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Friday, October 10, 2008

Auditor Says SPD Isn’t Misusing Obstruction Charges

posted by on October 10 at 16:18 PM

A report just released by Office of Professional Accountability Auditor Kate Pflaumer appears to have cleared the Seattle Police Department of allegations from civil rights groups and attorneys that officers have used obstruction charges to cover for improper or violent arrests.

Pflaumer, who compiled the report at the request of Mayor Greg Nickels, examined “obstruction only” arrests between January 2006 and July 2008 and found “no pattern of abuse” in how officers use obstruction charges.

According to Pflaumer’s report, only 16 SPD officers have three or more obstruction arrests, and of the 76 cases Pflaumer examined, only 14 resulted in OPA complaints.

A number of the obstruction charges stemmed from drug arrests—when suspects attempted to swallow drugs or destroy paraphernalia in front of officers—while 24 cases came from interference in an arrest. Seven obstruction cases involved jaywalking.

22 of the 76 cases obstruction cases were dismissed, 18 defendants were given “dispositional continuances,” like probation, two defendants were found not guilty and 31 plead or were found guilty. Data on the five other cases was unavailable. According to Pflaumer, no one actually served jail time from an obstruction charge as sentences for convictions were suspended.

Although Pflaumer didn’t find a pattern of abuse in her report, there still appears to be a disturbing disparity in the number of obstruction arrests. In the two year time frame Pflaumer examined 51% of the people arrested solely for obstruction were African American while 37.5% were White and 10% were Asian. Two additional arrests were reported as “other.”

Mayor Nickels is apparently looking to make the OPA Auditor position a full-time gig—it’s currently part-time—and Pflaumer says she’ll be moving on from her position sometime next year. Before then, she’ll be putting together an annual report as well as a study on the relationships between communities and the police department.

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Doesn't it seem suspicious that for 76 obstruction charges, none resulted in jail time?

Posted by Greg | October 10, 2008 5:01 PM

How about assault charges after the fact? Any pattern of abuse there?

Posted by keshmeshi | October 10, 2008 5:11 PM

So why is the budget for them so out of control, then?


Yeah, like we actually believe you ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 10, 2008 5:29 PM

I'm not sure I understand. Is the OPA auditor is using the lack of an OPA complaint as prima facie evidence that there is no problem with the arrest? If so, that's bullshit.

But even if not, can't we point out the obvious here? The OPA auditor exists mainly to reinforce the lack of transparency abound the OPA. If this supposedly independent expert has reviewed the files, then we're supposed to be contented with the fact that the public has no access to them whatsoever. Nothing to see here. Trust us...

Posted by Trevor | October 10, 2008 5:36 PM

So, 7 arrests resulting from jaywalking (not even a misdemeanor) doesn't indicate an abuse of power?

Posted by Free Lunch | October 10, 2008 6:32 PM

To protect and serve, my ass!

Take that any way you want to.

Posted by pigroast | October 11, 2008 12:09 AM

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