(This article originally appeared on PubliCola and has been reprinted under an agreement.)
The last time the City of Seattle launched a new department — Seattle Information Technology, which brought IT staff from across the city under one roof — the consolidation took years. “In contrast, we had about eight months,” said Chris Lombard, who leads the City’s newest department: the Community Safety and Communications Center (CSCC), which began work at the beginning of June.
In some ways, creating the CSCC involved fewer moving parts than the infamously messy set-up of the massive citywide IT department. When plans to move the parking enforcement unit to the CSCC fell through this spring, Lombard was left overseeing a single, crucial service: Seattle’s 911 call center. The center, historically a civilian unit inside the Seattle Police Department, will play a key role in the City’s efforts to shift away from a police-centric approach to public safety, and the City’s decision to house the 911 call center in the new department was one of the first concrete steps in that effort.
The Emerald’s Watchdragon reporting seeks to increase accountability within our city’s institutions through in-depth investigative journalism.
Author’s Note: The Emerald has redacted the name of the former auditor at the heart of this story, as well as all email addresses, a suspect’s face, and an email included in the ethics complaint (due to concerns about job security in the latter case).
A senior-level Office of Inspector General (OIG) auditor has resigned from their position as investigations supervisor over their concerns that Inspector General Lisa Judge and Deputy Inspector General Amy Tsai have quashed any pushback against the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) — among other duties, the office the OIG is supposed to audit and oversee as part of Seattle’s police accountability system — rendering the OIG’s staff little more than rubber stampers for OPA investigations. The former auditor alleges in a formal ethics complaint to the City that this systematic pushback is based in part on a personal relationship between Deputy IG Amy Tsai and the OPA director and is focused on “appeasing the OPA.”
In its April story, the Emerald noted a curious addition to the Case Closed Summary (CCS) of the incident, which it had not seen in previous summaries. In this particular CCS, the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) stated that the Office of Inspector General (OIG) had declined to certify the OPA’s investigation as objective or thorough. This meant that the OIG — which is part of Seattle’s police accountability structure, conducting Seattle Police Department (SPD) and OPA audits, overseeing the OPA, and working alongside SPD and others to create and update SPD’s policies and practices — had only partially certified the investigation. In its brief paragraph about this in the CCS, the OPA did not go into detail. It merely stated that the OIG’s points of objection were “didactic and immaterial” and declined to address them further.
The Emerald recently obtained the OIG’s certification memo for that case, as well as for eight other OPA investigations for incidents that occurred between April 2020 and May 2021, via a public disclosure request. The Emerald also obtained the OIG’s memo for OPA case 2020OPA-0583, which concerned the overall decision by SPD officers to confront protesters in front of the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) headquarters in SoDo on Sept. 7, 2020. The Emeraldpublished a story regarding that memo, which deemed the OPA’s investigative shortfalls so severe that they “cannot be remedied” with a new investigation.
(This article originally appeared on PubliCola and has been reprinted under an agreement.)
In findings released on Thursday afternoon, Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability ruled that two of the six officers who attended former President Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6 violated department policy and federal law by trespassing on the grounds of the U.S. capitol while insurgents stormed the legislative chambers inside. The officers will now face Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz, who will decide how to discipline the pair for their breach of policy; their supervisors have recommended that Diaz fire both officers.
Author’s Note: For the purposes of clarity, the Emerald will use “(sic)” in parentheses in quoted sections of the OIG memo discussed in this article to indicate that it has been reprinted here exactly as it appears in the source material (the OIG memo). Where readers see “[sic]” styled as shown here, with square brackets, this text was used by the OIG in their memo to indicate that the text quoted in their memo appears exactly as it appears in the source material (the OPA Report of Investigation/ROI).
On the evening of Monday, Sept. 7, 2020, hundreds of protesters marched to the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild headquarters in SoDo. The march fell just after the 100th day of protests against police brutality held in the city since late May 2020, following the murder of George Floyd.
Once the protesters arrived at the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG) headquarters, it didn’t take long for police on bicycles to confront the crowd. It’s unclear exactly what prompted the police to come outside, but the situation soon erupted, with officers deploying blast balls and pepper spray and arresting several protesters. Videos about the event online, including those in this Twitter thread from Seattle Times reporter Heidi Groover and this Twitter thread by Stranger Associate Editor Rich Smith, show what appears to be a peaceful scene, before Seattle Police Department (SPD) officers on bicycles come around the corner to confront protesters. Based on these videos, it does not appear that any of the protesters instigated the confrontation, though a heavily edited official SPOG video, complete with background music, claims otherwise and says that police sprang into action after allegedly seeing a protestor carrying Molotov cocktails.
The Office of Police Accountability has determined in a two-part investigative summary that at least eight Seattle police officers violated Seattle Police Department policy when they registered to vote using the addresses of different Seattle Police Department precincts. One of those officers was current Seattle Police Officers Guild President Mike Solan.
(This article was previously published at PubliCola and has been reprinted with permission.)
The former Seattle police officer who condemned city leadership for abandoning the Seattle Police Department in a CBS news segment on Wednesday left SPD with a record of harassment and violent outbursts, one of which drew condemnation — but not criminal charges — from City Attorney Pete Holmes in 2013. In his appearance, Powell blamed the Seattle City Council for the exodus of 260 officers from SPD in the past year and a half, and claimed city leaders “didn’t allow [officers] to intervene” to prevent violence during last summer’s protests.
(This article previously appeared on PubliCola and has been reprinted under an agreement.)
On Wednesday, May 12, interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz announced his decision to overturn the Office of Police Accountability’s (OPA) findings in one of the most prominent misconduct cases of last summer’s protests. The case centered on the Seattle Police Department’s (SPD’s) use of blast balls, tear gas, and pepper spray against protesters at the intersection of 11th Avenue and Pine Street on the evening of June 1, 2020, after an officer attempted to yank a pink umbrella out of a protester’s hands.
The chief’s decision to overturn the OPA’s finding of excessive force against Lieutenant John Brooks, who gave the order to use the weapons against protesters, sparked an outcry from police accountability advocates and activist groups. The Community Police Commission (CPC), one of Seattle’s trio of police oversight bodies, called Diaz’s decision “detrimental to community trust in SPD and Seattle’s entire police accountability system,” particularly because he offered no detail about how he would hold decision-makers at a “higher level of command authority” responsible in lieu of Brooks.
On June 1, 2020, people took to the streets of Seattle to protest the murder of George Floyd and to renew calls for racial justice. These mass protests, which would continue throughout 2020 and into early 2021 in varying forms, had begun just a few days before, on May 29, following Floyd’s murder on May 25, 2020.
These protests were met with a heavily armed police response that included Seattle Police Department (SPD) officers using blast balls, tear gas, pepper spray, full-body takedowns, arrests, and more against protestors in numerous instances that have been documented in hundreds of videos, photographs, and audio recordings shared across several different social media platforms and reported on by different media outlets.
In response to the thousands of complaints filed against SPD officers, the City of Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability (OPA) created a special dashboard to keep track of the status of demonstration-related complaints. It has been releasing its decisions in batches since late 2020. Many of these complaints allege SPD officers used excessive force against protestors and violated multiple policies in the SPD manual. Thus far, few of the OPA’s decisions in these cases have resulted in serious sustained allegations against officers.
The Seattle Office of Police Accountability has decided that there is “insufficient evidence” to hold the Seattle Police Department officer who drove an unmarked SUV onto a crowded sidewalk last August responsible for assault by allegedly violating City and police department standards and duties, and adherence to the law, as well as City and police department policy.