by Carolyn Bick
Footage from a video circulating widely on Twitter appears to show Seattle Police Department (SPD) officers on bicycles chasing down, beating, and arresting a small group of three people in what appears to be the Chinatown-International District (CID) on the evening of Aug. 16. Earlier that evening, a protest took place in front of the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild (SPOG) headquarters in SoDo. It is unclear if the officers believed the individuals were protestors who had moved from SoDo to the area shown in the video.
The video, which the Emerald has included below, shows about a minute of footage. It should be noted that the Emerald was unable to reach the video-taker or obtain the video in its raw form without supertext and with the full audio. The audio in the included video cuts out part way through.
The video starts with officers on bicycles riding down the street of what appears to be an area of the CID. As they turn a corner beside a parking lot, someone begins to shout. The video footage is a little grainy and shaky but appears to show the officers jumping off their bikes to tackle three people who are running away. The officers beat and appear to arrest the three individuals, who do not appear to be armed. It is unclear what prompted the officers to chase after these individuals.
Omari Salisbury of Converge Media forwarded to the Emerald a response he received from SPD regarding the body-worn camera footage of this incident. Salisbury asked for comment on the video and inquired whether the body-worn camera footage would be released. Media officer Sgt. Lauren Truscott responded, saying that while she believed she had found the police report associated with the footage, “[w]e will not be releasing [body-worn camera] Footage at this time,” and that Salisbury would be “welcome to make a Public Disclosure Request for the footage.”
“There is an associated Use of Force report made with this arrest,” Truscott said in her email to Salisbury. “All use of force is thoroughly reviewed and any possible misconduct or policy violations will be referred to the Office of Police Accountability [OPA] for further investigation.”
Truscott did not say how long it might take for the footage to be released to Salisbury, but the Emerald recently reported that SPD has told protestors who filed public records requests for body-worn camera footage and other records related to their own arrests at a protest on July 25 that they would have to wait until at least late February.
When the Emerald asked about the footage and incident, Truscott said again that the video has been referred to the OPA for further investigation.
It should be noted that Salisbury reached out to the OPA to ask about SPD not releasing the body-worn camera footage from the Aug. 16 protest. OPA Director Andrew Myerberg said that “SPD’s practice is to release [body-worn video] within around 48 hours of an officer-involved shooting. However, I don’t know of any policy that would preclude them from releasing video on any incident of public concern even when that incident is under OPA review. That would be completely within their discretion.”
In other words, it appears that SPD could release the body-worn camera footage, if it wanted to. When Salisbury asked the Mayor’s Office the same question, the office replied only with a statement that said the OPA is investigating the incident. The office did not answer Salisbury’s question.
As some have noted on Twitter, SPD has already released other body-worn camera footage from the Aug. 16 protest. The footage is included in a 90-second video tweeted out by SPD and uses some livestream protest footage from a user called Rebellion Baby as well as footage from body-worn cameras. It appears to show protestors shooting fireworks toward police officers in a short period of time and from multiple angles: first the crowd angle and then from what appears to be at least three different body worn camera angles, based on what appear to be identification codes in the upper right-hand corner of the video. In one piece of the footage, a firework appears to explode right next to an officer, but it is unclear if the firework injured him. The Emerald has included the video below.
Comments on SPD’s tweet containing the video and other Twitter posts of SPD’s video appear to indicate dissatisfaction over SPD dedicating time to creating and quickly releasing this particular compilation but not releasing other body-worn camera footage, such as the footage related to the chase described at the beginning of this article. Other commenters noted that SPD has been using comparable explosives, such as blast balls, against protestors. In June, SPD officers’ allegedly indiscriminate use of blast balls nearly killed a young woman taking part in a Black Lives Matter protest on Capitol Hill.
In her response to the Emerald regarding a question about the amount of time it takes to fulfill public disclosure requests that ask for body-worn camera footage, Truscott said that body-worn “footage that are prepared for [public disclosure] requests go through an extensive redaction process.”
“Those requests are processed by the public disclosure and video unit to fulfill,” she told the Emerald. “And if incidents are referred to OPA (as some from the 25th were), we typically will not release the body cam footage.”
Featured image is a screengrab from the video of officers chasing protestors included in the beginning of this story.