News Auditor Says SPD Isn't Misusing Obstruction Charges
posted by October 10 at 4:18 PMon
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.