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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Monday, June 30, 2008

Poll Results

Well, as you may have noticed, I ran a little poll to see what readers would like to see more of from me. The results are final and here's what you had to say:

First, the most votes expressed a desire that the site would be killed off and that I would be arrested for creating it. All I can say about that is it's not a goal I plan on working towards, sorry.

In second place were the votes to keep things as they are with a mix of political information, legal information, stories of misconduct, and other stuff. We'll try, but what gets posted is often at the whims of what's going on outside of our control and one of the issues lately is that the latest contract between the city and police guild may actually make it harder for news of misconduct to get out in the open instead of making that information more open to the public.

In third place was a request for more legal information and support information for victims of police misconduct... Well, I know from experience that there is definitely a lack of support resources and sources of information for victims of misconduct and abuse in Seattle. But, that's what makes it so difficult for us to provide useful and vetted information to other victims of misconduct.

See, as said numerous times, this site has no support within the city of Seattle. The "civil rights" lawyers don't like to talk with us or answer questions because they don't think there is anything in it for them to do so. Civil rights groups like the ACLU in Seattle are too busy fighting to legalize drugs and organizing politicized Gitmo torture protests while ignoring torture in their own city to pay any serious attention to local civil rights abuses, and while the NAACP has been trying to bring more attention to the issue they don't seem very interested in supporting all victims of misconduct.

So... where will we get that kind of legal and support information victims need in order to make the right choices towards seeking justice once they've been abused and get the services the need to recover? Ah, there's the problem, just as there was no place for me to turn when I was hurt, we still have no place to turn to find people willing to help others who were hurt. Being a victim of official misconduct and abuse is still a wrong within a wrong, you get hurt first by the police and then the public when your avenues to justice and support are cut off just because you've been hurt by the police.

Of course, this is why this site is here. While trying to find out what I could do about what happened to me I heard from lawyers who said they turned away hundreds of victims because their cases weren't profitable due to the way the city makes it difficult to find evidence of misconduct and how the city fights such cases legislatively and judicially. In fact, some of the lawyers who used to take such cases don't anymore because it's so unprofitable for them. Organizations like the ACLU and NAACP just don't take misconduct cases unless it's very high profile and will get them some exposure in the press, they don't even give out referrals anymore since there are so few lawyers who take such cases.

So, since Seattle won't help all these victims of misconduct and won't help us help them, we're reaching out to other cities and states in an effort to find that information our fellow victims desperately need. Once we get enough information we'll publish it and make it accessible to the people who need it, not just on the site either.

We've heard you, we know there's a desperate need out there for more information and support, and we're doing what we can to meet that need. So, stay tuned.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Get Out!


It’s a rare nice day outside here in Seattle. Don’t sit there and read this stuff. Get outside and play! If you don’t have kids, go outside and be a kid for a while. If you have kids, go outside and be a kid with your kids.

One of the unfortunate lessons I learned with everything that happened to me last year and I was taken away from my family so suddenly was that you never know when you won’t have the chance to be a part of your children’s memories. It happened unexpectedly and I never would have anticipated that such a thing would have happened to me. So, the point is that you never know when you'll lose those chances to be a part of their lives and share their joy, you'll never know when you've run out of nice days to spend outside with them. You also never know when they’ll suddenly grow up before your eyes.

See, I wasn’t the only person hurt and changed by the experience. My oldest child, 11 at the time, grew up too quick and learned lessons I had hoped would wait a while longer or that he wouldn't have learned at all. We still have fun together, but it’s different now, he’s more wary and suspicious of the world instead of curious about it and has a lot of anger about what those people did to me. I wished I would have had more time to play with the child he was... but he's now a young man and we'll have to be be content with the times we did have at that stage of his life and the times we have ahead of us.

So, I don’t take those chances for granted anymore. While my oldest is no longer interested in going to the park with his old man, my 8 year old and I are going to go play now and make some good memories to share…

I suggest you do the same with the ones you love.

When Numbers Gamble With People's Lives

Since the mid-1990s, Washington State jail populations have increased exponentially. Obsolete facilities built decades ago to hold a handful of prisoners are now packed like sardine tins, with as many prisoners sleeping on the floor as in bunks. Overcrowding has resulted in numerous problems in terms of security and meeting prisoner medical needs.
- "Washington Jail Prisoners Suffer from Overcrowding, Abusive Guards, Inadequate Health Care and Indifferent Politicians" by Roger Smith at Prison Legal News on 06/27/2008


The Stranger’s Jonah Spangenthal-Lee recently posted that the city of Seattle may not need to build its own jail anytime soon since the projected growth of the jail population in the King County Jail was outdated and that the jail is actually under capacity. Of course, this is with the proviso that three floors of that facility are currently under renovation, which reduces the number of detainees it can hold. While I don’t doubt his numbers, most people don't understand that even with those numbers the jail can still have overcrowding problems due to near constant renovations and floor closures, but also because of the constant influx of short-term detainees that doesn’t get counted in those numbers as they come in for a night and are gone the next day. In any case, the numbers just don't match up with the reality inside that jail.

Let me explain a bit by telling you about my experience there… When I was there in November/December of 2006 (on charges I was eventually cleared of), I spent two weeks in what is called a “holding cell” which is a communal cell that holds about 5-6 wall mounted double bunks (upper/lower for a total of 10-12 beds) and about 6-8 plastic cots for an average of 18 beds per cell. However, on any given night there would be about 25 people held in such cells, many of which would have to sleep on the floor with a very thin ripped mat between them and the concrete, which would always get wet in the morning when people took showers and the drains backed up. Even when someone’s bedding and clothes would get soiled with dirty water they wouldn’t be able to get a change of clothes or bedding.
A rough representation of a typical holding cell at the King County Jail.

Well, detainees are only supposed to stay for a day or two in holding cells because even when you get moved into general population, it can still take up to a week to get a change of clothes and commissary. So, when people are held in holding cells for weeks, you get stuck wearing the same clothes and underwear for 3 weeks or more since when you’re in a holding cell you don’t get the chance to order commissary, which is the only way you can get a change of underwear, and you don’t get a change of sheets nor clothes, which is why there have been so many deadly infections at that facility. This is also why each review of the jail cited the excessive time people were held in holding tanks as a major problem… a problem that still hasn’t been addressed.

Of course, when I was there I had open wounds that were left untreated, so my clothes were encrusted with dried blood for weeks before I finally got a change of clothes. Also, in the holding cells, you don’t have access to books and the televisions will often be broken. Needless to say that when you’re hurt and denied any treatment, this only makes the pain you feel much worse since there is nothing you can do to take your mind off of it. Most detainees pace relentlessly to keep their minds occupied, but since I was stuck in my bunk because of my injuries, what I did was laid in my bunk and made decks of cards (pictured at top), dominoes, and chess pieces out of the extra request forms that nobody used each day, and which the guards wouldn’t take from me since they were ordered to ignore my medical requests. I’d give them out to the others just to keep the peace a bit as well since I made about 6 decks of cards and 2 sets of dominoes during that time.

Now, the numbers given might show spare capacity at the jail, but they don’t take into account the daily inflow/outflow that goes on there which boosts the number of detainees at night but then lets several go during the day and doesn’t account for any renovations or construction going on at any given time. (Even on floors that were used there would be cells here and there that were being repaired due to damage such as TVs ripped off wall mounts). This is how, for a jail supposedly underutilized, you would still see more detainees in each cell than those cells were designed to hold and how detainees would get sick from a lack of clean clothes and bedding because it took overly long to get into a regular cell.

I strongly suspect that King County is now open to extending the contracts it has with the area municipalities isn’t because it has free beds in it’s jails… but because of the severe budget shortfalls they have been trying to address. After all, those lucrative fees the county charges for each detainee, (often pre-trial and potentially innocent), housed in those jails to area cities is extra income the county doesn’t want to toss away just yet. The more they can pack in like sardines is all the better, no matter if it risks their well-being or not.

Of course, I'm not advocating the Seattle be allowed to build its own jail. Give Seattle's record of detainee treatment and police misconduct it wouldn't be a good thing. But perhaps with better officer management to reduce wrongful or unnecessary arrests, improvement of diversionary programs like drug court and mental health treatment, and some needed management changes at the existing facilities to improve detainee treatment and processing procedures there wouldn't be a need for another facility and more money would be saved without risking public safety or human rights.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Some Confessions

First, a story came out from The Stranger that caught my eye about how city councilman and ex-cop Tim Burgess and his Public Safety committee is planning to revise the city’s obstruction laws to put them more in line with the more ambiguous state laws that give officers more leeway to make arrests for obstruction. That story was here and before I go on about it I want you to take a moment and read it for yourself…

Go on… no peeking, read it first then come back…

Ok... When I first read that I thought the worst, I thought they were trying to make it easier for the police to make obstruction arrests. Questionable obstruction arrests and charges of racial bias in those arrests is an issue that the city has gotten called to the carpet on in the news lately and the way this seemed worded at first made it appear as though the city was trying to address this issue by changing the law to make it easier to prosecute people arrested on questionable stand-alone obstruction charges. In other words, it looked like the city was trying to solve the problem of false charges of obstruction by broadening the scope of obstruction so that those charges couldn’t be called questionable anymore.

Well, I admit that was wrong. I was able to look into the issue a bit further and it seems as though my first thoughts weren't the case. From what I can tell, when the news stories alleging bias in obstruction arrests broke, council member Nick Licata sought information from the mayor’s office and city’s attorney about how they handle obstruction arrests. In the course of this it was discovered that the city prosecuted obstruction charges about 33% of the time under state laws because of some legal ambiguities due to the city's laws being very narrowly defined and state laws being broader in scope. But, since the state law doesn’t allow for a defense on the basis of an officer’s orders being unlawful, there were allegations that the use of the state law instead of the municipal code was to avoid the defensible action based on lawfulness of police commands.

So, Nick Licata, Tim Burgess, and Tom Carr started working on legislation to change the law in order to make it so the city was more inclined to prosecute under city law which would still allot for the defense based on unlawful commands from officers and, according to defense attorneys working with the city on this amendment, it should result in a significant improvement in the way this law works and the way the city charges and prosecutes obstruction arrests and the city wouldn’t prosecute under the looser state laws anymore as a result. The amendment, supposedly, will also include language which explicitly states that obstruction charges cannot be used against people just watching, taking pictures, or just talking/asking questions.

So, apparently, my first opinion of this effort was completely off base and I’m glad I was wrong. See, we don’t just want to expose cases of misconduct or efforts to cover it up, we also want to make sure that efforts to improve police conduct and make the justice system in Seattle more equitable and just are also made public. I am personally very happy to see such a good faith effort by all parts of the city government to improve the problems with obstruction arrests in Seattle.

Thanks for proving me wrong guys, I really do appreciate it and I hope you do it more often!!! After all, ultimately, I would like nothing more than to have nothing more to write about on this blog. So thanks for working towards giving me one less negative thing to write about.

Next, on the national front, the FBI has announced today that a series of raids in 16 cities across the US has freed 21 juvenile victims of forced prostitution (read slavery there) and arrested several hundred people on charges of sexually exploiting minors for commercial gain. The FBI claims that it’s freed over 400 children in the last five years as a concerted effort to target child exploitation and enslavement.

While cities, Seattle included, tend to prosecute the juvenile victims as prostitutes while failing to go after their clients and exploiters, the FBI states that it’s been focusing on this as a national effort to prevent exploiters from simply moving out of jurisdictions when municipalities start cracking down on the child sex slave trade.

Time for another confession... even though it will only be used against me the truth is the truth and I like to be honest. Let’s just say, sparing the nasty details, that I had gone through something similar when I was a homeless 14 year old with nowhere else to turn. It wasn’t a time in my life that I like to think back on, but I was lucky enough to get out of it all on my own eventually. I worked my way through the rest of high school by working landscaping and other grunt work jobs, and then was fortunate enough to go on to college at the age of 17. I was lucky to have been able to do that as most kids in that situation can’t get out of it like I did. So, it’s yet another story I identify with personally so I’m happy to see the exploitative adults punished instead of the vulnerable kids for a change.

So I have personal reasons for being glad to see that, for once, authorities are going after the adult exploiters instead of the juvenile victims of such crimes. Thanks guys, for doing that right… but I am curious to find out what happened to the kids and how they were helped (if at all) after they were freed.

That’s enough for the confessionals today.

Update: There might be some hope in Seattle though. A report due Friday indicates that Seattle might finally start treating the 300-500 exploited children that roam it's streets each night, some as young as 11 years old, as victims instead of criminals. We can only hope they do, but so far the mayor's office has been reluctant to comment on the recommendations made by they report that these victims be given support to escape their exploiters instead of being thrown in jail with them.

The Sad State Of Affairs In Seattle

Let’s take a quick look at all that’s going on in Seattle right now, because there’s quite a bit happening here right now, and it’s pretty damn disgraceful.

First, King County officials are still arguing with the US Department of Justice over the US DOJ’s stinging rebuke over the deplorable conditions in Seattle’s King County Jail and the mistreatment of detainees that the DOJ termed so egregious that they were a violation of their constitutional rights. Meanwhile the Seattle press raised more of a stink about conditions in the animal shelters than they did about people dying slow tortured deaths in their jails.

If that weren’t shameful enough, in the face of proposed massive budget cutbacks at the jail, your inability to protect detainees and treat deadly infections at that gulag has gotten you in the crosshairs of a huge class action lawsuit that will further drain your coffers. Gee, maybe it makes sense to care about human rights, huh? It’s downright disgusting, especially when the King County executive still has the testicular fortitude to pretend that he’s some defender of civil rights after declaring that pretrial detainees in HIS jail have no rights to defend.

Ah, next we see that Seattle government is still run by the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild when the government negotiated a record breaking raise for Seattle Police officers and demanded nothing in return… seems that even then it still couldn’t stand up to the guild enough to enact the recommendations that their own panels on police accountability recommended that they implement. The president of the guild has been heard to be laughing all the way to the bank at the payoff he got while still preventing the implementation of reforms that would have closed off the loopholes that spurred the public outcry that caused those two panels to form in the first place.

So, Seattle, not only have you drained the pockets of your taxpayers to pay off the police guild for nothing in return, you’re now facing an onslaught of civil rights lawsuits because of your failures to keep your police officers from violating everyone’s civil rights. We hear there’s a tidal wave of lawsuits in the works and you’ve already been pummeled in the press repeatedly for the suits you already settled or outright LOST.

Gee, maybe you should have figured out that it would be cheaper to ensure that everyone’s civil rights were protected and that your police officers were held accountable for their actions… instead you’ve wasted your credibility and tax income on trying to cover up for their misdeeds while giving them a big fat raise for acting badly.

Oh, but guess what, it's still not the best part... hidden in that little contract is a clause that allows the police department to veto any civilian oversight panel members it wants, that way it can keep those pesky civilian reviewers quiet so they don't raise alarms to spark more reviews like they did last year. So, next time you won't get a warning when a rash of unpunished police misconduct sparks a wave of costly lawsuits that drain your pocketbooks dry. Not only did the city make sure the same loopholes stay in place to cover up misconduct, they made some new ones too.

Well, guess what, those budget woes in King County are going to add to your grief. Not only have you wasted money rewarding cops for costing you more money in lawsuits, the county has to offload it’s cases to the city because it can’t afford to keep prosecuting and holding your detainees on trumped up charges of obstruction. So now you have to waste more money building your own jail and hiring more lawyers.

Oh, but that’s not all folks. Seems the city attorney has been getting pummeled in the press for a bunch of disgracefully failed politically motivated raids on local nightclubs while the police have been harassing club owners in an effort to make way for more condos. Seems you have some motivation for keeping your cops from being held accountable, because then you can use them for political gain without any questions asked... like how you've been risking massive lawsuits by raiding homeless encampments.

Does it end there? Nope… That flawed contract was released less than a week before the city council is about to ratify it and the press hasn’t even bothered to call the city on lying to their faces when the city assured everyone that the contract would enact all 29 recommendations made by their “Police Accountability Review Panel”.

Oh, not only that, but on the same day the city made it’s other panel’s recommendations public… How many news articles on that were there? None… the city paid for the Seattle City Council Police Accountability Panel to turn out 23 recommendations to improve police accountability and oversight… just to completely ignore them and pretend like it didn’t happen!!! And the press doesn’t even bother to notice such an utterly willful waste, such a blatant spit in the face of the public outcry over police abuses and even Seattle's weekly independent papers that were critical of reform efforts at first are giving the city a free pass for lying to their faces.

Seattle, I got to say, you’ve been screwed... and you won't even know it until that tidal wave of civil rights lawsuits slams into your wallets and keeps on flooding your city. You'll wonder why you weren't warned about this encroaching mess, but by then those politicians that lied to you will have moved on and will be laughing at the mess they intentionally ignored and left behind.

Take care out there, because it's all about to get much worse.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

For All You Lurker Lawyers


While doing the blog rounds this weekend I found out from the Washington Criminal Defense blog that the second annual "Seattle Law Blogger Meet-up" sponsored by AVVO will be held Thursday, June 26, from 5:30pm until 7:30pm at AVVO's downtown Seattle offices. The invite is for law bloggers and legal professionals who may have considered starting their own "blawg".

If you are interested in attending you can find more information about the event at the AVVO Blog where you can also RSVP to attend.

Now, you might be surprised to hear it, (I always am), but this blog that you're reading now is classified as a law blog by several law blog listing sites (through no fault of my own). So, as a lark, I might just be there as well (to talk about blogging, not legal stuff of course).

(PS. In case you're not familiar with the vernacular, a "lurker" isn't a bad thing, just someone who visits a site but doesn't interact with it... it describes about 99% of our readers actually.)

Monday, June 23, 2008

New Poll and Stuff

As you can see above, there's a new poll. I'm trying to figure out how to better serve as an advocate for victims of police misconduct and detainee abuse, so I figured I'd ask our readers for help. It's a multiple choice poll, so you can pick more than one answer... though, as you can see, a few police officers visiting from the city's network address chose an option that they'd like to see happen here, which is me arrested for speaking out. (big surprise, huh?)

An interesting aside about one of those items, more legal information, victim support, etc... One of the most visited pages on our site is the misconduct attorney contact page that gives victims and their families a list of civil rights attorneys in the Seattle area that they can contact. Well, we've been hearing rumors that there has been a sharp increase in the number of suits filed against the city alleging police misconduct, so many in fact that the mainstream news outlets have stopped covering it because it's become so common.

Also, we've heard that since there are so few civil rights lawyers that serve the Seattle area that they're backlogged and can't take many more clients. So, if you do use the misconduct attorney contact page, make sure you follow our advice. Contact several of them, not just one. You might get turned down a few times, so keep trying. Since the city can't seem to enact policies that will help prevent misconduct and bring accountability to the department, and since the news media has stopped covering these issues, the only hope to enact change is through the city's pocketbook.

Take care out there.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

New SPD Contract Fails To Apply All Accountability Recommendations

I've done some further review of the contract (released Friday) that was negotiated between the City of Seattle and the Seattle Police Officer's Guild ahead of the June 26th vote by the city council to ratify the agreement and compared the language in that agreement with the PARP police accountability recommendations implementation plan set forth by Seattle mayor Greg Nickels.

The mayor's plan indicated that 11 of the 29 recommendations as required negotiations with the guild in order to achieve full implementation and I used that plan as a comparison to determine what changed between the plan and the contract. Upon careful review it becomes clear that the SCCPAP police accountability recommendations that were released yesterday should be getting more attention than they currently are because the PARP recommendations are not being implemented as proposed.

The following are the 11 recommendations that, according to the mayor, had to be negotiated in order to be implemented along with the recommendation number, text, and relevant section of the agreement where that recommendation is discussed. The recommendations in red have been determined to be specifically invalidated by the agreement, the recommendations in yellow have been limited or altered by the agreement, and the ones without highlighting have been implemented in the contract:

Recommendation 1, which gives the auditor more staff, makes it a full time position, and clearly defines the auditor role, was invalidated in section Appendix E Section 1 Subsection A:

A. The City agrees that the IIS Auditor position shall be continued in effect with its current authority but may be renamed the OPA Auditor, with the clarification that the Auditor may audit all OPA cases involving Guild bargaining unit members.

Recommendation 8, which allows investigators to extend the 180 day limitation on investigations to extend that deadline with just cause, was invalidated in Section 3, Subsection 5, Item F:
Unless further investigation is deemed necessary, the Chief shall make the final decision as to whether charges should be sustained, and if so, what discipline, if any, should be imposed, after considering the information presented in any due process hearing. If new material facts are revealed by the named employee during the due process hearing and such new material facts cause the Chief to act contrary to the OPA Director's recommendation, the case must be sent back to the OPA for further investigation. The "further investigation" described above must be completed within the original 180-day time period. The 180-day period runs from the time a sworn supervisor or OPA received notice of the complaint until the proposed Disciplinary Action Report is issued. If further investigation is warranted the 180-day period begins to run again the day after the
due process hearing, and will not include the time between issuance of the proposed Disciplinary Action Report and the due process hearing. The named employee has no obligation to attend his/her due process hearing or to present any information during the due process hearing if he/she chooses to attend.

However, even more than this, even in the event that the additional testimony given by an officer that convinced the chief to countermand OPA recommendations for discipline were found to be based in intentional falsehood, the department would be unable to impose discipline per PARP Recommendation 20, which presumes officers would be terminated upon findings of dishonesty, if the 180 day deadline expires during the resumed investigation as any additional findings would be tied to the original complaint date, not a new investigative start date that resets the 180 day clock. (the same 180 day deadline that cleared officers in the Alley-Barnes case).

So, not only was Recommendation #8 nullified, Recommendation #20 was severely weakened in this section. Of course, we've already warned of the interdependencies between these recommendations and how removing one could impact several others.

Also, as we uncovered right after a quick read of the contract, the guild now has veto power over matters of Review Board candidacy and has full access to any candidates private records. This should send all OPARB members a very clear and chilling reminder that they should stay quiet and not rock the boat like the last OPARB members did about the cases of misconduct that started off the entire accountability review process.

Yes, that's right, in some ways they made officers even less accountable and disciplinary matters even less transparent with this agreement and any way we look at this it's quite clear that all 29 recommendations will not be enacted as intended. Anyone who insists otherwise is not being honest about the police accountability situation in Seattle.

Unsurprisingly, the media hasn't picked up on the contract being issued and they haven't compared it to the recommendations yet, and it's likely that they never will. Instead, they'll reissue press releases from the city that say they were all put into place just fine and that you'll never hear about another case of misconduct going unanswered... at least... not until next time.

Stay safe out there, because Seattle police officers are still just as unaccountable for their actions as they ever were and we're about to have even less oversight than before.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Views Of SCCPAP Member Eric Schnapper


As an addendum to the SCCPAP Report, released earlier today, is a commentary/summary by Professor Eric Schnapper. Professor Schnapper currently teaches Civil rights, Civil Procedure, and Employment Discrimination at the University of Washington law school. He was also assistant counsel to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. for 25 years, specializing in appellate litigation and legislative activities. He's also won three US Supreme Court Cases and handled more than 70 other Supreme Court cases as well.

His articles on constitutional law and civil rights have appeared in law reviews published by Harvard, Columbia, Virginia, Stanford and other law schools... and his conclusion is pretty detailed, eloquent, and speaks volumes as to the need for transparency in the accountability process, why it's not present in the current system, and what needs to be done to fix it. I'd like to put the whole thing up here but it's just not well suited for a blog format. I've put the entire document up on another page Here, but to get an idea as to what he has to say, here is his summary:

None of this (report) should be understood as a comment on any Seattle police officer or official, past or present. The problems discussed are fundamental institutional issues that would tend to shape the conduct of whichever individuals held the positions in question. I would have favored the identical recommendations, and would have offered the same explanation, even if during the course of the Panel's work the positions of Chief of Police, OPA Director and President of the Seattle Police Officers Guild had been filled by the outgoing members of the OPA Review Board.

Criticism of police actions is not an inexcusable affront to the dignity of its officers, an illegitimate form of interference with officials entitled to be left alone to do their jobs, or part of some left wing conspiracy to assist the criminal elements in our society. Criticism of police actions is just like criticism of any other public officials, a routine and healthy part of the democratic process. Every concerned individual and organization has a right to take part in public debate about the Police Department and its leadership; none is entitled to distort that debate by silencing those with differing views or by managing the public's access to relevant information. The voters and the City Council should view with a jaundiced eye any claim that the conduct of some aspect of the city government needs to remain confidential and thus, inexorably, beyond the reach of informed public debate.

The genius of the American system of government is that it does not rest on the credulous assumption that competent people in positions of power can be trusted to do the right thing without need for scrutiny or review. Our system relies instead on incentives and deterrents, checks and balances, and -- above all -- transparency to shape the conduct of unavoidably imperfect office holders. We place our confidence, not in the Police Chief, the Auditor, the OPA Director, the Mayor or the City Council, but in the public, enlightened by full disclosure of the conduct of government affairs, and wielding the ballot to remove from office elected officials who perform inadequately or tolerate appointed officials who do so.

That is the spirit by which the Seattle Police Department -- and the city government as a whole -- should be guided.

The SPD Contract vs The PARP Recommendations

Busy day today... In addition to releasing the SCCPAP report on police accountability, the agreement between the City of Seattle and the Seattle Police Officer's Guild has also been made public and I did a quick review to determine which of the 29 PARP recommendations had been altered or removed from consideration... and it's clear that all 29 recommendations are not going to be enacted as intended.

The exclusion of those recommendations means that the SCCPAP recommendations, released earlier today, should merit some closer and more serious examination in order to cover the gaps left by the remove and alterations of the PARP recommendations. But, as we've mentioned, it's not clear if that will happen. In any case, here are some of my preliminary findings:

The contract reveals that the 180 exclusionary recommendation was removed from consideration, as alluded to previously by the police guild.

Furthermore, while the recommendation that the chief is to notify the city of any decisions that counter investigative recommendations regarding sustained findings of misconduct, the contract severely limited what the chief may tell the city.

Finally, while not part of the PARP recommendations, the contract provides a clause that allows the guild to overrule appointments to the civilian review board and allows the guild to review the private records of any candidate for the civilian review board... essentially, this clause also allows the guild to control who gets put on the OPARB, which may indicate why the current membership of the OPARB was completely wiped out and replaced by councilmember Tim Burgess.

As we've presumed, it's clear that all 29 recommendation were not implemented as recommended, contradictory to statements from the mayor's office and some council members.

The full contract is available here, but the following are the pertinent sections outlined above:

3.1
The parties agree that discipline is a command function, and that the Department may institute a disciplinary procedure. So much of said procedure that relates to the right of an employee to a hearing and the mechanics thereof are outlined in this Article; provided, however, that it is understood that if deemed appropriate by the Chief of the Department, discipline or discharge may be implemented immediately consistent with the employee's constitutional rights. Disciplinary action shall be for just cause.

In the case of an officer receiving a sustained complaint involving dishonesty in the course of the officer's official duties or relating to the administration of justice, a presumption of termination shall apply. For purposes of this presumption of termination the Department must prove dishonesty by clear and convincing evidence. Dishonesty is defined as intentionally providing false information, which the officer knows to be false, or intentionally providing incomplete responses to specific questions, regarding facts that are material to the investigation. Specific questions do not include general or 'catch-all' questions. For purposes of this Section dishonesty means more than mere inaccuracy or faulty memory.

3.4 F.
Unless further investigation is deemed necessary, the Chief shall make the final decision as to whether charges should be sustained, and if so, what discipline, if any, should be imposed, after considering the information presented in any due process hearing. If new material facts are revealed by the named employee during the due process hearing and such new material facts cause the Chief to act contrary to the OPA Director's recommendation, the case must be sent back to the OPA for further investigation. The "further investigation" described above must be completed within the original 180-day time period. The 180-day period runs from the time a worn supervisor or OPA received notice of the complaint until the proposed Disciplinary Action Report is issued. If further investigation is warranted the 180-day period begins to run again the day after the due process hearing, and will not include the time between issuance of the proposed Disciplinary Action Report and the due process
hearing. The named employee has no obligation to attend his/her due process hearing or to present any information during the due process hearing if he/she chooses to attend.

3.4 G
When the Police Chief changes a recommended finding from the OPA, the Chief will be required to state his reasons in writing and provide these to the OPA Director. A summary of the Chief's decisions should be provided to the Mayor and City Council upon request. In stating his reasons in writing for changing an OPA recommendation from a sustained finding, the Chief shall use a format that discloses the material reasons for his decision. The explanation shall make no reference to the officer's name or any personally identifying information in providing his explanation. In
the event the change of recommendation is the result of personal, family, or medical information the Chief's explanation shall reference "personal information" as the basis of his decision.

App E
3.G.
Because members of the OPA Review Board may serve in a quasi- judicial capacity in making decisions about whether or not investigations of police misconduct are complete, as a requirement for appointment, candidates must be able to comply with the requirements of the appearance of fairness doctrine with respect to their duties as a member of the OPA Review Board. For the purposes of this Appendix, the appearance of fairness doctrine shall be applied as an eligibility criteria for appointment to the OPA Review Board, as opposed to being applied on a case-by-case basis.

In an effort to limit disputes regarding the type of information which must be provided to the Guild regarding a candidate, the parties hereby set forth the information to which the Guild is entitled. Criminal history record information which includes records of arrest, charges, allegations of criminal conduct and nonconviction data relating to a candidate for appointment, and Department records of any complaints of police misconduct filed by the candidate shall be made available to the Guild. Access to such records by the Guild shall be for the sole purpose of assessing whether or not the candidate meets the above eligibility criteria. Access shall be limited to the executive officers and members of the Board of Directors of the Guild and the Guild's attorneys. Such records shall

not be used by anyone in connection with any other civil, criminal or other matter, or for any other purpose. After the Guild has conducted its assessment of the candidate, the records shall be promptly returned to the Department unless the Guild challenges the appointment as set forth in Section V, below. If the Guild challenges the appointment, the records shall be used solely for the purpose of the arbitration, will be presented to the arbitrator under seal, and will be returned to the City at the conclusion of the arbitration. Except as otherwise necessary for the purposes of this Appendix or the resolution of a dispute under Section V below, such records shall be maintained by the Guild as confidential and shall not be copied, disclosed or disseminated.

The SCCPAP Report On Police Accountability In Seattle

The Seattle City Council Police Accountability Panel (SCCPAP) report has been submitted to council and is part of the public record, though it has not been officially released to the press at this time and there is no indication if it will have an official press release like the mayor's Police Accountability Review Panel (PARP) did.

The SCCPAP report offers several recommendations designed to work in tandem with and build upon the PARP report recommendations, while many of those 29 recommendations may be enacted after they were negotiated into the current contract with the Seattle Police Officer's Guild, some were reportedly dropped during negotiations and we are trying to get a hold of that contract in order to determine the extent of intended implementation.

It is up in the air as to whether this report will actually see the light of day, let alone be acted upon in any way since the contract with the guild has already been negotiated and the council, and city government as a whole, seems limited in the scope of what they can, or will, do legislatively about police discipline. So, this might be the only place where you actually hear about it.

I'll list the recommendations here, then provide an analysis and some interesting background on how the police chief and guild refused to cooperate with the process later today or tomorrow. If you would like to review the entire report that includes the reasons why for each recommendation along with background information, it's available online here. (The city's records link seems to be problematic, only partially loads most of the time, so I posted the report HERE on our site as well)

The SCCPAP report contains the following 23 recommendations:

OPA Recommendations:


1. OPA should be expressly authorized to investigate possible misconduct that is not the subject of a formal complaint.

2. OPA should re-interview complaining parties where necessary to assess the accuracy or implications of new information.

3. The "explanation of the finding reached" sent to the complaining party after an OPA investigation should be specific enough to permit the party to (a) make an informed decision about whether to ask for reconsideration, and (b) identify possible
errors or omissions in the explanation.

4. At least one third of the officers assigned to work at OPA should be detectives.
(currently all are line sergeants and they are picked off the roster, usually serve unwillingly which we have mentioned as a problem that introduces bias before).

5. There should be written guidelines setting out what types of misconduct complaints can be referred to mediation. The summary of the mediation process on the OPA website should make clear that complaining parties who opt for mediation may not thereafter renew their complaint.

6. The OPA should not consult with police officials outside that office, other than the Auditor, regarding the classification of a complaint. OPA should not consult with police officials outside that office, other than witnesses, regarding its recommended findings of fact.

7. At the conclusion of the independent OPA investigation, and before the matter is referred to the Chief, the OPA recommendation should be made by the OPA civilian director, and the OPA evaluation and summary of the investigation should be finalized by the OPA civilian director. That recommendation, evaluation and summary should be embodied in a written document signed by the OPA Director.

OPARB Recommendations:

8. The Board should be authorized to issue reports (including statistical reports) and/or make recommendations regarding any one or more of the following:

(i) the processes utilized by the Police Department (including but not limited to the OPA, the Auditor and the Board) to classify, investigate, make factual determinations, impose discipline and otherwise deal with police misconduct in one or more cases of the Board's selection,

(ii) any concern about police conduct that has arisen in an OPA case, or would be within the responsibility of the OPA if it were the subject of a complaint, and

(iii) any concern about police conduct called to the attention of the Board at a public meeting or through other contact with members of the community.


9. The Board shall conduct regular public meetings to obtain information regarding public concerns as to police conduct, and to provide the public with information about the OPA complaint process.

10. In order to prepare a report or recommendation the Board may, among other things:

(a) review the file in any closed OPA case or cases of its selection,

(b) obtain any document in the possession of the Police Department insofar as that document would be subject to disclosure under the Public Disclosure Act,

(c) request any other document in the possession of the Police Department,

(d) request and reach agreement with the Auditor for the Auditor to collect information or prepare reports, including statistical reports, and

(e) review national trends regarding best practices that might improve either the OPA process or other Police Department practices.


11. Police Department documents requested by the Board should in general be provided within 30 days. The Department should not withhold documents from the Board except where:
(a) disclosure is forbidden by law, or
(b) disclosure would materially interfere with an ongoing investigation.
Where redaction occurs, it should exclude only information that could be withheld under the Public Disclosure Act and should not be done in a manner that obscures the meaning of the document. If the Department declines to provide a document requested by the Board, or to do so in the manner or at the time requested by the Board, the Police Chief shall promptly provide to the Mayor and the Public Safety Committee a specific written explanation for that refusal. To the extent that a refusal was based on a lack of resources for copying or redaction,the Chief shall explain what additional resources are required.

12. The Board should be expanded to five members.

13. The Board should be provided with significant staff support and with funds to help defray the cost incurred by the Police Department in copying documents and in
redacting documents in a manner which permits meaningful review.

14. Board members should not be required to execute a "hold harmless" agreement as a condition of service on the Board.

15. The City should without equivocation defend and indemnify Board members for actions in the scope of their official duties.

Auditor Recommendations:

16. In addition to the position's existing authority, the Auditor should be empowered to reach and carry out agreements with the Board to collect information or prepare reports, including statistical reports.

17. The Police Department shall provide the Auditor with any documents or other information required to carry out the duties of that office.

18. The Auditor shall prepare and release at least annually an analysis of the level of discipline imposed for various types of police misconduct.

19. The responsibility now imposed by ordinance on the Board to prepare certain statistics should be transferred to the Auditor. The Board remains authorized, but would not be required, to obtain and analyze statistical data to enable the Board to carry out its duties.

20. The Auditor shall prepare and issue at least annually a report analyzing OPA's response to claims of possible police misconduct as reported by Risk Management.

Additional Recommendations:

21. The city should repeal those parts of SMC sections 3.28.830 and 3.28.870, which impose on the OPA Director and OPA Auditor a duty to treat all materials to which they have access as if they were attorney-client privileged material.

22. The OPA Director, the Auditor and the Board should not be held to a higher level of confidentiality than is consistent with the Public Records Act.

23. If a request made under the Public Records Act for information from the OPA is rejected in whole or part, the Police Department shall promptly report that action to the Public Safety Committee and shall explain the basis for that rejection.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

In The News Today...

It is essential that justice be done, and it is equally vital that justice not be confused with revenge, for the two are wholly different. –Oscar Aria

A couple stories today got me thinking about a few things...

Seattle Police Officer Hospitalized After Assaulted By Teens
Ok, for those who don't read this site enough to know, we're not "anti-police" and we don't condone violence against police officers. (hence why I'm disliked by both sides of the police/anti-police positions, thus is the fate of the moderates). The officer involved in this situation had witnessed a fight between two groups of teens and as he was arresting one assailant the others started to punch and kick him while he was prone. Another, reportedly, attempted to get his weapon while the beating took place.

Certainly a frightening situation, I know how it feels to be beaten by several people and not being able to do anything about it, so I have a good degree of empathy for this officer. I'm glad he had backup that came quickly and arrested the attackers, I'm also glad he's getting treatment in a hospital...

Now, sure, this was far more than was done to help me last year when I was attacked by that gang of neonazis (not figuratively, they had swazi tattoos and all) and the police refused to let me get treatment and they didn't try to stop the beating or even bother figuring out who attacked me, but that wouldn't justify any of them being harmed in kind like this... so I hope this officer gets well soon and isn't too traumatized by the event.

...but, at the same time, we certainly hope the police officers who responded didn't decided to allow themselves a shot at some "frontier justice" by way of any unnecessary force. We also hope the department doesn't use this as an excuse to ratchet up the aggressiveness and brutality of their officers, which often happens. Two wrongs really don't make anything right after all, which is the whole point of my not wishing harm on any of them. (see how that works?)

That, I suppose, leads to this...

Suspect in killing freed after 1 1/2 years in jail
Victim's mom: 'System has failed me'

So, prosecutors took 18 months to decide to drop charges against a man they admitted that they could not prove had committed any crime, stating that witnesses are now more confused over who did what and when then they were in the first place concerning the stabbing death of 23 year old Jessie Drungo during a scuffle that may have had racial overtones.

Now, the young man who died was said to be an inspiration, an ex-gang member who straightened himself out and spoke out against gang violence, and I have no doubt of that whatsoever. I certainly feel badly for the mother who now has little hope for justice... she said of the decision "I'm totally disturbed that someone could kill my son and walk away from it... The system has failed me."

Yes, it did fail you... it fails a lot of us, and I'm terribly sorry that the person who killed your son is walking free. But, from the sounds of the story, there's a good chance that the person they set free wasn't the one who killed her son, and we are talking about blind justice, not blind vengeance... the two must be kept separate, different, not intertwined to the point that we just punish anyone for something they might not have done just to say that someone paid a price for some wrong done.

Again, though, another empathy moment for me though, because of all the things that bother me about what happened to me last year, one of my biggest problems is that the person who committed a crime for which I was wrongfully punished is still out there, still free, and the police have said they will not go after him. I don't want him in jail to punish him, I want him in jail to make sure he doesn't stab other people and so other people don't learn that it's excusable to commit a crime and then let someone else get tortured for it.

So... we all mourn another lost chance at justice for yet another person. but it does happen quite often, and that loss does not justify risking the destruction of a potentially innocent life in the process... after all, how does destroying a second life really bring any justice or restitution for the loss of the first life?

But, that leads me to wonder about something else... This poor woman lost her son, tragically and senselessly, and I'm deeply saddened when I read stories like that. Yet... I always wonder, is it really easier to lose a child when there is someone to blame for it and that person is punished for it? Is there peace and restitution in revenge?

I understand that kind of loss to a degree, I held my own son in my arms as he slowly died in a hospital a few years ago. It was deeply painful and I still cry sometimes at the memory... yet there was nobody to blame, he died of a congenital defect, nature killed him, not another person... would my grief had been diminished, though, if there was someone to blame instead of some thing, some illness? Would I have healed better if another life had been destroyed in payment for our loss?

Somehow... I don't think so... so, I guess that's the reason why the idea of justice being about punishment gets lost on me at times. Maybe I'm simple minded in that regard, but I just don't see the connection. Sure, I don't want people who harm others left on the street to freely harm others, but removing someone from society and rehabilitating them or treating their mental illnesses solves that, torturing them only seems to make them less human and more sadistic.

Ah, well, my thoughts are likely just more fuel for people to hate and despise me with though. So I'll stop there for now.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

In Other News...

Busy at work this week... plus, to be honest and to give all the many people that hate me some comfort, I've been pretty depressed lately because I just feel so damn isolated and alone.

It's funny really, writing this blog has made me a very unpopular person in Seattle. People that don't want to accept that misconduct happens in their name hate me for writing about it and as a representation of that abuse being that I'm a victim of it.

But, the people who accept that it happens seem to hate me because I'm a victim of abuse that wasn't content to be quiet about it. It seems most people like to have the safe buffer of a third party that writes about it in a sterile way instead of an advocate talking to them about it in a more visceral way.

I guess people like to read about people tortured in a far away land, but when confronted by the victim of torture they get uncomfortable, I guess I represent too close of a reminder of how, but for the grace of some deity, it could easily be them in my shoes instead of me, or that it's all done with their tacit permission, I suppose.

But, in the end, I didn't write this to be popular, I write these stories to stop what happened to me from happening to you. So, even if you don't appreciate it, like that bad medicine that mom gave you when you were sick, I'll keep writing until Seattle is a healthy place to live. I'll stay at it so long as there are still people who write who have been hurt like me who ask for advice and comfort. So long as there is someone I can help, I won't go away no matter how much all of you wish I would.

The point is, I guess, that it's not easy being the most hated person in Seattle... but that won't stop me from speaking out.

Anyway... enough of my grousing over things I cannot control, so I digress. Since I don't feel like writing the other stories I had in mind today, here's some news from some safer and sterile outlets:

Oregon Children File Suit Over Frequent Strip Searches and Body Cavity Searches
From the Seattle Post Intelligencer,
Two children who were charged with felony sexual assault and jailed for smacking the bottoms of some girls (charges were dropped against them after public outcry) were strip and cavity searched in jail from 5 to 8 times during their short 5 day stay, as were at least four other children who have joined the class action suit. Sounds like the adult guards might need to be investigated for pedophilia instead.

Resisting Arrest Charges Dismissed Against Anti-War Protester
From Real Change News,
Seems that an anti-war protester who was accused of splashing some pro-war protesters with water and was then jumped from behind by Seattle Police Officers was cleared of resisting arrest charges when the judge viewed a video showing the protester being pinned against a curb and held down by an officer's knee on his head that showed that he was unable to comply with orders to give officers his arms... because his arms were pinned underneath him by those officers. He plans to sue, I wish him all the best of course.

KCBS 91.3 "OneWorldReport" Does a Number of Stories on Seattle Police Misconduct
KCBS One World Report reporters did a pretty good series of stories and interviews on police and government misconduct issues, including an interview with:
David Shepphard of The Innocence Project
Attorney Lem Howell who won the wrongful arrest case of Bradford v Seattle
Michael Ladd who recently won his court battle against the Seattle Police (the protester noted above)
and Shelly Seacrist, the last remaining member of the city's citizen review board who is on her way out.
They actually contacted me about being on the show, but unfortunately I was out of state on business at the time so the logistics just didn't work out.

Until next time, stay safe out there.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Seattle Police Brutality 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.

During the contentious contract negotiations between the city of Seattle and the Seattle Police Officer's Guild, representatives of the guild repeatedly asserted that the Seattle Police Department was one of the cleanest in the US, insisting that the complaints against officers were very low for a city of it's size as justification for why they deserved an unprecedented pay raise without having to accept police accountability improvements that had been suggested by the Police Accountability Review Panel.

Reviewing the reports from the Office of Professional Accountability and compiling the numbers paints a different picture of the Seattle Police Department, however. The numbers add up and appear to indicate that while Seattle's police department may not be the worst in the US, it's definitely not the cleanest... and it may be getting much worse.

A recent University of Chicago Law School study determined that the national average for complaints of excessive force against officers within mid-sized to large police departments was around 9.5 complaints per every 100 law enforcement officers according to the latest statistics available from the US Department of Justice and US Department of Labor.

The Seattle Police Department currently numbers around 1,200 sworn officers, so if they were to be better than average they would need to have less than 114 complaints of excessive force per year.

SPD OPA statistics for years 2005-2007:

2005 Use Of Force Complaints: 110 (09.1 per 100)

2006 Use Of Force Complaints: 112 (09.3 per 100)

2007 Use Of Force Complaints: 124 (10.3 per 100)

While statistically hovering around the average for 2005 and 2006, the brutality complaints against the SPD in 2007 clearly jumped higher than the national average. (additionally, this may be under-reported since civil rights lawyers in Seattle had started to advise clients against filing official complaints in use of force incidents because it was becoming clear the accountability system was flawed and biased).

The national average also maintains that departments generally sustain complaints of abuse and issue discipline in 8% of complaints made.

Percentage of abuse complaints sustained:

2005- 7.29%

2006- 6.53%

2007- 3.48%

Sustained complaints were halved in 2007, and even then those sustained complaints only resulted in one known actual disciplinary action; an early retirement with full pension that is currently being fought by the Seattle Police Officer's Guild. While one might first think this is a sign of a clean department, think again. It actually points to an apparent unwillingness of the police department to hold it's officers accountable for misconduct. (see more recent research into OPA records that discovered a shift from investigating complaints to discretionary findings here to see why sustained findings have dropped for use of force as well as all other complaints)

Because of the suddenness of the dramatic drop in sustained rates, the jump in number of complaints over the same time period, and the number of administrative exoneration that countermanded recommendations of disciplinary action by internal investigations means that the small number of sustained use of force complaints appears not to indicate that the department is "squeaky clean" but that the oversight and accountability mechanisms have failed. Recent news articles depicting problems with internal investigations and administrative exoneration appear to back this up as well on a per-case basis.

Those same stories of problematic accountability and investigatory mechanisms that were bypassed in the Seattle Police Department spurred the creation of two different panels (the SCCPAP and OPAPARP) that were tasked to review the civilian oversight program that was supposed to monitor police discipline and make recommendations to fix it. However, the resultant recommendations from both panels were fought by the police union and several were overturned or just dropped by the city. So it appears as though the numbers will only get worse, or they will just go unreported in the foreseeable future.

This dire prediction of the accountability program failing seems especially likely now since ex-police officer councilmember Tim Burgess has been dismantling the previous experienced civilian review boards and restaffing them with inexperienced candidates in order to make them less willing to go public with problematic findings like the previous members did when they identified problems and since the only real accountability proponent on the city council, Nick Licata, has been rumored to be considering retirement after his latest term on the council.

The numbers and recent developments make it clear that the problem with misconduct in the Seattle Police Department is getting worse, and is likely to continue getting worse into the foreseeable future. Stay safe out there, because it's becoming clear that the system in place now is only designed to protect the city from lawsuits and bad cops from discipline, it is no longer designed to help protect citizens from bad cops.

Comparisons that were available for other cities don't stack up well for Seattle:

Seattle: Pop Est 582,454: PD Size 1,200
2007 Use Of Force Complaints: 124 (10.3 per 100)


San Jose: Pop Est 929,936: PD Size 1,400
2007 Use Of Force Complaints: 117 (8.4 per 100)

Washington DC: Pop Est 581,530: PD Size 3,800
2007 Use Of Force Complaints: 101 (2.7 per 100)

San Fransisco: Pop Est 744,041: PD Size 2,100
2007 Use Of Force Complaints: 186 (8.9 per 100)

UPDATED: 09/06/08- referenced newer sets of statistics.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Fathers Day Everyone

"There is nothing noble about being superior to some other man. The true nobility is in being superior to your previous self." -- Hindu Proverb

Whether or not we recognize this fact, it still stands true...
We are all of us fathers and mothers to the generations that follow us...
We teach lessons each day to the innocent eyes that watch our actions and hear our words...
We then reap what we sow when the generations that follow, in turn, lead us as we led them.

More than just teaching children about the lessons we've learned in life, by example and by word, we must also teach them how to learn from the lessons they will be taught when we are not there to instruct them and how to apply their own conscience as an instructor in order to know the best lesson to learn from what life seeks to teach them when we are not there to instruct them. For the best lesson learned is that we all should grow each day, no matter how old.

Remember, we are, all of us, fathers and mothers to the world's children, and whether we accept this responsibility or not, we will still reap what we have sown when that next generation comes of age.

As I said... Happy Fathers Day... Everyone.

The Sentence Of The Innocent: Shackles Forever Unbroken

"Wherever you see persecution, there is more than a probability that truth lies on the persecuted side." -Hugh Latimer

As more frequent readers may recall, I recently went on a business trip, and I still apologize for the lack of posting that it caused. But, what I didn't get into is that I was reminded of something that I should need no reminder of during my trip...

While going through the wonderful security process for boarding flights in the US, I reached a Transportation Security Administration agent who examined my ticket, which was marked with a series of S's, and informed me that I must go through the enhanced security checkpoint. He then asked if I had done this before and I replied, in my usual pleasant manner, that this was quite new to me even though I had traveled many times in the past. It was at this point that he looked up at me and retorted after a thoughtful pause, "Oh really? Are you sure about that?" and he then politely told me which line to go to and what to expect.

While being patted down and watching the contents of my backpack emptied and swabbed on a metal desk I pondered the words of the agent and the tone; "what did he mean by that?" I wondered to myself... it seems there is only one answer, that my name is now upon some list of people who deserve extra scrutiny and I will always go through this hassle forever more... but why? I had further incentive to ponder that later when receiving the same treatment on the way back and seeing the pleasant note inside my other luggage that informed me that my baggage had been carefully inspected for everyone's safety as well... apparently my camera was dangerous because it was mysteriously missing as well.

I talked with my wife about it and she seemed convinced that it was the color of my skin that prompted my being repeatedly singled out, but I informed her that I never had to go through this before... so the answer would be found in determining what had changed since the last time I flew.

Well, a hint for those who aren't aware of the reason I started this site, what had changed was that I was severely beaten and accused of a crime I did not commit a little over a year ago. It appears that even though I was found innocent and the charges were dismissed, that I am still deemed guilty, or at least deemed to be worth treating as if I were guilty.

But, again, it is a lesson for which I have plenty of reminders already. Like when I interviewed for a new job a few months after that terrible incident I was reminded again of this fact. I knew that I had a permanent mark on my record, that even though I was found innocent, any background check would find an arrest on my record. So I dutifully informed my prospective employer of what happened, that he would see an arrest on my record but I was declared innocent so he need not worry... to which he cheerfully replied, "That's alright, we all make mistakes."

Indeed, we all make mistakes and the dutiful among us should make them right when made... but the mistake made was not mine, even though I'm the one who was made to pay for it, and I kindly informed him of that fact. But, it seems, no amount of informing will convince the record, and the perfunctory lists that my name now appears on as a result, in permanence... as a reminder to officials everywhere, apparently, that I should be treated as if I was guilty irregardless.

Of course, it's not like we have some sort of support group, for it seems that even the supposed defenders of our civil rights feel that once a person stands accused that they are forever tainted with guilt, deservedly or not. At least, that's what I gather by their reactions when I tell them why I started advocating for those who are victims like me... that reaction ranging from silence to outright animosity. So it is that we who have been found innocent and tossed aside by the justice system are always made to feel isolated socially, not just by those we should expect to be judgmental, but from those we expect help from as well.

Thus it is that I, a person who was actually a victim of a pretty brutal crime, which was compounded in brutality with the addition of being wrongfully accused, must now always be punished for that crime that was done to me. But, it's not just me... this is the way the justice system works in America, treating all who enter it as if they are already guilty before their trial, and still guilty after they have been cleared of any wrong.

For those who doubt that the concept of presumptive innocence is dead within the borders of America, I invite you to be falsely accused of a crime if you are so certain of that fact... for I assure you, that once you stand accused, you will always stand guilty in the eyes of Americans everywhere. You will be prejudged and persecuted forever more nothing more than being judged innocent by the law... One set of shackles may have been released when they release you from the system, but it appears that there are others they place upon you that shall always remain unbroken and shut.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Declaring War On The Homeless

Alexander the Great stood before Diogenes and said, "Ask of me any boon you like." To which, Diogenes replied; "Stand out of my light."

"The only stable state is the one in which all men are equal before the law." -Aristotle

A few years ago, cities across the US started to "declare war on homelessness"... little did we know that it was Orwellian doublespeak for declaring war on the homeless by enacting policies that make being homeless akin to a criminal offense. In Seattle this war on the homeless has been ratcheting up lately with homeless encampment sweeps and the outlawing of providing food to the homeless on public lands.

Just last week, in order to bring attention to the sweeps and how detrimental it is to the homeless to be robbed of what little they have left in the process, let alone how the city lacks shelter space for the homeless to go once kicked off public lands, 15 people were arrested in an act of civil disobedience when they set up a tent right outside city hall. The city, homeless advocates state, has been destroying a vast amount of the property they find in encampments instead of storing it and providing a way for the homeless to retrieve what little belongings they might have left.

While many in Seattle may not care much about allowing the city government to seize property without due process when the homeless are concerned, it should give some pause to those who can see where allowing the government to circumvent the constitution when dealing with the most vulnerable in our society might eventually affect them too. After all, if the city can justify simply taking private property from those who have little, what stops them from illegally seizing the property of anyone else for any reason? Indeed, it would seem the only limit to violating a person's constitutional rights in Seattle would be whether the city government thought their victims could afford a lawyer to fight it.

Indeed, this issue was fought out already in court, with the city of Fresno where the city has settled a suit against their raids on homeless camps when the court found that the city's policy of destroying the property they seized amounted to a violation against constitutional protections against illegal search and seizure. The city of Seattle, apparently not learning the lesson, has allegedly destroyed over 21 tons of property in it's raids on homeless encampments so far this year.

There are many conjectures about why maxims of fairness and justice have import to us, but few consider that it is self-interest which ultimately drives the need for us to consider the rights of those most vulnerable in our society as being just as important, if not more so, as our own. For, once you concede the rights of the powerless, little then exists that would not in turn make you just as powerless. Once you permit the state to suggest that some deserve fewer rights than you have, what rights do you really possess inherently as a human in equal standing instead of having to make payments on those rights instead?

If it does not sway your sensibilities to have concern about the rights of those most vulnerable, then consider the hit to your tax pocketbook that the city is risking by carelessly violating the rights of those they consider less worthy of such rights than you. How much are you willing to pay to support a war on the homeless by way of your rights... and by way of your pocket?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday Update

First, as you might see over on the sidebar, the NAACP is continuing their public forums on police brutality in Seattle. It seems they've done four so far and two more are upcoming. Sadly, I would have posted the dates and places but it seems they don't like the site much and never got back to me with that information when I requested it.

Sad, really, that none of the people who are supposedly against police misconduct are ever willing to talk with each other in this city... I'd imagine that we could make better progress if we all worked together. Islands all are we it seems.

So, if you want to find out details on the last two public meetings where, supposedly, you can complain to them about police mistreatment, visit the story at the Seattle PI.

Anyway, next, sorry for the lack of posting this week, I was out of state on a business trip and didn't get as much time to write as I had hoped to. Things will be back to normal for a while I think.

Stay safe out there everyone.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Becoming The Monster: Problems With Proactive Policing

He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you. -Friedrich Nietzsche

One of the more recent trends in policing is the use of nearly autonomous elite police units that are trained to be more aggressive than regular officers and are sent into higher crime areas of cities to do whatever it takes to make arrests. Sometimes referred to as "proactive policing teams" because their mandate is to "go out and arrest criminals before they commit crimes", these units work with very minimal oversight and are encouraged to use whatever tactics they can get away with in order to get results.

While it's difficult to argue against their effectiveness in reducing crime rates, the no-holds-barred methods they use are starting to cause headaches for many municipalities, so many in fact that several have been disbanded in disgrace in recent years.

Most of these problems should have been foreseen because of their very nature; being close-knit and insular teams of officers trained to use highly aggressive tactics who have very little oversight, these elite teams have been prone to corruption by nature and are shown to have little problem with punishing the innocent and guilty alike... but because of their effectiveness city governments were all too willing to overlook the numerous complaints of brutality and corruption that continuously racked up against them.

After several scandals involving these elite police units have surfaced across the US, people are starting to ask questions about how these units are proactive, how they make determinations of guilt that are not based on hard evidence and fact, but on presumptions and profiles instead. Also in the magnifying glass are how insular and unaccountable these teams are and how this predisposes them to the corruption and other color of law abuses that have been forcing cities to disband their elite units. People are wondering whether these elite and aggressive units might just be turning into the very monsters they seek to fight.

For example:

Chicago Illinois, Special Operations Section (SOS)
In the city of Chicago, the now infamous Special Operations Section (SOS) units were disbanded after serious allegations of corruption and color of law abuses that included brutal assaults, falsifying information on reports, home invasions, theft, and even a plot to murder fellow officers who were suspected of turning them in. All this after the infamous Area 2 torture scandals that are still leaving the CPD in a tainted legacy of low morale and intensely poor community relations... as well as numerous dropped prosecutions and millions of dollars in settled and pending legal actions.

Greensboro North Carolina, Special Intelligence Section (SIS)
Another elite proactive anti-crime unit similar to the SOS was disbanded over charges of racism after it was discovered that they were targeting black officers and kept a "black book" that they used to specifically target only black officers in attempts to implicate them in various crimes within a mostly white police department.

Los Angeles California, Elite Metro Unit May Day Scandal
These elite anti-crime units are specially trained to use aggressive tactics and fall back quickly on use of force that goes counter to any standardized use of force continuum that dictates when and what type of force is appropriate for a given situation. LAPD's Elite Metro Unit is an example of this when televised video showed they opened fire on civilians and reporters at a peaceful immigration protest on May 1st. These units have been disbanded and investigations are ongoing after the city initially defended the unit's tactics until the videos of the unprovoked attack surfaced.

Los Angeles CA, The C.R.A.S.H (Rampart) Scandal
Probably the most infamous elite proactive police unit scandal in US history involved the LAPD's elite CRASH unit whose officers were charged with regularly making false arrests, giving perjured testimony, framing innocent people, and even for murder and other criminal activities so much so that they seemed as if they were no different than the criminals they were supposed to be fighting.

Toronto Canada, "Team 3" Scandal

Problems with autonomous elite police units aren't limited to the US. In Toronto an elite unit called "Team 3", aka "Johnny's Boys", had been disbanded after investigators found drugs at one officer's house, along with guns, knives and a ledger that appeared to be a record of a "slush fund" of personal and business expenses. Additionally, there were also allegations that officers had threatened one potential witness and bribed another, and that some had lied in court about their investigative techniques. All this led to charges of theft, forgery, and fraud against 8 officers that were dropped after prosecutors took too long turning over evidence.

Seattle has it's own elite proactive police units, the "Anti-Crime Teams" or ACTs. They too have had a growing number of complaints piling up against them, they have been the subject of some very high profile cases of abuse and have also demonstrated a willingness to punish the guilty and innocent alike. We wonder, in the process of the city defending these units at all costs and refusing to reign them in if Seattle might be building it's own tragic scandal to match those of Chicago and Los Angeles and all these other cities who ignored the warning signs in exchange for political quick fixes and expediency.

We wonder... In comparison, just how bad will Seattle's scandal be in comparison to the others that have come before it... the others that have left lessons in their mistakes and follies for those who are smart enough to learn from them?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Perceptions of Brutality: Just Having A Bad Day

Barnes and a group of friends were leaving a bar on Capitol Hill shortly after midnight on April 13, 2005. Outside was a Seattle Police Sgt. who was on patrol there. A bouncer said he seemed "agitated" and had positioned himself directly in front of the door so people would have to walk around him as they left. The bouncer, Tim Rhodes, later said one of Alley-Barnes' friends apparently threw a piece of paper or straw into the gutter. When the officer pointed it out to him, the friend picked it up and apologized, Rhodes said in a court deposition.

The Sergeant decided to detain the man and it was then that Alley-Barnes went up to the sergeant and complained that he was harassing his friend because the friend was black, according to several witnesses. The sergeant called for backup and the first officer to arrive was told to arrest Alley-Barnes, even though Alley-Barnes was walking away. The officer grabbed Alley-Barnes in what the officer described as a "groin pick," where he hoisted the man by his scrotum onto the hood of a police car. Other officers arrived, including one who later said he hit Alley-Barnes as hard as he could twice in the face.

Reports show four officers took Alley-Barnes to the ground (where he was) kicked several times in the head and torso while the others were holding him by his arms and legs. Later, when officers were leading the bloodied Alley-Barnes away, one can be heard on the dashboard-camera video telling him "it's because you're all mouth." After his arrest and while he was in handcuffs at the East Precinct, Alley-Barnes later said, one of the officers smashed his face into a wall. Forensic tests found traces of blood on the wall.
-"Police Chief Exonerated Officers In Violent Arrest"
-The Seattle Times, 06/28/2007


One of the most prevalent threads that run through a majority of police misconduct stories is that of "unnecessary escalation" where an officer turns what would have likely have been a peaceful citizen contact into one that involved the use of force. When such events occur, they begin as what should be a relatively benign encounter, such as the minor littering offense described in the introduction of this article, and then escalate into a brutal assault and charges of resisting arrest or obstruction when there was no real cause for arrest which could have been resisted or obstructed since such incidents should have resulted in a minor citation at most. Hence the term, "unnecessary escalation".

This generally happens in a number of ways, but typically the officer in question will attempt to provoke or instigate a citizen into a reaction that could be used as justification of an assault, in Seattle that justification can be something as simple as the way you're standing, or whether your hands are clenched, or even the way you look at an officer... which leaves officers plenty of leeway to charge someone with obstruction even if there really wasn't any active resistance or threat.

Additionally, once an excuse is achieved and force is applied, if the subject of that force squirms or flinches while being assaulted it can be used as justification for a continuation of that use of force, such as in the case of Hayes and Lujan as pictured above when a jaywalking offense escalated into a severe beating in front of several bystanders... at least according to a host of official exonerations of officers by the Seattle Police Department in cases of unnecessary escalation. However, reports of such "resistance" can be used to cover for retaliatory force, force used to punish a detainee rather than gain control of a detainee who is actively resisting, as there is no distinction for an officer between someone flinching from being kicked and punched and someone trying to squirm out of their grasp to escape.

The typical defense for this type of behavior tends to be that police officers were feeling stressed by work pressures or other personal problems, and while this kind of defense would be laughed at if a civilian used it to justify an assault, it tends to be sufficient when used by police officers. While a failure to maintain control of our emotions can lead to sanctions and imprisonment, their is no such inhibition for officers that force them to keep their emotions in check when such a defense is used.

However, even if this defense were justifiable enough to exonerate an officer in cases of unnecessary escalation, does that not put the onus on the police department itself for failing to identify officers who are suffering from job stressors to the point where they lack the self control necessary to perform their job without exposing the public to the risk of harm? After all, the department was able to determine that an assault was the result of officers feeling stressed, then they should be able to identify cases of stress prior to an incident of assault and take such officers out of rotation until they are treated for such mental disorders.

Indeed, officers in Seattle have been pretty open about expressing signs of stress and disgruntlement in public, especially in statements to the press in response to articles describing police brutality. Some officers even go as far to declare that they "hate the city of Seattle and all the 'liberal' people in it". While seemingly innocuous if this kind of statement were coming from an unarmed citizen, when it comes from a person who has the legal right to assault civilians and constantly caries a weapon, it becomes a very frightening statement akin to a person walking down the street with a gun in his hand yelling that he hates everyone.

Despite such signs of emotional instability, such officers continue to walk the streets, armed, and able to unnecessarily escalate any contact they have with civilians when they happen to be having a bad day at the office. Unfortunately, despite these signs of police brutality time-bombs, we continue to see officers declare their anger in public ways which are alarming and yet utterly ignored by the city government.

Given all the negative press and costly civil rights actions against the city, one would think they would realize that proactively forcing officers have regular mental health assessments and to undergo mental health treatment when signs of stress are exhibited would be seen as more cost effective ans better for public safety than just dealing with the aftermath of their rampages would be a no-brainer. But, as always, it becomes clear that the city's attempts to deal with police misconduct are nothing more than PR efforts to cover up the problems they would rather ignore.

(Part 1 of a planned series on the differing perceptions of police brutality; how civilians see brutality when officers claim there was none)

 
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