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Originally published June 30, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 30, 2007 at 2:04 AM

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Former OPA chief disputes chief's version of events

The former director of the Office of Professional Accountability on Friday challenged Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske's claim that...

Seattle Times staff reporter

The former director of the Office of Professional Accountability on Friday challenged Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske's claim that, because her office missed a deadline, the department couldn't punish a sergeant involved in a violent arrest on Capitol Hill.

Sam Pailca said the chief made "a deliberate decision" to blame the disputed deadline for his decision not to punish Sgt. Gregory Sackman. Pailca, the chief and internal-affairs investigators all concluded Sackman was largely responsible for the arrest of Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes outside the War Room bar on April 13, 2005.

"The department had a strong argument that the deadline was met," Pailca said in a prepared statement, adding that statements by the chief and others in the department "are inaccurate and leave a mistaken impression" that the OPA was to blame for not disciplining Sackman.

The contract between the city and the Seattle Police Officers' Guild states the department has 180 days to investigate an allegation of officer misconduct and impose any discipline.

The chief placed a cautionary letter in Sackman's file and exonerated two officers who punched and kicked Alley-Barnes.

Pailca had recommended all of them be disciplined for serious violations.

The chief promoted Sackman to lieutenant last week.

Pailca, a former King County prosecutor, left OPA in March after a six-year term and is now an attorney at Microsoft. As the first civilian director of the OPA, her job was to oversee internal investigations and recommend discipline to the chief, who makes the final determination.

Police reports and court records show Alley-Barnes, 29, questioned Sackman as he was citing one of Alley-Barnes' friends for littering. The sergeant called for help, and Alley-Barnes was taken to the ground and slugged and kicked by several officers.

He was charged with resisting arrest and assaulting an officer. The charges were dropped after a judge found the Police Department withheld a video that called the officers' version of events into question. Alley-Barnes has filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit.

Mark McCarty, the Police Department's human-resources legal adviser, said Friday that OPA miscalculated the deadline based on a previous guild contract. He conceded the case was "difficult and complicated," and said he advised the chief "it would be a tough case to win" if Sackman challenged his discipline.

"I'll fight a fight when I can win it," he said. "This wasn't one I felt we could win."

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Pailca said the Alley-Barnes case was serious enough to warrant the effort.

"The department could have chosen -- especially in such a significant case -- to stand firm against any subsequent challenge," she said.

Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or mcarter@seattletimes.com

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