to make sure you go home at night. Which is a good theory to have in the back of your head to bust out when you need it, but it makes a lot of people paranoid and weapon-happy, and then they end up having to cover their asses to save their job.

For the most part the job is 90% the same old boring poo poo. Theft reports, speeding tickets, baby momma drama, etc, stupid poo poo that once you handle a couple of them, you can pretty much do on autopilot. But bad stress management can lead to bad handling of the other 10%, the fights, the gun runs, the crime scenes, the nasty auto accidents. It also causes the adrenaline to bleed over into other stuff. You pull someone over right after you just had to watch EMS scrape a 5 year old off the street, and you're testy with him, see or hear something wrong and flake out, and the next thing you know Joe Citizen is in cuffs with tazer wires in his back.

Again, hard to get the reality of it across. The longer I'm away from the job and the more I read about this poo poo happening, the more I realize that this country does a piss-poor job of training it's officer for real life policework. There's a huge emphasis on cultural diversity and street survival, and precious little on how to manage the adrenaline and stress effectively so you don't turn into a little ball of rage in a goofy hat on a daily basis.

 
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