SPD officer who punched teen in jaywalking incident cleared of using excessive force
A Seattle police officer whose videotaped punch of a teenage girl during a jaywalking arrest captured national attention has been cleared in an internal investigation of using excessive force during the incident.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seattle police Officer Ian Walsh, whose videotaped punch of a teenage girl during a jaywalking arrest drew national attention, has been cleared by the department of using excessive force.
Walsh, 39, was exonerated after an internal investigation, the Police Department said in a written statement released Tuesday.
Police Chief John Diaz accepted a recommendation by Walsh's chain of command and the department's Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) that Walsh acted within the scope of department policies and procedures, the statement said. The OPA "thoroughly investigated" the matter, "interviewing witnesses and reviewing the tactics used by Officer Walsh," the statement said.
The decision drew sharp criticism from James Kelly, president and chief executive of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, who has been both critic and peacemaker in the incident.
Kelly, who has been critical of both the teenager and Walsh for their roles in the incident, said the officer used excessive force. He said the department missed an opportunity, amid similar incidents in recent months, to increase its credibility, particularly in minority communities.
"Two wrongs don't make a right," Kelly said. "What she did was wrong and what he did was wrong."
The June 14 incident was one of several cited last week by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and 34 community and civil-rights organizations in a request to the U.S. Justice Department to investigate whether the Police Department has engaged in a pattern of violating the civil rights of suspects, particularly minorities.
The girl who was punched, Angel L. Rosenthal, 17 at the time, is African American. Walsh is white.
Walsh's action was also assailed by others in Seattle's African-American community, who raised it as an issue before Diaz was confirmed as chief in August.
Rosenthal, who turned 18 in July, later pleaded guilty to assaulting Walsh. She was received one year's probation, plus community service.
The incident began when Walsh tried to stop a 19-year-old friend of Rosenthal's, Marilyn E. Levias, for jaywalking at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Way South and Rainier Avenue South in the Rainier Valley.
In a clash caught on videotape, Rosenthal intervened and shoved Walsh, who responded by punching her in the face. Four days later, Rosenthal apologized to Walsh in a private meeting arranged by Kelly.
Rosenthal pleaded guilty in October to fourth-degree assault, a gross misdemeanor, in King County Juvenile Court. She was sentenced to one year of probation and ordered to complete 80 hours of community-service work.
Under her guilty plea, she admitted to unwanted physical contact that doesn't result in an injury.
Levias, who was charged with obstructing Walsh, entered into a dispositional sentence with the City Attorney's Office in August, in which she agreed to serve 24 hours of community service. The gross misdemeanor charge will be dismissed a year from the agreement if she has no new criminal-law violations. A separate jaywalking infraction was dismissed.
Walsh, who joined the department in November 2006, was temporarily placed in the department's training unit after the incident to allow him to review his tactics, police said. He has since returned to patrol duties.
The incident prompted Diaz to order a review of training procedures and request immediate recommendations on teaching de-escalation techniques to officers.
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this story.
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