Slog Music

Music, Nightlife,
and Drinks

Friday, February 24, 2012

ACLU Criticizes Police Accountability Head for Ignoring "Culture of Disrespect" Among Officers

Posted by on Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 4:39 PM

In a letter sent yesterday to Mayor Mike McGinn, the ACLU of Washington calls into question the professionalism of the head of the city's police accountability department, who recently dismissed a Seattle Police officer's threat to "make stuff up" about a suspect as playful banter.

If you'll recall, on February 14, video surfaced of SPD Officer Brad Richardson threatening to make up evidence about two suspects during the course of an arrest. The men—who were later released without being charged—filed a complaint with the city's Office of Professional Accountability (OPA), which is supposed to act in a watchdog capacity by investigating citizen complaints against officers.

But at a February 15 meeting of the city council's public safety committee, OPA director Kathryn Olson defended her department's decision to exonerate Officer Richardson of wrongdoing* by arguing that his threat was "taken out of the context of a larger conversation that he was having." She added: "It was a bantering that was going on with the suspect—not necessarily the best of practices—but there was no issue of dishonesty."

Yesterday, ACLU of Washington Executive Director Kathleen Taylor called Olson's characterization of the officer's actions "sorely disappoint[ing]," adding:

Whether or not Officer Richardson violated SPD policy, the fact that his supervisors, the upper leadership of the SPD, and the Office of Professional Accountability all consider these kinds of comments merely "banter" is evidence of the culture of disrespect which the ACLU and many community groups have complained about for years. Even presuming that Officer Richardson did not falsify records, the threats were unprofessional, disrespectful, and sent the message that truth is irrelevant and rights are expendable.

*Alas, the OPA has courted a reputation for blanketly pardoning officers of wrongdoing (for example, in a three year period spanning from 2008-2011, the OPA only sustained three out of 321 allegations of officer misconduct).

It's interesting to note that Olson's term as director of the OPA lapsed almost two years ago and Mayor McGinn still hasn't reconfirmed her to her office (or sent another name down to council for consideration).

"It’s not uncommon for a department director to serve in an interim capacity," says McGinn spokesman Aaron Pickus, defending his boss's decision to simply not make for two years. "Her appointment is under consideration," he adds. "It’s an ongoing discussion—it’s not a question of whether or not she’s doing a good job or not, there are other factors in the decision."

Olson's re-appointment—if it ever happens—should face strong scrutiny by city council member Bruce Harrell, the new chair of the council's public safety committee, which would lead the charge in confirming or rejecting the mayor's eventual pick. Harrell has a history of being critical of SPD's treatment of suspects (especially minority suspects) and is exploring legislation to equip all SPD officers with body cameras in an effort to curb misconduct.

I have a call into Harrell to get his take on Olson's comments; I'll update if/when I hear back.


Comments (7) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
seatackled 1
So does this give citizens the right to banter to cops from now on?
Posted by seatackled on February 24, 2012 at 9:34 PM · Report this
Zebes 2
Cops ain't give a fuck.
Posted by Zebes on February 24, 2012 at 11:21 PM · Report this
pleased forward the name SAKARA KACHINA YEPA DUNLAP to Bruce Harrell ...2 medical examiners do not go along with spd's conclusions and non investigation of her death 4/4/11---in the paperwork I have 2 times of death 2 days of death 2 addresses ---the wrong name altogether---no police reports requested for over 10 months except for the one with much of the info blacked out---if you can screw up the little stats is it possible to fuck up the big ones??? ...SKY's dad...
Posted by michael kahdushan on February 25, 2012 at 12:11 AM · Report this
"If you'll recall, on February 14..."

You'll recall it only if you saw KOMO or the Weekly, which followed up to reveal the bantering claim.…
Posted by JPierce on February 25, 2012 at 7:50 AM · Report this
lauramae 5
If someone has no experience with cops how would you know that it is simply "banter?" If someone fits the profile of being a trouble maker in the whole law enforcement world (Black or Indian) then one would have to believe these guys would have no problem making up charges.

Example after example comes up that shows that there are deep problems with the culture of the SPD. And so now the mirror is being held up by outside organizations. The Justice Department and the ACLU saying "Seattle Police Department needs an intervention."

Posted by lauramae on February 25, 2012 at 8:21 AM · Report this
Kinison 6
Mayor might be too busy to read the letter, he hasnt really shown much concern with these problems since taking office. He's going to let Diaz continue to flex his super awesome people skills when dealing with these problems.

If he doesnt remove or demote Diaz now, these problems will probably continue, all the way into the next election cycle.
Posted by Kinison on February 25, 2012 at 10:15 AM · Report this
How nice of the cops to engage in banter while arresting a suspect.

Hey, now at least there is a precedent for the next time someone says they'll kill you unless you have sex with them. Just pre-coital banter!
Posted by madcap on February 25, 2012 at 5:08 PM · Report this

Add a comment

Commenting on this item is available only to registered commenters.

All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC
1535 11th Ave (Third Floor), Seattle, WA 98122
Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy