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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Checks and Balances

posted by on June 20 at 12:32 PM

City Council president Nick Licata sent a letter to SPD chief Gil Kerlikowske last May, voicing his concern over statements made by the Chief exonerating officers Gregory Neubert and Michael Tietjen of any wrong doing in George Patterson’s controversial arrest.

In your May 3 comments at the SPD promotional ceremony you say, “The officers were in the right; they were exonerated because of a thorough and timely investigation.”

The Patterson investigation was officially closed on May 14, 2007.

My question is why have you and other members in the Department made public determinations of the findings in this case nearly one month before they were certified by the OPA Acting Director?

Thank you in advance for your timely response.


Council President Nick Licata

A week later, Low fired back a defensive letter on Kerlikowske’s behalf.

The public statements made by the Department, seemingly in advance of the certification, were actually made after I spoke with the chief - in my official capacity as Acting Director, verbally certifying the findings.

On April 5th, I invited Auditor Kate Pflaumer to review the unredacted file in the OPA offices, which she did on Friday, April 6th.

It’s worth noting Pflaumer only spent 2 hours with the nearly 600 page file and 20 minute video of Patterson’s arrest.

Low continues:

I called the Chief and advised him I would be certifying the case, as discussed. Having said that, there is no requirement in the ordinance that the case be certified before the chief renders his decision.”

Low is right. The language in the ordinance doesn’t indicate that OPA reports need to be signed off before the Chief makes his call.

From the OPA director’s job description:

Direct the OPA investigative process, classify all complaints, certify completion and findings of all OPA cases, and make recommendations regarding disposition to the Chief of Police. The Chief of Police remains the final Police Department decision maker in disciplinary actions.

Herein lies the problem.

The Chief needs to know someone’s looking over his shoulder and that he’s accountable too. Licata is pushing for city council to review the Chief’s position every four years. Nickels has come out against Licata’s proposal, which has also met with some resistance from members of the council.

Police oversight shouldn’t be this messy.

RSS icon Comments


Herein lies the problem:

The OPA is a paper tiger. The Chief can make up his/her mind at any point in the process and seemingly independent of any process. The Chief has the first, middle and last word. Anyone else's word is just part of the process.

The bottom-line problem lies with the police guild, which is a type of union, and will ALWAYS protect its own. That protection IS the process which counts in this city, not an OPA investigation.

The trouble is, while the process protects good cops, it also allows for bad cops, aka Thugs With Badges, to continue to stay on the force in good standing, instead of being held to account for their actions.

Posted by Phenics | June 20, 2007 12:59 PM

The OPA is a joke with no real power. The SPD is as messy and corrupt as the LAPD and NYPD.

Want to be a big city, Seattle? Looks like your racist junta of a police department is already there! The rest of the city has work to do, but your PD is just as corrupt as the police in big cities!

There needs to be a fundamental shift to who governs the SPD. Having the chief only answer to our corrupt, clueless and apathetic mayor and an empty, powerless OPA does not help anyone... well, except the SPD and the Mayor.

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