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.
Packratt@injusticeinseattle.org

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Friday, May 30, 2008

The 200th Post

Well, just three short months since our 100th post, this is our 200th blog post... so here's some more statistics for the fun of it:A map of visitor locations

Site Visits: 5,450

Pages Viewed: 9,426

Average Time per Visit: 02:18

Percentage of New Visitors: 73.67%

Feed Items Viewed: 2,482

Feed Items Clicked: 1,415

Top Search Referrals:
1. Injustice In Seattle (and site name variants)
2. Police Misconduct Statistics (and variants)
3. Seattle Gangs
4. King County Jail
5. Seattle Police Guild

Top Site Referrals:
1. MSNBC.com
2. The Sun Times
3. TheAgitator.com
4. BurbCopsChicago Blog
5. Slog.TheStranger.com

Top Pages Visited:
1. InjusticeInSeattle.org homepage
2. The Funhouse Case
3. Misconduct Attorney Contact List
4. Police Brutality Is Departmental Policy
5. DOJ Report Cites Constitutional Violations At King County Jail

Additional Known Post Views Through MSM Republication:
1. The Sun Times- 235,504 (wow!)
2. Rueters- 3,174
3. MSNBC- 485
4. CNN- 37

We Do Requests

...well, sometimes at least.

Someone commented once that it would be nice if we had more national content and another commenter had said that it would be great if we had a feed for misconduct news stories from another site.

So... since we're close to our 200th post milestone and in the fine tradition of doing what one does when one has but one stone yet two birds... Introducing the badcopnews.com news ticker for your enjoyment. (not sure if I like the horizontal ticker or if I should just go with another sidebar thing though, so both are up for now until the votes come in).

Also, please excuse the advertisement on the news feed ticker up top, that's not mine, it's the ticker's...

Of course, there are more changes ahead and if you have any CONSTRUCTIVE suggestions we're all ears. So stay tuned and stay safe!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dismantling Police Accountability From The Inside Out

A lot of attention has been put on the city of Seattle's civilian oversight and police accountability system's proposed reforms lately. While the city insists that all of the proposed reforms have been put into place with the latest contract agreement with the Seattle Police Officer's Guild, the guild has been hinting that they were able to remove and weaken some of those reforms during negotiations and the city appears to be reluctant to release the details still.

However, as we noted previously, there's been a lot of activity behind the scenes to dismantle the accountability process from the inside out while the public is focused on the reform items proposed by the mayor's review panel, or PARP.

The first blow to the accountability system was when Sam Pailca's, the Office of Professional Accountability's previous director, second term expired in June of 2007 and she left the position in the midsts of the Paterson arrest scandal and the Alley-Barnes brutality case. Known to be an outspoken and tenacious director who advocated for the system against severe pressure from the police guild, mayor, and police chief that required her to seek mediation in order to get the internal investigations unit to even talk to her, she stated that she left a lot of work to be done upon her departure.

Prior to her departure she raised serious questions about how the police chief consistently overruled OPA findings of misconduct and allegations of interference with investigations, most notably with the Paterson arrest investigation. But shortly after being replaced by Kathryn Olsen, a housing and labor rights attorney with no experience dealing with color of law civil rights abuse cases, the accusations were squelched and subsequent reports from the OPA became more conciliatory to the police guild and fell into line with the city's attempts to silence the public outcry over the broken system. Indeed, after the replacement of the director the OPA became very quiet, issuing fewer reports than ever and becoming slow to issue the reports it typically did issue previously.

Following this first chip away at the accountability system, the new head of the Public Safety board, the police guild sponsored ex-police officer councilman Burgess, completely dismantled the OPA Civilian Review Board (OPARB) by telling the last remaining experienced OPARB member that she would likely not be asked to continue on and personally filtered all new applicants for the three member board slots.

Now, with an inexperienced OPA Director and a completely guild-vetted and inexperienced OPA Review Board, the last remnant of the previously outspoken OPA system is the OPA Auditor, Katrina Pflaumer, whose second term expires at the end of this year. By replacing her with yet another inexperienced and more compliant member of the civilian oversight team, it seem certain that the public will be kept ignorant of problematic cases of police misconduct that are swept under the rug.

The OPA has been very quiet and compliant lately, and this trend will likely continue despite there still being some very questionable cases of misconduct that the current auditor has been raising red flags over... and it will only get worse once she is replaced and we're left with a novice OPA that is ill-equipped to deal with the intense opposition that the previous OPA officials had finally learned to stand up against.

There was more than one way to skin the OPA civilian oversight process, and the city seems to have succeeded in killing it twice over. Now with the rumors that the last remaining pro-accountability council member will be retiring soon, it seems that there is little left to defend the civilian oversight process from becoming completely gutted and rendered incapable of serving the function it was meant to.

Indeed, it seems that it is well on it's way to becoming yet another mouthpiece for the police chief and city government instead of a way for the citizens of Seattle to police their own police force.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

About That Folklife Shooting

Seems I might have been right to wonder if the person who has been charged with 3 counts of second degree assault in a shooting that injured three people at the "Folklife" festival over the weekend in Seattle might have been defending himself. Some articles and comments are suggesting that he was attacked by someone who spotted his ankle-holster (which was legal since he has a concealed carry permit). The attacker attempted to grab his gun and the person who was charged was trying to prevent the assailant from grabbing it when it went off and accidentally injured the assailant and two innocent bystanders.

Of course, the media is focusing on the accused person's medical and non-violent criminal history instead of the disturbing question of why the person who reportedly attacked him wasn't charged since he has culpability for the shooting as well. The articles also state that the police arrived fairly quickly as they were in the area and heard the shot... however, there was still no word on how nor who gave the accused person his injuries that were obvious in the photo taken of the arrest... (though several people commenting to one article were proudly crowing that the "peaceful folk-life crowd" gave him a beat-down.)

Others were wondering why someone would take a loaded weapon, that he was legally entitled to carry, to a "peaceful" folk (read hippy) festival... Well, given he might have been the victim of an assault trying to defend himself and was subsequently assaulted by a large group of people with the apparent permission of local police officers... it seems that question might have already been answered.

It'll be interesting to see how this progresses, but it wouldn't be the first time the SPD let a crowd get away with mob mentality brand "justice" only to end up punishing an innocent victim while letting the real assailant go free.

A Seattle City Jail

In efforts to alleviate overcrowding problems at the King County Corrections Facility, otherwise known as the King County Jail, and in anticipation of a growing number of incarcerated citizens in the future the city of Seattle is contemplating building it's own jail to house pre-trial and convicted defendants.

Of course, neighborhood groups have launched opposition to the new jail based on the usual NIMBY complaints. However, nobody has been concerned about the human rights issues involved with letting a city that has a history of keeping misconduct records away from public scrutiny and being lax on disciplining officers found to have participating in misconduct operate it's own jail. For a city with a record of rights abuses, the prospect of it also assuming sole responsibility for the humane treatment of pre-trial detainees is disconcerting.

Given how the city has repeatedly failed to negotiate effective oversight and accountability reforms with the city's police union, one would assume that they will have similar difficulties working a functional disciplinary process into a contract it negotiates with any jail employees as well... that is if the city isn't coerced by the police union into handing control of the jail over to it's own unaccountable police department.

Given that the guild has opposed the city's efforts to supplement it's police force in other areas, such as the creation of a group of "park rangers" to provide security at city parks based on claims that this takes away jobs from union officers, it makes sense that the guild will put pressure on the city to let them manage the new facility if it is controlled solely by the city of Seattle. Also given the union's ability to force the city to cave in on accountability reforms while still giving officers a record breaking raise in the latest contract, it seems that this will be the likely result.

With the SPD running the jail, the ability to detect cases of unreported use of force by police officers will be greatly diminished since officers will be able to keep detainees from being seen by medical professionals at the jail, much as they've done at the King County Jail until the DOJ came in and hammered that facility for failing to provide medical care for it's detainees. Without that division of accountability and oversight of detainee care, it becomes more likely that detainees will be abused in custody. By putting the control of pre-trial detainees under a single department in a city where oversight and accountability are so problematic, the potential risk for abusive behaviors becomes too great to ignore.

Eventually, the city will find a site for it's jail where NIMBY complaints are less problematic for the politicians if the city does eventually decide to run it's own jail. Preferably the city will instead decide to join with other area municipalities to create a regional facility where the city and it's police department have less control and influence over the running of that jail, it's policies for detainee treatment, and who that jail employs under what kind of contract.

Because we know the city is not concerned with human rights, and failing to see the need for such considerations, the city will need to boost the funds set aside for defense against federal civil rights lawsuits and class actions such as the wave of suits that is just now starting to form against King County for it's own failure to protect the human rights of detainees in it's own infamous facility in downtown Seattle.

So, from a human rights perspective, as well as a consideration for tax payer cost effectiveness, we strongly urge the city to consider partnering with other are cities to build a regional facility to house detainees. Otherwise the risks for abuse and subsequent associated costs are just too great to ignore.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

While I do wish that everyone enjoys their Memorial Day, I hope that my friends currently serving stay safe and get back home soon.

I was going to write more... about how many of the people I know who serve do so to defend their idea of what America is, the concept of a free nation based on the rights of the individual as a human being, equal in standing under law.

I was going to talk about how disappointed my one friend was, who is a medic in the Army, when he came back from Iraq only to find that the police treated his own friend far worse than they treat injured enemy combatants in Iraq. He couldn't understand how they could work so hard to treat detainees humanely in a war zone while the police couldn't do that simple thing back home... but I've already talked about that when I posted my own story here and I've talked about what happened to me more than enough already.

So, instead, I just think I'll leave it short and spend my time today thinking about my friends who serve now and those who went before them, thank them for what they've tried to defend, and hope that those grand ideas that they fought for come back someday...

Stay safe, my friends... and thank you.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Before and After

So... In this story reported at the Seattle PI, some guy reportedly gets into a fight at a "folk-life festival" at the Seattle Center yesterday and, for whatever stupid reason, supposedly pulls out his loaded gun, for which he had a permit, and reportedly starts pistol-whipping the person he was fighting with. His gun accidentally discharges in the course of events and hits one man in the hand and woman in the leg with the single shot. A person identified as the suspect is subsequently caught by the crowd and is "held down" until the police arrive. The police then escort the bloody suspect through the crowd as they taunt him and throw stuff at him.

I have to admit that, in the past, I would have read this story and said, "good, they caught that schmuck." and left it at that... not a single thought about anything else except to wonder if the victims were ok and how hilarious that goofy looking guy in the costume looked in the picture that ran with the story.

Now, unfortunately, I can't do that... and to some degree it bothers me. It's not that there are so many parallels here to what happened to me, but also that my faith in the police and justice system here are so rattled that I can't help but automatically question everything released by the police to the media.

See, now I empathize with the suspect as well as the victims, I wonder if his injuries were treated of if the cops did to him what they did to me, which is let me languish without any treatment. I also wonder if the crowd got the right guy and if the police let the crowd get a few more shots in before they tool him away. I wonder what spurred the fight, and what would have prompted him to try and use his weapon like that, if maybe something else had happened and it was self defense?

So, now I'm left conflicted. Is the way I think about these things now more or less right than the way I thought about things before? Is it right to wonder if this guys rights were protected and if we're jumping the gun by assuming his guilt before all the facts have been brought to the table?

Or was I right before by assuming one side of a story was more plausible, and thus is close enough to being the likely story so as to assume this guy was guilty and deserving of any punishment he got, both before and after his trial by way of the injuries he received and any lack of treatment that might have occurred in custody?

See, it's hard once you've been wrongfully accused and punished by the system for something you didn't do, because it really just throws your entire perspective of the world on it's ear... and I still don't know which way is up half the time.

Thus I ask, which me was the better one? Which me was right? The one who existed before I was abused, or the one that exists now? Sometimes... I don't know for certain anymore. (of course, I think the latter... but it's unfortunate that it took something as horrible as this to convince me that police misconduct is a severe problem... hopefully you don't have to experience something as painful as what happened to me to convince you that it is too.)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

More On The Removed Accountability Reforms

As we've waited to see if the city of Seattle would make the new contract that the police guild accepted public, we went ahead and read through the latest issue of the police guild's newsletter to see if there were any clues about what accountability reform items were removed during negotiations.

While the city has maintained that all 29 accountability reforms that were recommended by the mayor's accountability review panel were adopted with the contract, the guild has apparently been insisting that this isn't the case and has hinted that at least one reform item, an exclusion for the 180 day investigation time limit that could be invoked when new information is brought up by officers during Loudermill hearings that occur between the chief, accused officer, and union representative after an investigation has completed. This exclusion was needed to allow the OPA to investigation any new claims to determine if they were valid and had any real bearing on the case as opposed to the previous process where the chief would just overrule the OPA findings if the officer brought up anything new in the hearing, resulting in administrative exonerations.

Previously, we discussed what affect removing that one rule had on other reform items, here's the items that are related to that rule again:


So, while perusing the Guild's newsletter, we found this quote in regards to what accountability reforms were addressed in the contract:

"The 180 day timeline, all discipline interviews and
procedures and appeal rights remain unchanged."

This language seems to indicate that even more reform items were removed than just the 180 day exclusionary rule. Specifically, this seems to hint at item 6, and maybe even item 7.

After all, item 6 would be a change to the disciplinary process by adding a representative for the investigative unit into the Loudermill hearing process, but it is required to ensure that the other related items are enforced, including referral back to the OPA in case any new information is released by the accused officer during that hearing which was withheld from investigators during interviews. Given the removal of this item, it then seems likely that rule 7 is moot if still on the board, after all, how can new facts be identified if there isn't a party representing the investigators present and how can it be deferred back if the deferral comes at the end of the 180 day limit?

So, it appears that the same problem which sparked the review of the present accountability system will remain in place. The chief will have leeway to overrule any OPA investigation at his leisure without any verification as to whether that contradiction was actually justified or based on any actual merit.

We've discussed before that this set of items is perhaps the most crucial set of items out of the reforms that were suggested to improve accountability and reduce misconduct within the Seattle Police Department. Given these developments, it looks like the city will attempt to ratify this flawed deal that gives officers unheard of raises without asking anything at all in return in the form of improved accountability.

Indeed, instead of 29 accountability reforms, it looks like we'll only get 24... the 24 which don't really address the problems that the reforms were supposed to address: officers being exonerated by the chief despite findings of misconduct and recommendations for discipline. Worst of all, the city is trying to cover that fact up, but nobody in the media seems willing to call them on it.

So much for open government and promises of having an accountable police force.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Weak End

Well, it's a long three day weekend coming up, sort of happy this one is over. The last few weeks were pretty bad with the city caving in to the police union to weaken accountability reforms and this week has ended on some shaky ground too with me being reminded of how I'll never see anything positive come from what happened to me.

To end it, last night I sent out some emails to a few of the local Seattle civil rights attorneys to see what advice they would give victims of police misconduct or abuse in custody so I could put up a new section for victims of abuse and their families so they would know what they should and shouldn't do when it happens to them... unlike how I had to go through it blindly and without any help.

Well, if the first response is any indicator, I'm sorry I did. The first lawyer was really terse in response and didn't intend to help at all. I don't understand it, I wasn't asking for his help for me, I was asking him to help his potential future clients to be better prepared for legal action in response to being abused... in return he responded to me like I was some subhuman piece of shit. It really upset me, and if I wasn't doing it to help others I would have deleted his contact info off the list of lawyers.

Why did he react that way to me?

I don't know what it is, maybe Scott from Simple Justice was right about what's happening to me... Maybe I'm part of some racial middle ground, dark-skinned enough for a bunch of neo-nazi racists to get their jollies stomping on my head while I lay unconscious in a street and for cops to torture based on what the racists said, but too light-skinned for justice when it turned out I was just some innocent schmuck. I'd imagine some people will hate me more for saying that, but I doubt that makes a difference since most of Seattle seems to think I'm less than an animal and had somehow deserved to be beaten and left on the street to rot like one.

As I said in the previous post... sometimes, it really does seem that I'm part of some untouchable class now, a person who doesn't deserve the same rights and freedoms as the rest of you, someone who everyone is free to beat down and torture on a whim... and there really isn't anything I can do about it and not a single damn thing that I actually did to deserve this.

...and nobody even wants to help when I'm just trying to make something positive come from it and help others avoid the pain I've gone through. I really seem to be that subhuman to everyone here in Seattle.

I just don't know... so, there's some more music for you to start off your three day weekend, folks... hope you enjoy it and stay safe.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What It's Like To Advocate For Justice When You'll Have None

I know, I’ve been doing a bit better lately just sticking to the news and issues of police misconduct and detainee abuse, and I can tell readers appreciate that… thanks.

While this site is primarily to raise awareness of these kinds of issues and act as an advocate for victims of police misconduct and detainee abuse, it is also my outlet unfortunately. See, it’s hard to keep all the feelings about what happened to me bottled up and quiet… and I don’t really have anyone to talk with about it when it becomes overwhelming for me… so you’re stuck having to read my thoughts from time to time. (or you could just skip over this and get to another story). My apologies for that in advance.

There has been a lot of stories lately about lawsuits against the Seattle Police Department and the King County Jail, which I think is a great thing because it helps raise awareness that these kinds of abuses are still happening and it also helps, bit by bit, to increase the odds that city and county government leaders will be convinced that they have to do something honest to fix the problems that create the need to file these lawsuits that cost taxpayers so much money… and that just trying to ignore it and cover it up isn’t the solution.

However, I have to be honest… while I’m very happy for the victims of abuse who finally do get some limited justice out of their unfortunate experiences with this kind of abuse. It also makes me terribly sad because it seems more unlikely each day that I will ever get the chance to have the injustices committed against me righted like they did. It’s not jealousy because I’m hopeful that what this site offers to some is the resources to find justice themselves and I hope everyone wronged does have that chance… But… it’s still terribly depressing for me at the same time to be a victim of the same abuses who was denied that same chance because there wasn’t a site like this for me when I was abused.

See, I’ve talked to so many lawyers about what happened to me that I’ve developed a bit of lawyer aversion. It’s hard to explain to anyone who hasn't been traumatized and the left to their own devices without support to try and find a way to get that wrong righted… and that’s what happens when you’re abused by the police or jail, nobody wants to help because of the stigmas attached to being that guy who got arrested, even if it ends up that you did nothing to deserve it. So there isn’t anyone to help, no victim’s advocate for you, no support from friends and your community… nothing really.

But, the worst part of it has to do with the post traumatic stress disorder I guess, because every time I talk about what happened to me I am forced to live it again in my mind… think of it as a sort of “daymare” that’s a mix of uncontrollable daydream and nightmare for the lack of a better way to describe it. The same thing happens when I read stories of people being abused by police officers or while in custody, it's a painful experience for me because it forces me to relive my own experience and imagine what it would be like to be abused like they were as well.

...but it's much worse when you talk to a lawyer about what happened to you. You have to go into great detail, and repeat details, and jump back and forth through the story multiple times…. So, by the end of a consultation I’ve had to experience all that pain and fear over and over and over again within a very limited period of time… it’s a dreadful and horrifying experience, talking to lawyers when you've been the victim of abuse… and it leaves me afraid of having to do it again, it feels like being left in a state of shock... shaking, teared up, and feeling like someone is squeezing the life out of you.

So, I’ve had to do this a number of times… each time suffering through it all with the hope that somehow it’ll result in something good. It always seems to start out well, the lawyers sound positive, some downright eager… But, in the end, each time it only resulted in the pain of being rejected… being told that for some unexplained reason, you’re not worthy of justice. They all do the same thing… “Sorry we can’t help you at this time, but we encourage you to try to find another legal professional to help you find justice.”

…so I do… so it ends the same way again and again.

My wife, being the well connected sort, has talked to a lot of friends about what happened, and has asked them all for advice. One friend from a different state got a hold of several lawyers he knows and has worked with in the Seattle area and asked them about me and my case… He got back to us recently and told us that it was the strangest thing… That normally when he would talk to these people about someone’s case they would be really talkative and helpful…but when he asked about me, they got quiet and refused to talk about it. He said it was very suspicious as this wasn’t like the people he knew and it seemed to him that they were under pressure or afraid to talk about my situation.

My wife thinks that they got pressured to not help me by someone in the PD or city government. I honestly don’t know what to think myself, but I do know that it feels very isolating being the victim of torture and not having anyone there to help or try to understand… and the unwillingness of people who are supposed to help people like me just makes it all that much worse. It feels like I’m still being punished and tortured for doing nothing wrong, for doing what I thought was the right thing and stopping two people from killing each other… and it just leaves me more confused than ever about whether everyone else is right when they tell me I have to stop helping others, because no good deed goes unpunished.

As I said…these stories leave me conflicted… one part of me is very happy for these people who finally saw justice at the end of a long struggle… but another part of me is reminded yet again that I won’t have that same chance, that I am not worthy of the same rights as others for some inexplicable reason… that I am subhuman in everyone’s eyes and thus fair game for more abuse because of that… and it’s just a matter of time until they do it to me again… and get away with it.

...after all, that's the purpose of a justice system, to advocate for victims, make things right, and prevent those injustices from happening again... and when that system fails it only encourages further injustices to be inflicted.

...so, even though it's painful... I still keep trying. For myself, and for others. All while being constantly and painfully reminded that no good deed will go unpunished.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against King County Jail

I've been wondering when this would happen. It's good to see that the King County Jail (located in downtown Seattle) will finally be taken to task over it's failure to treat detainees in need of medical care and for not doing enough to prevent the spread of MRSA infections in that hellhole. Glad to see someone took up the call to represent all these people since the ACLU of Washington State sure wasn't interested in defending their rights!

The legal discussions between the jail and the US DOJ over their charges that the King County Jail violated the rights of detainees there are still ongoing, by the way... for seven months now. (how King County could stall the DOJ for seven months over this is beyond me!)

From the report in the Seattle PI:

Filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, the lawsuit contends jail officials failed to stop the spread of a highly infectious strain of staph infection called MRSA. During a five-month period beginning in September, at least 65 inmates were diagnosed with MRSA; one inmate afflicted with MRSA and a flesh-eating bacteria died while in custody.

The plaintiff, 40-year-old Matthew Wisecarver, suffered serious injuries when surgeons were forced to dig into his hand to remove an MRSA infection he contracted in jail, said his attorney, Ed Budge of Seattle. Wisecarver didn't receive treatment for the infection until he was released from jail, where he was being held pending trial on domestic violence charges.

The county's inability to stop the spread of the disease amounted to a violation of inmates' rights to equal protection under the law and freedom from cruel or unusual punishment, Budge said.

"As soon as they close that door behind you, you're pretty much at the mercy of those jailers," Budge said. "If they don't do what the Constitution mandates, which is get you immediate medical attention, there's not a darn thing you can do about it."

Last year, the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division released a report highly critical of the county Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention, which operates the Seattle jail. Justice investigators found that the jail didn't have proper procedures in place to deal with a host of problems, from handling suicidal inmates to investigating complaints against corrections officers.


Trust me, I know they didn't care if you were innocent or guilty, if you were just accused or had been convicted. Once they put you in that dungeon you lost all your rights and you were treated like an animal... hell, worse than that as most people would take their pet to the vet if they suffered like most people do in that inhuman place.

Even though their firm wasn't interested in helping me and I can't be a part of that class action suit, I still wish them all the best of luck and I hope all those victims find justice at long last... and I hope it sparks some interest in respecting people's constitutional and human rights at that jail.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

More Thoughts On The Romelle Bradford Case

Instead of updating the previous post on Romelle Bradford's win against the Seattle Police Department, I figured it best to put some additional thoughts about that case here.

1. About the proposed internal investigation and the city's lawyer suggesting that it would have been used to defend the city and not help the victim. Given past case histories (an example here) an OPA investigation into this same case would have definitely resulted in an exoneration finding because the OPA system is so biased. (Remember, internal investigations are not done by a dedicated internal investigation department but done by officers pulled right off the streets, who are then supposed to be trusted to investigate their fellow officers and pals. It's inherently biased and flawed... and the civilian oversight portion is utterly powerless).

Hence why the city's lawyers stated that if Romelle had filed a complaint with the SPD OPA, the city would have probably won the suit. The system isn't there to help victims of abuse find justice, it's there to cover up abuse. It's why we strongly recommend that victims of police misconduct never use the OPA complaint process without talking with a lawyer (several of them actually) first.

2. The lawyers representing the city want to appeal... of course they do, they have a no-bid contract with the city to defend all cases of police misconduct and have charged the city more in legal fees than what the city pays in settlements. I guarantee this, what the city will ultimately pay that law firm for their work on this case will utterly dwarf the judgment of $268,000 that was found against the city in this case. How's that for efficient and open government?
(The Seattle PI just ran a story about this exact same thing for tomorrow's edition! "The city will spend more than $500,000 -- perhaps a lot more -- as it pays for what a federal civil court jury found Monday was a violation of Romelle Bradford's civil rights.")
(UPDATE: The city filed an appeal on 05/30/08, of course)

3. As one commenter posed... "Can't wait to see the perjury charges against supervising sergeant" (for committing perjury when he lied on reports to cover for the arresting officer). He answered his own rhetorical question of course, the answer being never. Just as the city won't do anything that would actually prevent the same situation that landed them in court from happening again in the first place.

Why? Because the city would rather spend millions trying to cover up cases with a broken oversight system and keep misconduct cases quiet with hushed settlements than actually addressing the underlying problems and policies that still allow their police officers to get away with these kinds of antics without any fear of being held accountable for their actions.

Again we ask the readers which approach they think would be more cost effective and better for community relations, owning up to the problems and fixing them, or covering them up and continually paying for the same misdeeds over and over again?

4. Finally, we certainly thought this story would have gotten quite a bit of media attention... to date, only one Seattle MSM outlet (the Seattle PI newspaper) carried the story and one local independent paper (The Stranger) had a brief link to the story without commentary in their blog's morning news roundup.

Other Seattle blogs? Not a even a single damn peep!

Again, it just shows us why this site is so desperately needed in Seattle. Without attention these problems are only going to get worse.

Stay safe out there people.

UPDATE: Looks like a few more MSMs finally took up the story a bit late. The Seattle Times ran a pretty one-sided piece in defense of the city while KING 5 ran a piece that gave the victim a chance to speak... he plans to use his winnings to give more kids a chance to turn their lives around and get more needed resources for the Boys & Girls Club... That is, if the city pays up as the city attorney is looking to appeal the ruling.

Good luck Romelle, you have our support!

Seattle Loses Wrongful Arrest Lawsuit

Finally... It's good to read about someone who was mistreated and wrongfully arrested by the Seattle Police going to court and getting justice. It's been far too long to read about pitiful settlements and to hear so many cases of people who can't even get that far.

A jury awarded Romelle Bradford (mentioned here as the Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year in 2003) $268,000 in damages for a federal civil rights case over an August 2006 arrest on charges of Obstruction and Resisting Arrest that were later dismissed.

The shocker is this: The attorney representing the city stated that if the victim had just reported the misconduct to the police department's internal investigation unit (the SPD OPA) the city would have had a better chance to win the case... in other words, the city's own attorney appears to be suggesting that the city's "police accountability" program is nothing more than a way to cover up for police misconduct.

Thanks for the tip.

From the article in the Seattle Post Intelligencer:

Bradford has a clean record and in 2003 was named youth of the year in the state for overcoming chronic truancy, getting good grades and for his work helping other disadvantaged youngsters at the Rainier Vista Boys & Girls Club in South Seattle. His case was featured in a Seattle P-I investigation of obstruction arrests, titled "Strong Arm of the Law."

The P-I found blacks were eight times more likely than whites to be arrested for obstruction, and that about half of the cases were dismissed by the City Attorney's Office before trial. Bradford is black (and) the criminal charges against him were dismissed before any attempt at prosecution.

It was after a club dance Bradford was supervising in August 2006 that he and club volunteers summoned police because of a potentially unruly crowd outside the club. (That) was then a rookie officer arrived as things were settling down, spotted Bradford jogging down the street and ordered him to stop. When Bradford didn't halt immediately, (the officer) rushed at him and slammed him to the ground.

Bradford said he didn't think the officer was talking to him because he said he was wearing a red T-shirt clearly identifying him as a Boys & Girls Club member. He said he was holding up his club badge and showing the officer his T-shirt when he said the officer decked him with his forearm.

Using the F-word, the young officer threatened to break Bradford's arm as he handcuffed him in front of several youngsters who were protesting that he was, indeed, a staff member trying to help.

After a police station interview in which Bradford insisted he was a staff member, police nevertheless booked and jailed him overnight. The arresting officer claimed Bradford's failure to immediately stop justified the obstructing charge and that a hesitation to offer one arm during handcuffing -- which Bradford doesn't recall -- justified the resisting charge.

Criminal defense attorneys refer to "obstructing a public officer" arrests by two other monikers: "Contempt of cop" and "the cover charge." Several told the P-I those nicknames are applied because the charges are sometimes abused to punish people for their being "mouthy" or to cover up when police might have used wrongful force against an innocent person.

"Sergeants, lieutenants, captains, assistant chiefs and chiefs should be alerted to the contempt of cop charge," Howell said after Monday's verdict. "These charges by their very nature are suspicious."

Several jurors said their verdict should send a message to the city to better supervise young officers. Several questioned department procedures and leadership. They even questioned the officer's use of the F-word in front of a crowd of Boys & Girls Club youngsters.

Jurors had to sort through conflicting statements. While Bradford and numerous witnesses said he was wearing the identifying red T-shirt, the police officers testified that he was wearing a plain white T-shirt. They did not explain why they took Bradford's red staff T-shirt into custody when they arrested him.

The supervising sergeant, also made a misleading statement on an after-action "use of force" report, justifying (the officer's) actions. He twice claimed that Bradford took a swing at the officer. Even the officer admitted that wasn't true. The sergeant later explained that he interpreted Bradford's holding up of his identification badge, which was attached to a key chain, as a move tantamount to taking a swing at the officer. The arresting officer also claimed he thought the keys might be used as a weapon.


In the end, I'm very happy to hear that someone finally got some justice after a long uphill battle for it. It's a rare event in Seattle, where several SLAPP lawsuits from police officers and their guild has frightened most lawyers into refusing to take cases against the city...

Seattle police have not lost an officer misconduct case before a judge or a jury for at least a decade and probably longer, said Anne Bremner, a partner at Stafford Frey Cooper, the firm that defends the city against such lawsuits. Some notable cases have been settled with payments made to plaintiffs, including a recent excessive force case on Capitol Hill and the settlement with WTO demonstrators.

Bremner said she has not lost such a case before a judge or jury in the 20 years she has defended Seattle officers against lawsuits.

"I was surprised," she said. "Appeal options are being analyzed."


But, for those still seeking justice and those who will have to in the future, take this advice to heart about the Seattle Police Department's Office of "Professional Accountability" internal investigation and complaint process:

...the private attorney who defended the city and the police against the lawsuit, said there would be no point now in conducting an internal investigation, though he added that ironically an internal investigation might have provided (the city) with more evidence to win the case. He also noted that Bradford didn't file a complaint with internal investigators, a tactical move by his attorney.


Because the OPA process is still broken, and because the city backed down and weakened reforms during contract negotiations with the guild, we still highly recommend that victims of police misconduct DO NOT USE THE OPA COMPLAINT PROCESS. It will only serve to help the city prepare a defense against your case and will not result in any substantive disciplinary action or help you recover from the harm done to you. It can only hurt you, and won't help anyone except for the officers it seeks to cover up for... and even the city's lawyers aren't afraid to tell people the fact that the system only works in their favor, not yours.

Good luck and thank you Romelle, and your attorney Lem Howell, I think what you both achieved has given some people hope in Seattle.

Monday, May 19, 2008

East vs West

In Philadelphia...They appear to discipline and fire officers who beat suspects after they have been restrained.

In Seattle...
They promote them and spend millions each year on a no-bid contract to defend them in court.

I wonder which approach does more to restore trust and goodwill between police officers and the public?

I also wonder which is more cost effective for taxpayers in the long run?

Preview of New Changes

I've been working on new link pages and have put a few up for comment and testing, so if you see some things changing you'll know why. I'm hoping the planned improvements will help make it easier for victims to find the information they need for help and for people interested in misconduct to find the information they're looking for.

Work in progress right now is focused on the site links, legal assistance links, and some new Misconduct in the News pages that will sort stories by date and by case.

Any constructive comments, suggestions, or whatnot are appreciated...just remember it's beta so it'll get spruced up when it's done.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Friday, May 16, 2008

Police Guild Approves Contract

Seattle Police Officer's Guild members voted 921-106 to approve the latest contract offered by the city that would make them the highest paid police force in Washington State (experienced officers would make over $90,000 a year under the new contract).

(update: the contract was released to the public on 06/20/08, details here)

While the city has insisted that all accountability recommendations given by a recent accountability review panel would be implemented in the contract, the guild has since stated that it has altered the recommendations and removed at least one of the most important recommendation items.

We're withholding opinions on the deal until we see exactly what accountability recommendations have been changed or removed because of the contract, which should happen before the city council votes to ratify the deal... but as it stands at the moment, it certainly appears as though the city just caved in and gave officers a whole lot of taxpayer money for a whole lot of nothing in return.

Of course, it's just a matter of time before the public finds out that it's oversight of the police force is still a farce when officers get exonerated for their brutality yet again in the near future. It's unfortunate that it will take more victims of police misconduct to bring it to light in the future instead of some honest changes now... after all, you just have to look at the post before this one to see the kind of brutality the OPA thinks is appropriate and understand how the publics negative perception of the SPD isn't going to get better anytime soon.

An Example Of Brutality From An OPA Auditor Report


I was reading through the latest Seattle Police Department's "Office of Professional Accountability" auditor's report and ran across an example that highlights some of the more glaring problems with police brutality in Seattle and how the problem will continue to build distrust between the public and the Seattle Police Department.

The following was taken directly from pages 5 and 6 of the OPA Auditor's latest report, edited to make it more readable.

An individual involved in a "Terry" stop had been explicitly told he was free to leave. However, a second officer claimed he did not hear this and said he thought he saw the individual, who had his hands in his pockets, walk towards the first officer in what he claimed was "an aggressive manner". The second officer yelled what he claims was a command to stop, and the suspect ran. Another cruiser arrived at that time and, observing the chase, joined in the pursuit without knowing what the pursuit was about.

They then chased the man across Aurora Avenue, without even understanding what was going on. Pursuing officers drove the wrong way on Aurora, and then up onto the sidewalk to chase the man back into the street. An officer then decided to tase the man, "for public safety", but did so when the man was 15 feet away and in the middle of Aurora Avenue, which was described as busy, dark, and wet at the time.

The subject was tased in the head and went down head-first since he couldn't use his hands to break his fall after being stunned in the head. The resulting struggle between five officers and the wounded suspect included six additional tasings that lasted a total of 35 seconds, which all occurred in the middle of the busy street.

The man was then hit in the head multiple times to "get his attention" despite the fact that someone was holding his head against the pavement and he was bleeding from his head wounds at the time. One officer's knee and body weight held his left shoulder down, another's knee was on top of his head, and yet another's knee was on his upper arm all while yet another officer was hitting him in the lower back (kidney punches) and yet another kept tasing him because officers claimed he was "squirming".

The suspect could recall little of what happened because of the tasing and subsequent beating he received.


The OPA exonerated all officers involved
in the obviously unnecessary chase and subsequent beating, as usual. However, the auditor had the following to say about the investigation by OPA officers, who are only regular duty officers pulled off street duty involuntarily to perform a stint as internal investigations officers.

I was very critical of the investigation by the OPA IS in this case. The interviews were full of leading and "conclusory" questions. The interviewing sergeant kept suggesting justifications to the officers and answers to the civilian witness, supplying words like "flailing his arms" or "animated" despite the independent witness' description that the suspect did nothing aggressive and appeared to be cooperating.

The sergeant was also incredulous when interviewing the suspect, criticizing him for not filing a complaint until seven months after the event. (delays like this are encouraged so that complainants can file claims after any criminal cases have been closed and the 180 day clock doesn't start until the complaint is filed anyway).


As I've said before, one of the biggest problems that the mayor's OPA Review Panel never addressed was the biases investigators have because they are regular line officers who were pulled from duty to perform investigations without volunteering for that duty. No amount of training will make them unbiased when they investigate claims of misconduct against fellow officers, and they will always treat people complaining of abuse rudely and as if they were automatically not credible simply because the police had assaulted them.

This is something that we've stated immediately after the review was released and base it on actual experience. Investigating officers are very rude to complainants and make their own biased disbelief in an complainant's claims very apparent right from the start... and this isn't the first time the auditor has complained about investigating officer biases interfering with investigations. This does not encourage confidence in the system, in fact it makes it clear to the public that the system will not take their complaints seriously.

Furthermore, this case highlights the biggest problem with the SPD and brutality in that the brutal assault on this suspect, after he had already been shot in the head with a stun gun and went down face-first into the pavement without breaking his own fall, is something that the policies encourage officers to do. They are encouraged to grind people's faces into the cement while kicking and punching them in the head and vulnerable areas not just to stop someone posing an active threat to officers or the public, but "JUST TO GET THEIR ATTENTION"... We've highlighted this problem before as well.

This policy of brutality without a reasonable escalation of force continuum results in case after case of what appears to the public as clear brutality without just case, which further erodes the public's confidence in the OPA system and the police force itself. With such a brutally repressive and violent policy, is it really any wonder why people run from the police in Seattle? Any wonder why complaints to the OPA are down? It's not because the police are stopping the assaults, it's because people know that the OPA system is biased against them from the start.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Blogged.com Censors Injustice In Seattle


Some of you might remember quite a while back when we announced that a site that rates blogs gave Injustice In Seattle a 6.9 out of 10 and we were pretty happy about that, especially since we never told them about our site.

Well, for reasons unexplained to us, that same site has since deleted it's references to and review of our site. We've tried to get an explanation but so far there's been no reply, but we imagine that some cops complained that people shouldn't support sites that question practices of police misconduct.

We really don't get much support and generally most people don't want to believe that there are bad cops out there, this kind of censorship is just one small example of that... In fact, behind the scenes we tend to get more hate mail than anything else.

But, even though this is a pretty stressful endeavor, we'll still keep at it because we know how tough it is to be the victim of police misconduct, even if others don't want to believe it happens, we know it does and we want to help support those victims and help stop it from happening to others. So it's odd to us that so many people would have such feelings of animosity towards an effort to help and support the victims of abuse.

Until next time, be careful and stay safe.

Miscellany


Just some various bits of stuff today...

First: Yesterday was the first day in several months that we didn't get at least one visit from the City of Seattle's government network. Pretty amazing, maybe everyone was on vacation!

Second: We've added some new legal contacts to the police misconduct attorney page and we're happy to report that it's our third most often viewed page! Hopefully the victims of police misconduct are finding the information helpful in their search for justice!

Third: On that note, we're always eager to hear from legal experts who would like to have us do a piece to advise victims of police misconduct or detainee abuse on what they should and should not do when they are abused. So, if there are any words of advice you would like us to share with potential clients or if you would like to see us write about a certain story please let us know!

Fourth: Site seems to be running a bit slow today, not sure why but it's probably some sort of host issue. Hopefully it'll let up soon.

Fifth: Oh yes, and by the way... we are still looking for people who would be willing to contribute to this site. No, not monetarily (I always felt that asking for donations would dilute the intent of the site) but we're looking for people willing to write articles and we're also looking for someone willing to take over the site in case anything happened to me. If you're interested, let us know!
(we would keep all contributor and backup admin identities anonymous unless otherwise requested, of course!)

Until next time, stay safe out there!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

City Wrongfully Arrests People To Prove A Point

The Seattle Police Department has no problem wrongfully arresting people, this point has been proven time and time again... but recently things took a turn for the worse when the city actually encouraged it's police force to wrongfully arrest nightclub employees for political gains.

The Stranger's Jonah Spangenthal-Lee details the latest developments in the case of the debacle code-named "Operation Sobering Thought" which appears to reaffirm the opinion that the city hastily and sloppily made a public spectacle of nightclub employees who were arrested in it's effort to shut down the city's nightlife... and that it wrongfully arrested and attempted to prosecute people for political gain.

Most telling is this portion of the story in this week's The Stranger Weekly:

Perhaps the most startling example of the operation's sloppiness comes from David Romano, a five-foot-eight Hispanic man who was arrested weeks after the sting for allegedly letting underage girls into Tia Lou's in Belltown. Romano got off when prosecutors realized they'd have trouble proving he was the same six-foot-two blond bouncer identified in the corresponding police report. In another case, the city attorney's office sought a year of jail time for bouncer Daniel DeLeon, charged with letting an undercover officer bring a gun into Tabella in Belltown. It took a jury just 20 minutes to find DeLeon not guilty.

Attorney Matthew Leyba represented DeLeon during his trial; he says prosecutors ignored some evidence because they were too focused on making an example of workers like his client. "In DeLeon's case, there was... some overzealous prosecution," Leyba says. "It was a waste of money [that] it had to go to trial."

Surprisingly, prosecutors seem to agree. "We were all hyped up from the chase," says Derek Smith, the city attorney's liaison to SPD's vice unit. "In the grand scheme of things, [seeking harsh sentences] was probably unwarranted under the circumstances."


The city, of course, has no remorse for putting an innocent person who wasn't even working on the night of the raids through the hardship of being publicly arrested and having to pay to defend himself against baseless charges, they never do.

And this is the point... So long as the police department and city never face consequences for wrongfully putting people through hell and having to go through the enormous debt of defending themselves in court against false charges, the city will keep on wrongfully punishing people for things they never did and continue to practice the kind of sloppy police work that harms these innocent people, and it will only get progressively worse.

We, of course, expect the city to apologize to these latest victims of false arrest, accept accountability, and pledge to make things right sometime... after hell freezes over. Until then, expect more stories like this in the near future, especially now that the city itself is encouraging officers to make false arrests when they already did that quite enough on their own before the city got into the game.

Monday, May 12, 2008

More Technical Difficulties

Looks like something messed up the layout so the usual links and news aren't at the side but happen to be dropped to the bottom of the page.

I'm working on it. *sigh*

UPDATE: fixed...

Cops Who Lie Under Oath Never Punished

Here's an interesting read over at Simple Justice about what happens to police officers who commit perjury... (Hint: nothing, especially in Seattle)

Reminds me of some Seattle Police Department officers who have a history of lying under oath and still testify on the stand. (there used to be a blog about it, but it seems like it was killed off)

Police Cameras: Privacy vs Security


The mayor of Seattle has created a bit of a tempest in a teapot with his decision to bypass the Seattle City Council and purchase closed circuit security cameras for the police to monitor a local park due to increased complaints of criminal activity. The council insisted that some conditions be met before approving expenditures for surveillance activities, namely protections of privacy by only allowing the police to view video when a crime is reported and only for investigating those crimes specifically.

Now, most of the press seems to be against the idea of more police surveillance and cameras as is the local ACLU of Washington State. They insist that it's a relatively ineffective approach to combating criminal activity and that Seattle would be better served by just hiring more police with the funds spent on surveillance technology instead. Indeed, evidence from the UK seems to back them up because top police officials there state that CCTV cameras have not deterred crime enough to justify the expense. The UK has the most CCTV police cameras in the world and officials estimate a reduction of 3% due to the use of cameras. (however, the expensive police CCTV system is good for bands who can't afford to shoot their own music videos)

Of course, I'm more conflicted than most people on the issue myself. While opponents insist that video camera footage never helps victims of crime, such footage did help me. Albeit, the cameras that saved me were located inside private property, they were still surveillance cameras. However, while those cameras did verify my own claims of innocence when I was falsely accused of a crime, there were no cameras at the police station and jail to verify my claims of police misconduct.

Additionally, there are other cases where surveillance footage worked against the police when misconduct was concerned... but again, those were also cases of privately owned or media owned surveillance equipment. So it seems as though cameras on private property are a great thing because they are more accessible to the public in cases of police misconduct or to verify the veracity of criminal allegations.

The problem that comes to play where city-owned cameras are concerned is that Seattle has the WORST record in the state of Washington when it comes to following Freedom Of Information Act requests, especially those in regards to video footage where an officer stands accused of misconduct. In fact, the police department never releases footage that it obtains when questions of police misconduct are put forward. The only time video evidence of misconduct comes out is when it was recorded by private individuals or the media. So, while the city of Seattle is becoming more aggressive about monitoring citizen activities, it is still quite lax about monitoring it's own employees, especially the police... the typical double-standard that insists only the public is suspect, never the government... that we must be held to a higher standard, not them.

While other localities have implemented policies to ensure that police interrogations are recorded at all times in order to limit the charges of abuse, forced confessions, and falsified confessions, Seattle still doesn't. In fact, Seattle still has to place cameras in precincts to record areas where detainees are held, interrogated, strip-searched, or transported. Meanwhile, even though Seattle has been placing dash-cams in police cruisers, not all police vehicles have dash-cams and officers do not follow the policy of turning dash cams around to monitor detainees while they are in their vehicles.

Yet, even when dash cams do catch acts of police violence, the department never releases that video evidence even when FOIA requests are filed by the media, as seen in the Hayes beating case where undercover ACT officers assaulted a civilian for jaywalking.


While a reporter from The Stranger was able to eventually get his hands on the the above dash-cam footage of the assault despite several refusals by the police department "out of concerns for the suspect's privacy, even though they stated it would exonerate the officers", he got it from a source other than the city government or police... and viewing the footage does not seem to show how the police department claims of clear exonerating evidence were valid.


In fact, even in the face of live media broadcasts of police misconduct, as in this case where this person was chased down, beaten, and then shot with a stun gun after he was already down on his hands and knees in retribution for talking back to an officer... then when police threatened to shoot a stun gun at a female bystander's face. The city still completely ignores the charges of misconduct even when the evidence was broadcast live.

Indeed, Seattle persistently exonerates officers even in the face of video evidence and always attempts to keep that evidence from the public when it does exist. While the city states that it seeks to repair the image of it's police force and rebuild public trust, it still maintains a police of secrecy and denial of access to evidence of police brutality and misconduct. Ironic considering the city attorney sits on the state's open governance board and the city insists it should be trusted to increase it's own surveillance of our lives.

So, privacy concerns aren't the only problem with the city's lopsided CCTV surveillance policies, there is also the issue of who watches the watchers... and at this point, it's clear that the answer in Seattle is Nobody At All.

Perhaps, if the city were honest about cases of police misconduct and responsive to public records requests it would be able to repair the damaged trust it has with the community that it claims to desire... and maybe then it could be trusted to put cameras out there to help catch criminals. But until then... they just can't be trusted to watch us because we know they don't let us watch them and they certainly don't watch themselves.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Hiatus

Sorry for the dearth postings lately, again... Been struggling with work and some nasty headaches lately, but should be back at it shortly.

Planning some stories on the city's surveillance camera policies that let cops spy on citizens but consistently hides evidence of police misconduct. Remember, after all, that the city of Seattle is the worst government in the state of Washington for responding to FOIA requests and this holds especially true for getting accountability and misconduct information from the police department.

Also planning some comments on Seattle's plans to build a new jail and how it might mean more liability for the city. After all, how can the city negotiate a contract that would prevent jail guards from abusing detainees and violating constitutional rights when they can't even negotiate a contract that allows them to control their own police force? ...of course, that's assuming that the city doesn't foolishly put it's own uncontrollable and violent police force in charge of the jail too.

Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Technical Difficulties

Sorry if you couldn't get in this morning, seems that there was a problem with the switchover to the new injusticeinseattle.org domain. The host provider wasn't fast enough fixing it so I just switched back and set the new domain to do a redirect to the old domain at injusticeinseattle.blogspot.com.

Hopefully everything is ok for the time being.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Our Comments Policy

It appears as though some officers are upset that we don't publish their comments when they send us harassing or intimidating messages. So, to help them out, I'm going to post our comments policy here, even though it's right there on the comments form itself.

Our policy in regards to publishing comments is as follows:

COMMENT POLICY
Please make note that comments containing harassing, threatening, intimidating, or illegal content will be rejected and may be reported as abuse to your service provider.

Also, be aware that since this site does receive threats and intimidating messages from law enforcement officers and agencies, it is strongly advised that you do not add any identifiable information in your comments in order to avoid being harassed or threatened by law enforcement officers yourself.


Alas, it appears as though police officers think this shouldn't apply to them.

Well, guys, your police department and the city may think it's great that you act like thugs in public and intimidate the people who you've already abused in other forums and websites... but this site is an advocacy site for victims of police misconduct and your unprofessional attempts to bully people and add insult to the injuries you've already caused them will not be tolerated here.

Nor will I tolerate your persistent attempts to intimidate me into shutting down the site. If you don't like it, you are quite free to stop visiting here so often and go post your thuggish comments elsewhere.

Analyzing The Guild's PARP Accountability Alterations

In order to help people understand how removal of the 180 day rule exclusion affects the remaining PARP recommendations I've decided to break it down a little bit better.

Here are all 29 of the mayor's PARP accountability recommendations, color-coded to link the interrelated items:

While not all interrelated items are interdependent, the following items are interdependent:

These items are specifically designed to deal with the loophole that allowed the chief of police to exonerate officers against the recommendations of OPA investigations that had recommended discipline, as in the Alley-Barnes case where officers were exonerated by the chief without explanation and one was promoted after severely beating a man in front of several witnesses without just cause.

Item 6 requires the OPA Director to sit in on Loudermill hearings between the chief, accused officer, and the officer's union defense in order to identify any new information revealed by the officer that was not revealed during the investigation.

Item 7 states that if an officer does reveal new information in the Loudermill hearing, that he must refer the case back to the OPA for further investigation in order to verify the new information and determine if it changes the outcome instead of just deviating from the recommendation on his own judgment.

Item 8 would give the OPA time to investigate any new claims made by an officer during a Loudermill hearing, without it, any new claims made by an officer cannot be investigated because the additional time required would force an exoneration because of the 180 day rule that states if an investigation goes over 180 days that it results in an exoneration.

Item 20 would force the SPD to terminate the employment of any officer who falsified testimony to the chief during a Loudermill hearing in an attempt to extend the process or force the chief to go against an OPA recommendation.

Item 25 would require the chief to provide written explaination whenever he deviated from an OPA recommendation for discipline.

Now... Here's the problem. The police guild has already stated that it has removed item 8 from the list, this means that if new facts are revealed during a Loundermill then the new facts cannot be investigated without risking an exoneration be default via the 180 day limit to an investigation. This also means that the OPA cannot investigate whether new claims made by officers in Loudermill hearings are legitimate and if they did they couldn't discipline them because the 180 day rule would expire, thus the nullification of this recommendation nullifies recommendation number 20.

Also, the guild has hinted that it has weakened item 20 in a Seattle Times interview to put a higher burden of proof on the OPA to prove that any new details revealed by an officer that extended an investigation would have to be shown without doubt to be an intentional and egregious falsehood.

Furthermore, the guild has hinted that it may have weakened item 25 in a Seattle Times interview, if this is the case then it would make the chief more inclined to exonerate against OPA recommendations since deferring an investigation back to the OPA when new details are raised at the end of an investigation would result in the same outcome.

So, the guild has removed one item and weakened two others out of a list of 5 interdependent items that were specifically designed to prevent officers from avoiding punishment by revealing "new information" to the chief at the end of an investigation that they hadn't disclosed during investigations... and by doing so, they can force an exoneration by forcing the investigation to go beyond the 180 day limit.

Now, the guild has said that the OPA can ask the guild to extend the deadline on a per-case basis, but consider this... one of the guild's functions is to act as a defense council to officers accused of misconduct, and in that capacity they act as a defense attorney during these investigations. If a prosecutor were to ask a criminal defense attorney if they could extend an investigation where otherwise the stoppage of an investigation would result in an acquittal, would that attorney allow the prosecutor to continue it?

No... and neither would the guild willingly extend the deadline to allow the OPA to discipline one if it's members. Without item 8, items 6, 7 and 20 are all rendered incapacitated. And since the guild may have weakened item 25, the whole set of 5 are rendered inoperable.

So, the guild has just killed off 5 of the 29 recommendations. We are waiting to see which of the 24 remaining recommendations have been altered as well, but by far, these 5 were the most important of the bunch as they were designed to address the very cases that started this whole mess.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A Video To End This Miserable Week

Feels like the battle for police accountability and civil rights in Seattle was lost this week, today I just feel like the fight has been completely beaten out of me.

I would post "I Fought The Law", but we all already know the police guild always wins here in Seattle... so instead, I submit this for your enjoyment. The Clash - Know Your Rights

Have a good weekend, and stay safe out there people.

Police Guild Might Have Won Battle Against Accountability

Jonah Spangenthal-Lee reports at The Stranger Blog SLOG that Seattle Police Officer's Guild president Rich O'Neil has told him that they have successfully negotiated at least one of the mayor's 29 PARP recommendations off the table for their contract... namely, the 180 day limit to investigations of officer misconduct, which is the same loophole that caused the PARP to be formed when that limitation allowed the officers who brutally assaulted Alley-Barnes to get off without discipline, and even garnered one of them a promotion instead.

The outcry over the use of that loophole spurred the PARP into being and the 180 day limit was part of one vital set of recommendation that would have forced the police chief to defer any investigation back to the OPA if an officer revealed new information to the chief during a Loudermill hearing (which occurs after an investigation is complete) that wasn't revealed to the OPA during the investigation. Without the ability to extend the 180 day limitation, all an officer needs to do is withhold information from the OPA and then reveal it at the Loudermill after the investigation, (and the 180 day limitation) has run it's course... (which is presumably what the officers involved in the Alley-Barnes beating did to avoid punishment and get an Administrative Exoneration from the chief instead).

While O'Neil feels this is a minor tweak, we've said from the beginning that many of these recommendations were designed to be interrelated and when any are modified, it can render the whole point of the accountability changes moot... and in this case it seems that this is what has happened. While the mayor and council insist all 29 recommendations have been achieved in negotiations, this revelation by O'Neil contradicts that assurance from the city government and seems to paint everyone who is touting the agreement as a win for accountability as a bald-faced liar.

Of course, we're waiting to see what has happened to all the recommendations before we can see exactly how much damage has been done, because it sounds as though the SPOG was able to change some other recommendations as well, especially the one that requires the chief to explain why he exonerates officers in writing when he goes against OPA recommendations for discipline.

As it stands now, it's really starting to look as though the city just handed the Seattle Police Officer's Guild a record breaking pay raise without asking for anything meaningful in return and sticking the citizens of Seattle with nothing more than more of the same unaccountable policing and some wallet-busting tax increases in the future for our trouble.

Stay tuned.

Paying A Painful Price For Wrongful Convictions


While reading details about yet another exoneration of an innocent person who was wrongfully convicted at The Agitator, I had a bit of a flashback. I was back at my fourth week in jail, where I was sent based on false charges and testimony, and I was laying in my bunk watching a movie on the television in a cell that held about 18 people. The cells we were held in were common rooms, just a series of bunks in a large area and no separate rooms or anything, so there was no privacy of any sort and only one television, so I tended to watch whatever was put on when I did bother to watch it. At the time things were looking pretty bleak, I was still stuck with a public defender who refused to listen when I insisted on my innocence and persisted in telling everyone I should plead guilty or face 18 years of prison for a crime I didn’t commit.

The movie on at this time was “The Hurricane” and if you haven’t ever seen the film it’s the story of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, a boxer who was wrongfully imprisoned for murder but eventually exonerated after 22 long years of struggle to prove his innocence. It’s a very powerful film and I highly suggest it, (as well as his book, "The 16th Round")… but at the time it was painful for me to watch because all I could do is wonder if this was going to be me, sitting in prison away from my family for something I never did. It was so painful, in fact, that I cried… something that isn’t really a good idea to do in front of a bunch of people sitting in a jail cell with you, some of which had just finished ruthlessly beating another prisoner and weren’t happy with me when I unsuccessfully tried to stop it and get a guard’s attention.

In the end, I was lucky, I wasn’t convicted… but how close I came to being convicted is something that will leave me changed forever because I never really realized just how easy it was to be wrongfully imprisoned… and if you knew what I knew, you would be frightened by how easy it really is. If it weren’t for the video tape that proved I didn’t do anything wrong, the police detective in charge of the case said, he had no doubt that I would be sent to prison for a very long time and the prosecutor agreed. I later learned that the venue where the tape was taken had tried to destroy it out of fear of a lawsuit over how they encouraged patrons to attack me that night, if they would have succeeded I wouldn’t be here typing today. I was lucky that it existed, that it wasn’t destroyed, and that the detective and prosecutor were ethical enough to reveal it’s existence and acknowledge my innocence… usually, it doesn’t work that way.

According to The Innocence Project, eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in more than 75% of convictions overturned through DNA testing. While eyewitness testimony can be persuasive evidence before a judge or jury, 30 years of strong social science research has proven that eyewitness identification is often unreliable. Research shows that the human mind is not like a tape recorder; we neither record events exactly as we see them, nor recall them like a tape that has been rewound. Instead, witness memory is like any other evidence at a crime scene; it must be preserved carefully and retrieved methodically, or it can be contaminated.

While the story that led me to remember that painful time in my life when just about all hope had left me and while it does give me hope for the many who languish behind bars who don’t belong there because of DNA testing… in most cases of eyewitness-based convictions, there is no DNA evidence available to clear anyone… just as there wouldn’t have been in my case as well. For them, it seems, there is little hope… and the cost in human terms is difficult to describe to someone who hasn’t lived it, and it is a cost too high for a society to morally sustain because the pain and suffering inflicted by wrongful accusations and convictions is beyond description, and a crime against the victims of such miscarriages of justice. If two months of being punished for something I never did is more painful than I can describe, I could hardly imagine nor describe what years of that kind of torture would do to a person.

The Innocence Project does give us some hope as it is working towards convincing state governments to implement reforms that would reduce the number of wrongful convictions based on faulty eyewitness testimony. Unfortunately, few states are listening, including Washington state. Washington has a dismal record for implementing reforms to prevent and address wrongful convictions and exonerations. Hopefully, we can educate enough people about the perils of wrongful convictions and convince them that this is a problem that can affect them… much more easily than they know… much more easily than I ever knew too.

 
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