The Emerald’s Watchdragon reporting seeks to increase accountability within our city’s institutions through in-depth investigative journalism.
This article is part three of a multi-part series concerning the protests that took place in Seattle in late 2020. It describes the apparent inaccuracies in the Office of Police Accountability’s (OPA) official report of the events as documented in the police oversight entity’s Director’s Certification Memo, which appears to have been signed off on as final by the OPA director. It also connects the dots between the certification memo and the recent ethics complaint filed by a former Office of Inspector General auditor, as reported here. Find the first article in this series here.
In late June, the Emeraldpublished a story about an Office of Inspector General auditor’s memo detailing concerns with the way the OPA investigators handled a case about last year’s Labor Day protest at the Seattle Police Officers Guild headquarters. That protest has been a topic of contention throughout Seattle for a number of reasons, including the amount of force the Seattle Police Department used against protesters and whether officers were actually responding to a credible threat in the crowd, as they claim.
OPA Director Andrew Myerberg told the Emerald in a June 28 email that he was planning on finalizing the Director’s Certification Memo and releasing the Case Closed Summary related to complaints filed in the wake of the incident the following week.
As of this writing, not only has the OPA still not released the Case Closed Summary — more than a year after the protest — but the Emerald has learned through an email it obtained, as well as the Director’s Certification Memo (DCM) itself, that the DCM appears to have been finalized in early April. Myerberg told the Emerald in a Sept. 20 email that the DCM will be amended — an issue the Emerald addresses at the end of this story — but did not deny that it had been finalized in April, despite saying in June that “I was planning on finalizing the DCM that week [the week of July 5].”
(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.
“Stonewall was a riot!” is a popular chant heard at Pride marches, and it’s not wrong. At the heart of Pride is a commemoration of the Stonewall Riots in 1969, sparked when queer and transgender people took a stand against a police raid at New York’s Stonewall Inn. LBGTQ+ communities and activist groups have convened every summer since then in cities around the world for marches, rallies, and festivities that honor this historic resistance. In keeping with the origins of Pride — and especially given the violent and sometimes deadly confrontations between police and protesters during last year’s protests for Black lives — Capitol Hill Pride Fest (CHPF) organizers announced that the Seattle Police Department (SPD) will be banned from their events.
(This article was originally published by PubliCola and has been reprinted under an agreement.)
The Washington State Court of Appeals issued a ruling on Monday, April 5, upholding the Seattle Police Department’s (SPD) 2016 decision to fire Officer Adley Shepherd for punching a woman while she was handcuffed in the back of a patrol car.
After then-Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole announced she was firing Shepherd, Shepherd and his union, the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG), appealed her decision to an arbitrator — in this case, an attorney who can approve, adjust, or overturn disciplinary actions for police officers. In 2018, the arbitrator sided with Shepherd, directing SPD to rehire him and offer back pay.
But Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes stood by Shepherd’s firing, asking the King County Superior Court to vacate the arbitrator’s decision — a rare challenge to the authority of arbitrators in police disciplinary cases, whose decisions are typically final. The Superior Court agreed with Holmes; after another appeal by SPOG, so did the Court of Appeals.
(This article originally appeared on PubliCola and has been reprinted under an agreement.)
On Monday, Federal District Court Judge Richard Jones found the City of Seattle in contempt of an injunction he issued in June forbidding the Seattle Police Department (SPD) from using force against peaceful protesters. According to Durkan spokesperson Kelsey Nyland, the ruling is the first contempt finding against the City in recent memory; within the next week, the court will begin considering possible penalties.
The Office of the Mayor and Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold have announced new legislation that is meant to clarify the Office of Police Accountability’s and the Office of Inspector General’s power to subpoena those involved in or who are witness to possible officer misconduct — including officers themselves.
The proposal clarifies legislation that was previously unclear due to language in both the City’s 2017 Accountability Ordinance and the 2018 Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) contract that appear to counter one another.
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.
I arrived at the agreed-upon location of the Labor Day March earlier this month with a friend in the Chinatown International District. Another friend met up with us, and we listened to various speakers giving us advice, reminders, and having us mentally prepare for what could happen. An agitator was already there with his microphone and speaker, asking us to repent, turn to God, etc. Some protesters did a good job at keeping him across the street from the rest of the group; protesters would also occasionally swear and yell at him which did not seem to phase him.
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.