by Carolyn Bick
Had the Seattle Police Department officer only punched the demonstrator twice, and for a slightly shorter period of time, the Office of Police Accountability said it may not have found that the officer violated policy when he and another officer — both of whom appear to have been wearing helmets — punched a demonstrator in the course of arresting him on the night of May 29.
This finding was included in one of the case closed summaries into five demonstration-related complaints against Seattle officers released on Oct. 23. In these findings, the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) did not sustain allegations in three complaints and only partially sustained allegations in two complaints against Seattle Police Department (SPD) officers.
Continue reading If the Officer Had Punched Twice, He Would Likely Have Been Within Policy: OPA Releases New Complaint Findings
by Carolyn Bick
When they read the report by OIR Group that looked into how the King County Sheriff’s Office handled the investigation into Tommy Le’s death, the Le family was surprised to read how much appeared to be working in favor of the sheriff’s department and the involved deputies, Tommy Le’s aunt Uyen Le said.
“When we received the report and the findings, it’s very obvious to us — I feel like it’s common sense that a lot of these things should be in place … but they obviously were not. And it just didn’t create a fair and just situation for Tommy. I think everything seemed to be working more in the favor of the sheriff’s department,” Uyen Le told the Emerald in an interview, referencing the report’s recommendations based on its findings.
The findings — compiled into a comprehensive, 42-page-long report that was released in early September — appeared to have a similar effect on at least one King County lawmaker, when report authors Michael Gennaco and Stephen Connolly presented it at the Sept. 2 meeting of the King County Council’s Law and Justice Committee. Upon learning of the findings, Committee Chair and District 2 Councilmember Girmay Zahilay — himself an attorney — said the way in which the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) handled the investigation into Tommy Le’s shooting would appear to be “a clear obstruction of justice.”
Continue reading No Records Exist of the Review Board Interviews Conducted With the Deputies Involved in Tommy Le’s Shooting
by Carolyn Bick
King County Undersheriff Patti Cole-Tindall will be recommending to Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht that King County Sheriff’s Office Detective Mike Brown be fired, according to an internal email shared with the Emerald.
Continue reading KCSO Undersheriff to Recommend Detective Who Posted “All Lives Splatter” Be Fired
by Carolyn Bick
Editor’s Note: This article contains details about a homicide case, including images of evidence and crime scene reconstruction, that readers may find disturbing and/or triggering.
In the weeks following 20-year-old Tommy Le’s death at the hands of King County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Cesar Molina, Xuyen Le still refused to believe her nephew would have attacked the police with anything, much less a knife. She told then-Sheriff John Urquhart as much at a meeting of the Asian Pacific Directors Coalition, which she later described in the process of court proceedings.
Continue reading Tommy Le May Have Been Shot While Facedown on Roadway, May Not Have Even Had a Pen, Documents Show
“I then told the Sheriff it was our firm belief that, ‘Tommy would never attack the police and certainly not with a knife.’ I politely asked Sheriff Urquhart the most important question to our family and community, ‘Why did the officers shoot Tommy if he was not attacking the officers with a knife – a weapon?’” Xuyen Le’s declaration reads.
by Carolyn Bick
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has released an Executive Order meant to “create an accountable and transparent timeline to evaluate Seattle Police Department (SPD) functions and identify areas of SPD response that can be transitioned to civilian and community-based responses,” according to a press release from her office on Oct. 1. According to the order, the first public deliverable — a work plan and community engagement timeline — will be available in October, while the last one — a final analysis report that examines several factors, including current SPD practices and functions, as well as community input on community policing — will be available in March 2021.
Continue reading Durkan Releases Executive Order Outlining Methods To Begin Transitioning Areas of SPD to Civilian, Community Response
by Carolyn Bick
In findings for six demonstration-related cases released today, the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) has determined that some allegations were sustained in just two of those cases against Seattle Police Department (SPD) officers. One of the cases in which allegations were not sustained was the case against an officer who allegedly pepper sprayed a young boy, because, according to the OPA’s findings, “the boy was not individually targeted.” It sustained two out of three allegations against an officer for placing his knee on a demonstrator’s neck and making unprofessional statements.
The summaries include findings for the officer who allegedly pepper sprayed a child; the officer who put his knee on a protestor’s neck and made unprofessional statements, and a fellow officer who allegedly made unprofessional statements; the allegation that an officer pushed over an elderly man in a show of excessive force; for the officer who was allegedly quoting the movie “Top Gun” when he was overheard saying that he has “a hard on for this shit, and, if they cross the line, I will hit them”; for officers who allegedly used excessive force against protestors and allegedly violated policy by not turning on their body worn cameras; and for an officer who allegedly made unprofessional comments over police radio.
Continue reading OPA Releases Findings for Six Demonstration-Related Cases: Does Not Sustain Allegations for Four and Sustains Some Allegations for Two
by M. Anthony Davis
The family of Breonna Taylor will receive $12 million in a settlement with the City of Louisville, and it is important to remind ourselves that this monetary win in court does not mean any significant level of justice has been served. The police who killed Taylor are still free, and even with the family being awarded $12 million, the police officers responsible for her death have not been held accountable. The police department itself has also managed to evade any significant level of accountability.
But you know who will pay the price for Taylor’s murder? The people of Louisville. The ordinary citizens like you and me. The people who go to work, pay their taxes, and somehow manage to do their jobs without murdering anyone in the process. There are a lot of words that can be used to describe situations like this, but justice is not one of them.
Continue reading OPINION: $12 Million Doesn’t Equate to Justice for Breonna Taylor
by Carolyn Bick, with additional reporting by Jessie McKenna
Seattle Gay News journalist Renee Raketty was sitting on a narrow set of metal steps and trying to catch her breath when the blast ball an officer allegedly threw beneath her exploded. Hours later, still surprised and disoriented, Raketty played the video over and over again, because she still couldn’t believe what had happened. But the permanent loss of hearing in her right ear is all too real.
In the course of reporting Raketty’s story, the Emerald has discovered that SPD appears to be out of compliance with the Consent Decree. An officer’s alleged actions caused Raketty to permanently lose her hearing, which is “a significant permanent loss or impairment of the function of any bodily part or organ.” It would appear that an injury of this severity would be classified as a Type III use of force, according to the SPD manual, and the Consent Decree mandates that all Type III uses of force be reviewed by SPD’s Force Review Board (FRB). But according to officials with the OPA and SPD, this case will not be reviewed by the FRB, as there does not appear to be any mechanism in practice within existing policy with which to do so.
Continue reading Local Journalist Faces Complex Accountability Process That Appears to Show SPD Out of Compliance With Consent Decree
by Alycia Ramirez
Since the death of George Floyd under the knee of a police officer, there have been continuous protests resulting in the nation finally realizing the racial inequities baked into our justice system — especially in law enforcement. Even here in our own Emerald City, white Seattleites are now beginning to see what Black and Brown communities have been pointing out for decades: police brutalize people of color with impunity, and often without consequence, and we throw hundreds of millions of dollars at “arresting away” crime instead of investing those funds back into communities.
Continue reading OPINION: SPOG Head and the SPD are Waging an Old Propaganda War Against Protestors and the Left to Thwart Accountability
by Carolyn Bick
Ever since she found out the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) had paused the investigation into her complaint, Aisling Cooney has been trying to get an estimate of when the office might once again resume the investigation.
Though Seattle Police Department (SPD) Sgt. Aaron Keating, the investigating officer on Cooney’s case, finally answered her question just before 10 a.m. on Sept. 1, he said her investigation would not be resumed until April 2021, because one of the officers named in the complaint would not return from military service until then.
April 2021 is almost an entire year after the incident alleged in the complaint took place. The Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG) contract prohibits remote interviews of officers, but notably does not do so for civilian complainant interviews. It is unclear why this provision has not changed, particularly in light of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
It also took Cooney making phone calls every day for more than a week and sending numerous emails. Nevertheless, during that time period. top officials at the OPA appear to have ignored her requests for such an estimate and officials at both the OPA and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) — the duties of which involve overseeing the OPA — seem to have skirted her questions as to why they won’t give her an answer. The OPA appears to have barred Cooney from speaking on the phone with the civilian investigator who had previously been working as the intermediary between Cooney and the Seattle Police Department (SPD) officer in charge of her case, as Cooney had declined to speak directly with an SPD officer.
Continue reading Top Officials at the OPA Appear to Ignore Complainant Asking for Basic Information About Her Own Case, Despite Apparent Lack of Legal Hurdles