(This article was originally published on PubliCola and has been reprinted under an agreement, with updated reporting by Andrew Engelson.)
by Paul Faruq Kiefer & Andrew Engelson
In a Friday night post on the Seattle Police Department (SPD) Blotter blog, interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz confirmed that two officers were in Washington, D.C. during the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, though he could not confirm whether the officers took part in the attack on the U.S. Capitol Building. Diaz wrote that SPD referred the two officers to the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) for further investigation; the OPA will review whether the officers violated SPD policy and whether their actions could merit criminal charges.
“If any SPD officers were directly involved in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol,” he added, “I will immediately terminate them.” For the time being, the two officers are on administrative leave.
OPA Director Andrew Myerberg confirmed the news on Friday, adding that the department learned the officers had been in D.C. through posts on a social media account. The two officers already under investigation were not on duty on Wednesday; Myerberg told PubliCola that they were either furloughed or used vacation days. Both are patrol officers. He also noted that the OPA is “looking into the identities of other SPD employees who may have attended,” though he did not confirm that more than two officers were present in D.C.
Despite claims from MSNBC contributor and former Seattle City Council candidate Naveed Jamali that the officers were a couple, SPD has not confirmed any relationship between the two officers.
The announcement comes only hours after retired SPD Chief Carmen Best, Mayor Jenny Durkan, and regular SPD ally Scott Lindsay joined calls for Seattle Police Officers’ Guild president Mike Solan to apologize or resign in response to tweets in which Solan appeared to blame Black Lives Matter activists for the attack on the U.S. Capitol. “As someone who has fought for police reform and defended Seattle Police against defunding,” Lindsay wrote in a tweet on Friday afternoon, “I have a duty to call out when the head of their union spreads misinformation about the Capitol attack.” A subsequent statement from Durkan called Solan’s claims “wrong [and] immoral,” adding that they expect the OPA to investigate Solan for the tweets; the OPA will now treat the mayor’s statement as a complaint to be reviewed.
Both officers under investigation by the OPA are SPOG members.
On Monday, the Community Police Commission (CPC) announced it was exercising its authority under the 2017 Accountability Ordinance to request documents from SPS regarding all officers’ actions during the violent riot at the U.S. Capitol, including statements by Seattle Police Officer Guild (SPOG) president Mike Solan that seem to blame Black Lives Matter for the uprising. The statement from CPC, released on Monday January 11 and approved by co-chairs Rev. Harriett Walden, Rev. Aaron Williams, and Prachi Dave, reads as follows:
“We are outraged both by the potential participation of Seattle Police Department officers in this violent riot and by the comments made by officer Mike Solan. These actions only serve to further diminish the trust the community has in its police force.
“Today, the Community Police Commission (CPC) is exercising our authority under the landmark 2017 Accountability Ordinance to request all internal communications sent within the Seattle Police Department regarding this attempted coup. Our goal is to look into the systemic issues that may be in operation and review policies that may need to be changed in order to address the systemic problems that gave rise to these events. We have requested all of those documents be sent to us as soon as possible, but no later than January 22, 2021.
“The CPC cannot and will not be conducting disciplinary investigations into this matter. The Office of Police Accountability (OPA) is responsible for those investigations. However, we will be fulfilling our duty to act as the voice of the Community in the police accountability process and ensuring Seattle leaves no stone unturned in its effort to ensure SPD policies and practices meet Community expectations.
“The CPC has also invited the OPA and the Office of the Inspector General to our upcoming meeting on January 20, 2021, to explain their plans to the Community for investigating these actions and ensuring any of these potential problems are not more widespread within the department than we are currently aware.”
The CPC press release noted that the request was in keeping with Seattle’s Accountability Ordinance, noting “This is a request consistent with 3.29.300 of the Accountability Ordinance which provides for the Community Police Commission to: ‘Without the necessity of making a public disclosure request, CPC may request and shall timely receive from other City departments and offices, including SPD, information relevant to its duties under this Chapter 3.29 that would be disclosed if requested under the Public Records Act.’”
In a Tweet posted on Friday, January 8, former Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best called on Mike Solan to apologize or resign, alongside seven of nine Seattle City Council Members calling for Solan’s resignation.
Paul Kiefer is a journalist, historian, and born-and-bred Seattleite. He has published work with KUOW, North Carolina Public Radio, and The Progressive magazine, and he is currently working on a podcast for KUAF in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He was recently hired on as the police accountability reporter for PubliCola.
Andrew Engelson is the News Director/Assistant Deputy for the Emerald and a Seattle-based writer and editor who lives in the South End.
Featured image is attributed to Marco Verch Professional Photographer under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.