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DOJ Launches Investigation of Seattle Police


Wonderful.  The DOJ is going to investigate.  What for?  Are there any racists in Seattle or what?  And, what business is it of the DOJ to investigate a problem in a State?

AP Feb. 16: Seattle Police stand down protestors who marched to within a block of a precinct station in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood during a night-time protest march against Seattle Police Officer Ian Birk.SEATTLE –  The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday launched a formal civil rights investigation into the Seattle Police Department following the fatal shooting of a homeless Native American woodcarver and other incidents of force used against minority suspects.

The investigation aims to determine whether Seattle police have a "pattern or practice" of violating civil rights or discriminatory policing, and if so, what they should do to improve, Seattle U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan and the assistant attorney general for the DOJ's civil rights division, Thomas E. Perez, said during a conference call Thursday morning. Durkan's office previously conducted a preliminary investigation.

Perez said the investigation would involve reviewing the police department's policies, watching officers on the beat, gathering records, and interviewing officers, police brass and community groups.

"Our broader goal is to ensure that the community has an effective, accountable police department that controls crime, ensures respect for the Constitution, and enjoys the trust of the public it is charged with protecting," he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and 34 other community groups called for the inquiry after a Seattle officer shot and killed woodcarver John T. Williams last summer.

Video from Officer Ian Birk's patrol car showed Williams crossing the street holding a piece of wood and a small knife, and Birk exiting the vehicle to pursue him. Off camera, Birk quickly shouted three times for Williams to drop the knife, then fired five shots. The knife was found folded at the scene, but Birk later maintained Williams had threatened him.

Birk resigned from the force but was not charged by state prosecutors who cited the high bar of having to prove he acted with malice and without good faith. A review board found the shooting unjustified.

Separate from the "pattern or practice" investigation of the department, the DOJ also confirmed Thursday that it is taking a look at whether Birk should be charged criminally with deliberately violating Williams' civil rights while acting under "color of law" as a police officer.

Birk's attorney, Ted Buck, told The Seattle Times that was a waste of time because Birk feared for his life and was following his training when he shot.

Other incidents captured on surveillance or police-cruiser video include Seattle officers using an anti-Mexican epithet and stomping on a prone Latino man who was mistakenly thought to be a robbery suspect; an officer kicking a non-resisting black youth in a convenience store; and officers tackling and kicking a black man who showed up in a police evidence room to pick up belongings after he was mistakenly released from jail.

Police Chief John Diaz said in a message to employees Thursday that he looks forward to the DOJ's feedback and knows any recommendations made will be based on "research, best practices and sound principles."

"I view this as an opportunity to take advantage of an independent audit by a highly respected law enforcement entity," Diaz said. "This is a great police department, but even the best police department can benefit from external review if the only result is an increase in public trust."

ACLU of Washington spokesman Doug Honig welcomed the announcement.

"We think the DOJ has a lot of experience and expertise in dealing with situations like this around the country," he said. "Our hope is that they can make recommendations that will help the city of Seattle curtail the use of excessive force in the future."

The Justice Department has 15 open "pattern or practice" investigations nationwide.

Durkan, who has served on Seattle's shootings review board, said the formal review was not prompted by any specific incident and stressed that no conclusions were reached in advance.

Any police department can have a string of unfortunate incidents that may or may not be indicative of systemic problems, she stressed.

"It's very important in these pattern-and-practice investigations to make sure people understand that we're really looking at the police department as a whole, its systems, its procedures and the way it does policing in the community," she said.

The investigation comes two weeks after the DOJ issued a scathing report that followed a similar investigation of the New Orleans Police Department. In that case, the DOJ found that New Orleans police have often used deadly force without justification, repeatedly made unconstitutional arrests and engaged in racial profiling.

Perez said the investigation of the Seattle Police Department would be far more narrow. He expects Seattle officials to cooperate as thoroughly as those in New Orleans did, he said.

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Reader Comments (4)

This was bad, very bad and the cop should go to jail for a long time. I carry knife on me and I wouldn't like some policeman drilling me full of holes and saying I had to shoot him. I was a LE Officer for three decades and I had shot everyone with a knife well there would be a lot of dead people laying around.

April 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBarn

Well, Barn? If you had been an LE officer for thirty years perhaps you could type a little better but, that isn't the point.

The point is that the DOJ has NO business investigating what goes on in each and every State.

April 2, 2011 | Registered CommenterMark "Snooper" Harvey

Well Mark if you weren't such an asshole maybe more people would comment here! My job was not typing, you can't even imagine the skills sets I have. Like most crap hounds of your kind you mistake ability with a key board as the only thing that matters in the world.
Wake up jackass, you are going to be on the receiving end of the coming police brutality. It is being developed to a fine art to be practiced on patriots. I don't doubt that you are a patriot but you are confused about what patriotism means and who the enemy is and it ain't harmless woodcarvers.
The point I made was Americans should not accept summary executions as SOP from a law enforcement officer. You haven't the cojones to post this but I know you will read it. Prick!

April 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBarn

Like I said, Barn, you missed the point and after my previous comment, NOW you give the deal?

And I don't know who The Enemy is? Are you kidding me?

Do you read much?

Judas H Priest.

April 2, 2011 | Registered CommenterMark "Snooper" Harvey
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