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Monday, July 9, 2007

The Office of Professional Accountability Exonerates Itself

posted by on July 9 at 12:59 PM

This morning, the Office of Professional Accountability’s (OPA) new director, Kathryn Olson, presented a report clearing Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske of any inappropriate meddling in an internal investigation of two officers accused of misconduct during George Patterson’s arrest last January. In her report —requested by Mayor Greg Nickels in June— Olson called the original OPA investigation “fair, thorough and expeditious.” This conflicts with a report by the Office of Professional Accountability Review Board (OPARB) which flagged the Chief’s role in the investigation as inappropriate.

Olson looked at OPA’s original report, a draft version of OPARB’s report, a videotape of the arrest and testimony by an expert video analyst in her investigation. “There was nothing unusual or extraordinary” about the Chief’s involvement in the Patterson case, Olson said. “His input is appropriate in that he is the final arbiter on discipline. By and large, I disagree with [OPARB’s] report.”

After Olson finished presenting her report, OPARB member Sheley Secrest was in attendance to provide a response. “We’re not surprised” she said, “the board stands by all its criticisms of the process.”

Olson’s report shouldn’t come as a surprise. While she said she “felt no pressure” from the Mayor’s office, Nickels clearly had an outcome in mind. In fact, last Saturday, Nickels and Kerlikowske went on a walk through Pioneer Square just as bars were letting out, to get a first hand look at Seattle’s nightlife. I wonder if they held hands?

I Just got off the phone with NAACP President James Bible, who’s in Detroit for a national conference. Bible was also unimpressed by Olson’s report: “We’re not surprised that an employee would exonerate her employer. She knows who hired her. A month later, after so much has come out, the Chief has decided he wants a do over and the mayor is complicit in that. “

Bible says he would like to see a blue ribbon panel (I’m betting Licata’s rather than Nickels’) examine the original OPA investigation. “Anything less than that is sham,” he said.

RSS icon Comments


Uh, i thought Secrest said she had a conflict of interest.

Posted by toomuch | July 9, 2007 1:06 PM

My penis is throbbing with joy!

Posted by Mr. Poe | July 9, 2007 1:07 PM

Secrest didn't participate in OPARB's review but she was there to speak on behalf of the board.

Posted by Jonah S | July 9, 2007 1:21 PM

sorry, still don't get it. if she has a conflict of interest, how can she speak for the board on their review?

Posted by toomuch | July 9, 2007 1:26 PM

I think this could be good news. The OPA Director has just ruined her credibility and the credibility of the OPA as an institution. All responsibility now falls upon the City Council to push some real reforms. And the media might have their back if they actually decide to stand up to the Mayor and Chief.

Posted by Trevor | July 9, 2007 2:32 PM

Hmmm. Has anyone sat down and read Olson's Report?

Because it seems chock full of hard facts that utterly deflate the Stranger's narrative.

Posted by RonK, Seattle | July 9, 2007 3:47 PM

I guess it's just a matter of who has more credibility: OPARB or Olson.

Posted by Jonah S | July 9, 2007 4:09 PM

@6, already read it. what do you see that "utterly deflates" the stranger's narrative, and the many instances of lax discipline, interference, and dismissal of opa findings by kerlikowske? perhaps you'd like to get specific.

Posted by yeah | July 9, 2007 4:14 PM

Kate Olson's report should be deeply concerning to the people of Seattle.

First, she exonerates the officers of excessive use of force when it has been repeatedly demonstrated that Mr. Patterson had not broken the law. Clearly, Mr. Patterson had done nothing wrong on this occasion to justify being put in a choke hold by Officer Neubert for nearly four minutes.

Second, she fails to talk about the Chiefs decision to exonerate these officers of any wrong doing at a point in time when there was no OPA director in place. According to policy, the OPA director must first make a decision. This was a blatant misrepresentation to the public.

Third, she fails to mention that the chief deleted emails related to this case. The chief’s emails are subject to public disclosure requests and his deletion of these emails is in violation of the Revised Code of Washington. Not to mention that the emails in question were related to the OPA auditors claim that the police had pocketed marijuana from the witness that they failed to document in their report.

Fourth, it is troubling that someone that works for the chief or the chief himself would actually direct an investigator to exchange release from jail for a statement about a police misconduct case.

It is apparent that the new OPA director is willing to bend over backwards to impress her new employers.

Posted by JB | July 9, 2007 4:19 PM

Jonah - Credibility? Credibility is customarily established by a record of adherence to verifiable fact, which creates a presumption in ones favor in instance we are unable to directly verify.

Olson catches OPARB off base in multiple instances of speculation inconsistent with verifiable fact. OPARB's credibility may not recover, at least as regards the current cast of characters ... and The Stranger has gone farther out on more limbs than OPARB.

OPARB must further deal with the apparent impropriety of their targeting an individual case for investigation (explicitly outside their charter), interfecting themselves as finders of fact (ditto), leaking the draft report ... and presuming to subordinate OPA, the Auditor and the Chief to their own judgment.

Not a single element of the sensationalist version of the Patterson case holds water. It's gone. Take your losses and move on.

Force applied at the scene was appropriate, according to all supervisors, three successive OPA Directors, and the Auditor. (Forensic consultant Frederick gave no opinion, for lack of competence, and even OPARB expressed no adverse conclusion.)

Nothing supports Patterson's allegations of beating (ear slaps and finger twists) at the station, multiple witnesses weigh refute it. [OPA -- contrary to misreports in at least one paper -- did not initially sustain any use of force charges, and Kerlikowske did not reverse them.] It's pure misdirection by a system-wise eight-time convicted crack dealer reputed to bite police officers, who went downtown -- "just to meet some friends"? -- and just happened to end up on 2nd & Pike, where he ran into a self-described crack addict (the woman up in his grill in the video) who has a dispute with him over which one of them now owns her car and was observed (by the large handcuffed man) to have crack crumbs on his person.

No competent reviewer found any support for the "planting drugs" accusation, and only one (Pflaumer) entertained a suspicion they copped the big guy's dime baggie.

No cases except Patterson's have been dismissed on this account (yet).

The only sustained issues concerned the officers adherence to procedure and report protocol (primary in re the big guy, not Patterson) and their degree of cooperative attitude regarding subsequent investigations (with Pflaumer 's assessment diverging from most others).

Nobody cut a deal for witness testimony.

Nobody interfered with routine OPA procedure, Kerlikowse did not jump the gun by exonerating before OPA finalized the case, nobody dated a report for convenience. OPARB made a raft of very serious, very public accusations, and they ALL turned out to be artifacts of sloppy research and prejudicial interpretation. Credibility? Gone.

Posted by RonK, Seattle | July 9, 2007 5:56 PM

yeah @ 8 -- Well, the Patterson incident was the cornerstone of the "Gil Must Go" narrative, as well as the pretext for OPARB's broadside, and now it's ... evaporated under the glare of brighter lights.

It is, isn't it? Let me know if you think otherwise. And let me know specifically what's left of it. With respect to the Patterson case, what (if anything) supports the contention that Kerlikowski acted incompetently, or maliciously (especially as to suspicion of a conspiracy to unleash SPD officers to dish out ass-whuppings to African-American citizens), or in any way improperly ... either as an isolated case or part of a pattern of conduct?

How does the narrative fare without the Patterson case? Well, OPARB is in the shitter, and The Stranger suffers reduced credibility (especially if it fails to look back on its errors). You still have Alley-Barnes (in which the federal case will surface more of the story than The Stranger sees fit to print) ... and a bandanna-tasering incident in which the complaint was resolved favorably, but the resultant action was not as severe as the trophy-hunters would like?

Posted by RonK, Seattle | July 9, 2007 6:26 PM

The OPARB continues to be a strong group that is focused on truth as opposed to personal political agendas. We should not forget that the OPARB is a volunteer organization that has dedicated their free time to protecting the civil and human rights of people in Seattle. We should start asking about the 22 other cases where the OPA was overturned by the Chief with little to no explanation. These 22 cases include video taped instances in which Seattle Police Officers were caught beating individuals that had already been hand cuffed. Something needs to change. The review in the Patterson case can hardly be independent when it was ultimately conducted by an individual that is paid staff of the Seattle police department. IT IS TIME TO TELL THE TRUTH.

As for the case that was written about in the most recent stranger publication, a jury found the individual not guilty of the alleged charges. The jury took the stance that the police were not assaulted and that no obstruction of justice occurred. The officers in that case should have to explain why a young man was tazered in the chest repeatedly and then tazered in the back. The officers should also have to explain why the young man was punched in the stomach after he was hand cuffed. At some point we should acknowledge that People of Color are subject to a different standard of treatment then majority group members.

Further we cannot forget the story of Mr. Barnes who was beaten severely for mentioning that he has constitutional rights. The chief claimed that he would have punished the officers if he could, but, a technicality precluded him from doing so. This does not explain why he gave one of the officers a raise.

The injustices go on.... and on... and

Posted by JB | July 9, 2007 7:20 PM

RONK I can't believe you've actually watched the video of the Patterson arrest and compared it with the incident reports. The KC Prosecutors decided the arrest was impossible to prosecute because the cops had no credibility after seeing the video. You can't blame that on the OPARB. And so the OPA and the Chief and the Mayor say it's ok for police officers to use too much force, lie about it, maybe take drugs from people they detain, and make unenforceable arrests. But they can't say it outright. So they attack everyone's credibility... except for the County Prosecutor's Office. The OPA is telling us officers can use as much force as they like, even violate people's civil liberties, and not even get disciplined. Why is that ok with you?

Posted by wf | July 9, 2007 7:44 PM

wf -- Lots of people watched the video. Lots of people agreed it raised sufficient doubts as to make the case inappropriate to bring to prosecute.

No competent reviewer found the officers used too much force, or violated Patterson's civil liberties. None. Nowhere. And none will.

Posted by RonK, Seattle | July 9, 2007 9:53 PM

JB -- But OPARB failed the truth test in the Patterson case, didn't it? In multiple instances?

Taking it one case at a time. Patterson case: falls of its own weight, and catches OPARB playing fast and loose with the truth.

And the standard you promulgate -- that no suspect should be subject to use of force unless he/she is ultimately tried and found guilty -- is absurd.

Posted by RonK, Seattle | July 9, 2007 9:59 PM

This new hired hand at the OPA, Kathy Olson, who is she exactly? What experience does this person bring to the table? Is she a well versed, seasoned investigator type or? This once again reeks of CONFLICT OF INTEREST. The civilian director of the OPA must possess the REQUISITE experience when appointed to the position, so what REQUISITE experience does this Olson gal bring? Why are we all to take her WORD on this mess?

The mayor and chief playing politics, throwing a twist on truth and reality. The only reason the chief has taken such a DEFENSIVE POSTURE regarding this entire bad policing fiasco is that HE HAS MUCH TO HIDE!



Keep on barking or get to the task at hand.

DOCUMENTARY FILMS ARE IN RESEARCH/PRODUCTION, the Seattle police fiasco file is now a Seattle police fiasco pile....

Posted by Jesse Cushman | July 9, 2007 10:49 PM

16 -- "Who is she, exactly?"

Among other things, she's a very experienced and highly regarded
civil rights attorney.

Point of fact for point of fact, the quality of her investigative review speaks for itself (as it will to any fair-minded reviewer).

Posted by RonK, Seattle | July 10, 2007 7:46 AM


The decision to prosecute is not a primary responsibility of the police department, but I would conjecture that Kerlikowske found their decision unexceptional under the circumstances. There were discrepancies in their reports of the Patterson arrest, such that a successful prosecution was unlikely. (None of these discreps affirmed use-of-force violations, planting drugs, or stealing drugs.)

Posted by RonK, Seattle | July 10, 2007 9:32 AM

Yeah, but no one was able to prove that planting/stealing of drugs DIDN'T happen, hence the not-sustained as opposed to exonerated. You're just as guilty of interpreting the evidence to your own ends, as The Stranger is.

Posted by Xyzilla | July 10, 2007 11:07 AM

RonK - "No cases except Patterson's have been dismissed on this account (yet)."

the Patterson case and 2 felony cases have been dismissed (so far).

Posted by LH | July 10, 2007 12:30 PM

LH @ 20 -- Incorrect. County Prosecutor indicates those 2 cases were dismissed on account of guilty pleas in separate counts against the same 2 individuals.

But you didn't read that in The Stranger.

It's conceivable those cases would have been dismissed, or that other cases will be dismissed, on account of the two officers' tarnished testimonial credibility ... but to the best of my knowledge, no such development has transpired yet.

As with the other two, it's likely Patterson would have been, and will be, back in the system with or without invention by the officers in question. He's a frequent flyer -- an 8-time convict who will probably spend more late evenings "visiting friends" in the vicinity of 2nd and Pike.

Posted by RonK, Seattle | July 10, 2007 2:08 PM

Xyzilla -- You offer a novel perspective on the "burden of proof" concept.

Since there was no corroborating evidence ... it was properly “not sustained.”

You are correct, the charge was not sustained, and not exonerated. Exoneration would have require proving (or estabishing by a proponderance of the evidence) a negative -- which is a high hurdle indeed (but not necessarily impossible, and many people naively assume.

Is it your view that a single instance of an uncorroborated allegation against an officer is sufficient cause for removal of a Chief of Police? (Or for publication of an accusatory series advocating the same?)

The two extremes ("sustained" and "exonerated") are not symmetrical, either as to susceptibility to proof, or as to proportionality of consequences.

Posted by RonK, Seattle | July 10, 2007 2:39 PM

Are you a cop, Ron? I don't know how anyone outside of law enforcement could NOT take exception to how this played out.

Posted by Xyzilla | July 10, 2007 4:17 PM

Xyzilla -- How what "played out"?

Unless I've missed something, there's no there there. Is there?

As you see it, what is the complaint?

Posted by RonK, Seattle | July 10, 2007 6:22 PM

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