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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The OPA Alternative

posted by on January 8 at 21:39 PM

According to a report from the Office of Professional Accountability (OPA), the OPA sustained a surprising number of complaints against police officers last month.

Complaints against officers who were busted for driving drunk and an officer who used a police vehicle for personal use were sustained, as was a complaint against a cop who was cited for obstruction, and dinged for being discourteous to another officer. Two other officers were also reprimanded for keeping a man in custody after they had determined he was not the suspect in an assault. In addition to the sustained complaints, other officers were given “supervisory intervention,” or additional training, for using profanity during a traffic stop and unlawfully asking for identification.

While the OPA only sustains about 9% of the complaints they get, five of the 23 complaints in the OPA’s most recent report were sustained, and another two were given supervisory intervention, which, anecdotally, seems like more than you’d generally see in one OPA report. However, all of the officers accused of excessive force were either exonerated or administratively exonerated, which means they were given a pass by the SPD brass.

As we’ve said before, if the OPA and the Chief aren’t willing or able to punish officers when they use excessive force, more people are going to turn to the court system to keep officers accountable.

Two men who were involved in a scuffle with officers in the University District—which I wrote about last November—have had lawyers beating down their doors looking to represent them in a case against the city. Neither man has gone to trial yet, but civil cases against the city are already being discussed.

While it appears the OPA is taking a closer look at certain types of officer misconduct, it seems that lawyering up is quickly becoming the most viable means of police accountability.

RSS icon Comments


Thanks for keeping at it Jonah.

I truly appreciate your coverage of police accountability issues, for whatever that's worth.

I truly wish Hays and Lujan more luck than I've had trying to hold the city to account for not keeping their police officers accountable.

Posted by Packratt | January 8, 2008 10:50 PM

Question: Does the city indemnify officers against lawsuits for their professional actions if the complaints are not sustained? How about if they are sustained?

It seems to me that if officers went broke for excessive force, they'd be a bit less inclined to to use it.

Posted by Gitai | January 8, 2008 10:53 PM


A few years ago officers and the SPOG started using defemation countersuits as part of an effort to stop all the brutality lawsuits from flowing. It worked fairly well because not only were they suing the victims, but also their lawyers.

I would imagine that if the SPD and city stopped protecting their officers from personal liability for misconduct, that the countersuits would start up again in earnest. (if they're not going to soon anyway).

Of course... It's not that me or my opinion on anything is worth shit in Seattle, but that's how I've read it.

Posted by Packratt | January 8, 2008 11:10 PM

Hey Jonah,

Not that you or anyone else in Seattle pays attention to a brain-damaged dumbfuck like me, but is the OPA report available online yet?

I checked the usual site and it's not there.

Posted by Packratt | January 8, 2008 11:14 PM

Hey Packratt,

here's the link:

hopefully our slog-bot doesn't delete my linkage.

Posted by Jonah S | January 8, 2008 11:16 PM

In my only dealing with the OPA involving an officer that was a complete ass, they kept pressure up on me to "dismiss" my complaint... to the point that I finally did do it.

I agree. Litigation against the a-hole factor may be the only way to go in Seattle. 95% of the police are great people. The remaining 5% are power leaches that figure they get their jollies out of abusing the system.

Posted by Dave Coffman | January 8, 2008 11:23 PM

@3 Sigh. Okay, that says to me that we need to choose the right people to sue if they try this strategy again. You get people who at least have a renter's policy that comes with $1 million in liability, and then the insurance company's lawyers come in too. They're a match for the Guild. Finally, you hit the Guild for filing SLAPP suits. Perhaps you could even find evidence of collusion between the Guild and officers who have a history of excessive force and get a RICO suit against the Guild. That would be sweet.

Posted by Gitai | January 8, 2008 11:26 PM

Anyone who thinks Seattle doesn't have political corruption has clearly never followed our law enforcement agencies.

Posted by laterite | January 8, 2008 11:34 PM


Ah, thanks, I was thinking you meant the report for December cases, my mistake. Like I said, I'm just a dummy.

Posted by Packratt | January 8, 2008 11:38 PM


You're pretty sharp, Gitai, good thinking!

Posted by Packratt | January 8, 2008 11:48 PM

It doesn't matter, it'll still be business as usual. Cops do whatever the fuck they want and let the courts sort it out later. It's disgusting that we pay them to ostensibly protect us.

Posted by K X One | January 9, 2008 5:10 PM

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