Videotaped SPD incidents led to probe
A federal investigation has found the Seattle Police Department engaged in a "pattern or practice" of violating the constitutional rights of citizens by using excessive force. Many of the incidents cited by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, who asked for the investigation, were captured at least partially on video. Read related story
A year ago, while asking the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate the Police Department, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington cited several incidents of what it described as "excessive force" by officers, particularly against minorities. Many were captured at least partially on video.
In its report, the DOJ said Friday that it reviewed hundreds of hours of video footage. Among its conclusions: "Some SPD policies and practices, particularly those related to pedestrian encounters, could result in unlawful policing. Moreover, many community members believe that SPD engages in discriminatory policing. This perception is rooted in a number of factors, including negative street encounters, recent well-publicized videos of force being used against people of color, incidents of overt discrimination, and concerns that the pattern of excessive force disproportionately affects minorities."
The incidents cited by the ACLU included those involving:
Martin Monetti Jr.
On April 17, 2010, Monetti was detained with two other men during a robbery investigation in the South Lake Union area. Monetti, who was lying prone on the ground, moved a hand to his face, and Officer Shandy Cobane was videotaped apparently trying to stop the movement with his boot. Cobane then is heard threatening to beat the "Mexican piss" out of the Latino man.
Moments later, a second officer, Mary Woollum, is seen stepping on Monetti's leg.
Two of the three men, including Monetti, were freed, while another suspect was arrested nearby. Two of the men were convicted of robbery and other charges. Cobane was suspended by Police Chief John Diaz for 30 days for his remark — the most severe punishment allowed short of firing.
Daniel Maceo Saunders
After he mistakenly was released from King County Jail, Saunders went to the Police Department's evidence facility in Georgetown on June 11, 2009, to pick up his belongings. In an incident captured on surveillance video, Saunders was recognized by a clerk, who summoned three officers to take Saunders back into custody. The tape shows Saunders taken hard to the floor, where the officers pile on top of him and strike him repeatedly with batons, flashlights and their fists.
One officer used a Taser in the painful "touch" mode several times as well. The officers claimed Saunders, who is black, was armed with a screwdriver and that he was struggling to grab at the officers' utility belts.
On June 14, 2010, Officer Ian Walsh stopped a teenage girl for jaywalking at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Way South and Rainier Avenue South in the Rainier Valley. Rosenthal, then 17, a friend of the suspect, tried to intervene and pushed Walsh, who responded by punching her in the face. Rosenthal apologized to Walsh in a private meeting four days later. Walsh was exonerated after an internal investigation.
John T. Williams
On Aug. 30, 2010, Officer Ian Birk was driving in his patrol car when he saw First Nations woodcarver Williams crossing a downtown street while carrying a knife. Birk got out of his car and confronted Williams, a public inebriate who'd had dozens of encounters with Seattle police. Birk claims Williams refused several orders to drop the knife before the officer opened fire, killing Williams. The shooting was ruled unjustified, and Birk resigned from the department.
Officer James J. Lee was investigating an attack on undercover officers on Oct. 18, 2010, when he cornered a suspect inside Joe's Mart. Surveillance video showed Lee repeatedly kicking Hoston, a 17-year-old African American who later was acquitted of first-degree attempted robbery.
Lee was charged with fourth-degree assault, a gross misdemeanor. But the charge was dropped by the City Attorney's Office after an outside expert, who had found the last of Lee's three kicks to be unwarranted, changed his opinion.
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.
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