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Friday, February 13, 2009

Police Misconduct NewsWatch for 02-13-09 - Local Edition

A lot of news going on in Seattle so instead of a regular News Watch I'm turning the focus local for this issue... even though I have a lot of catching up to do for some national stories I'm looking into.

Arrested For Standing While Black
Tim Harris at the always intriguing Apesmas Lament tells the tale of a Real Change newspaper vendor named Donald Morehead who was selling copies of the local advocacy weekly paper when a Seattle Police officer allegedly knocked one of his teeth out, slammed his head against a cruiser, and then arrested him...

Morehead's crime?

Apparently nothing more than standing while black one of the city's "drug enforcement zones". The officer arrested Morehead on unspecified charges, though Morehead had no drugs and only a few copies of the paper and $20.00 from the copies that he had already sold.

The money was confiscated as alleged "drug money" and Morehead spent 16 days in the King County Jail until people at the paper raised enough for the $160 bail.

Tim first mentioned the case in a post on the fifth when he first discovered Morehead was in jail from a public defender who was representing him and started collecting money for his release shortly afterward.

This type of racially-based enforcement activity has been becoming more common in Seattle with the NAACP noting the issue towards the end of last year which also sparked allegations of retaliation when officers later charged a witness of a racial profiling incident named Yvonne Gaston who testified for the NAACP's news conference, of assaulting an officer a day after that conference... strangely enough, weeks after the alleged incident occurred.

Harris has recently joined with other community activists in an effort, Initiative 100, to force the city to allow voters to decide whether or not the city should build a new jail to house more prisoners or work on alternative ways to reduce the need for more jail space... like not arresting so many people on questionable charges.

Though now out on bail, Morehead is still facing charges, though no word yet about whether a legal defense fund has been established for him.

King County Deputy Charged For Beating A 15 Year Old Girl
Update: The video has been released
King County sheriff deputy Paul Schene has been charged with 4th degree assault for allegedly kicking, punching, and pulling a 15 year old girl while booking her into jail.

The incident was recorded by security cameras at the jail where the officer and his partner were booking two teenage girls into juvenile jail under suspicion of auto theft in November of last year.

He alleged in charging papers that she had assaulted him when she was removing her shoes and, according to the girl, one slipped off her foot and hit the officer in the shin.

An investigator reviewing the tapes to prepare the case of assaulting an officer against the girl saw the deputy kick the girl, shove her against a wall, take her down to the floor in a hair-hold, and then punch her twice.

Ex-Civilian Review Board Member Running For City Council
Perhaps just as interesting on a local level as was the nomination of SPD Chief Gil Kerlikowske as drug czar was the announcement from ex-OPARB member Pete Holmes that he is running for an unspecified city council seat in the next election, according to The Seattle Weekly "Daily Weekly" blog.

Holmes was one of the then three member civilian review board that sharply criticized Kerlikowske for allegedly working behind the scenes to influence an internal investigation of two officers who were accused of planting drugs and lying on arrest reports. The board then had it's last report to city council censored because of it's criticism of the department's internal investigation process before it was disbanded and all of it's members replaced.

Holmes graduated from Yale University, earned his law degree from the University of Virginia, and currently works at a local law firm specialized in commercial bankruptcy law.

Victim Of Police Excessive Force Forced To File Lawsuit On His Own
Jonah at The Stranger Blog (SLOG) has an update on the case of Mark Hays who was subjected to a barrage of punches to the head and knees to the torso when he was arrested in November of 2007 by undercover SPD "Anti-Crime Team" officers after he and a friend had jaywalked in front of their unmarked SUV. The tail end of the beating he received that night was caught on a dashcam video of a responding SPD officer's cruiser.

An internal investigation into that arrest found that the officer who beat Hays had used excessive force and that he was misleading when interviewed by investigators looking into complaints about that violent arrest, even though Hays himself was found guilty of assaulting an officer for allegedly jumping on one of the officer's backs during the incident.

It appears, according to Jonah, that Hays has now filed a civil suit against the city seeking $750,000 in damages for the beating, for improperly withholding public records, and for conspiring to deny a proper investigation into allegations of misconduct... all without a lawyer to represent him.

I certainly wish him all the best, but worry about why he's going it alone at this point.

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