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Friday, December 7, 2007

Police Brutality: Only four people care Slog Readers Somewhat-to-Moderately Care

posted by on December 7 at 17:21 PM

posted by news intern Brian Slodysko

Last night the Seattle Police Department Office of Professional Accountability met for their roughly once-annual citizen input panel at the SPD’s west precinct. The purpose of the meeting? To take citizen complaints.

It was attended by four people.

The OPA is an independent wing of city government in charge of hearing citizen complaints about police misconduct. OPARB, the board that oversees OPA’s work, was also there.

Aside from three reporters and a community activist lawyer, the only other folks at last night’s meeting were Harry Gilchrest—a Seattleite who unsuccessfully pursued a complaint with the OPA recently—and his entourage: his wife and two friends. Unsatisfied with the results of the OPA complaint, Gilchrest and friends were there to bitch.

According to a written account distributed at the forum, Gilchrest was weeding his front yard in 2003, talking to one of his son’s friends, after which they shook hands. A police officer driving through the neighborhood saw the handshake and believed drugs were traded off. An ensuing verbal exchange between Gilchrest and the officer turned into a scuffle, back up was called, all of which culminated in Gilchrest getting punched in the testicles and arrested. Gilchrest was later convicted of felony assault.

One of the officers Gilchrest filed a complaint about was later named Officer of the Year.

“They could start by putting a black spot in place of a name for that year,” Gilchrest told the OPA.

One of Gilchrest’s friends at the meeting last night, Ronald Forrest, got ornery with the OPA and its board members. “His big fault was being in his front yard weeding his yard, when all this shit really blew up,” he said. “Why is the Police Officer’s Guild not involved in the oversight panel?” he asked, clearly unimpressed with a citizen-style panel that has no authority over the department. (Ironically, the very point of keeping cops off the OPA is to minimize the defensive power of the union.)

Gilchrest summed up his feeling about police accountability more succinctly: “If you hire a turd, you get a turd in uniform.”

The OPA board was mostly sympathetic to Gilchrest’s story, though they said Gilchrest might better spend his time appealing his conviction to the King County Prosecutor’s office which is under new leadership.

The OPA makes recommendations (discipline the officer, exonerate the officer) to Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske based on the results of its investigations

But Kerlikowske has the ultimate say in whether the recommendations are implemented and citizens are unable to appeal the findings of OPA investigations. The board can review findings—as it famously did earlier this year in the George Patterson case.

“The chief has the last word. He can choose to listen or ignore,” OPA Director Kathryn Olson said during the meeting. (Kerlikowske, for example, ignored the findings in Maikoiyo Alley- Barnes.)

Even when recommendations are implemented, board member Sheley Secrest said police are known to drag their feet because of the extra work load created.

At the end of the meeting I asked Gilchrest how he thought it went. “It was a waste of fucking time,” he said.

RSS icon Comments


How much public notice was given for this "public" event? I read most of the local media most of the time, and I don't recall seeing anything about this, until now....

Posted by Perfect Voter | December 7, 2007 5:33 PM

i remember it being posted about on the slog, but i don't go anywhere else for local news

Posted by vooodooo84 | December 7, 2007 5:35 PM

Hmm, have to agree with the above two posts - it wasn't even in the emails i get from ...

That said, how many people brutalized by cops are going to be wanting to go INTO a police station for a hearing on police brutality?

Maybe a nearby library or other venue, but a cop shop?

Posted by Will in Seattle | December 7, 2007 5:43 PM

We care.

We also know going toa meting to bitch to a board that HAS NO POWER AT ALL is a waste of time.

OPA: board: "Mr. Kerlikowske, 25 citianes said we have to change things around here."

Kerlikowske: "Oh, okay, I'll put civilians in charge and we will just change that 180 day rule in the police contract that lets them off the hook so often. Done! I'm also demoting all the ones I promoted who were obviously guilty of beating up citizens and planting evidence on guys in wheelchairs. Done!"

We know the "public process" is a sham.

Posted by unPC | December 7, 2007 6:00 PM

gil's a bitch, i'm surprised even nichols hasn't tried to kneecap the prick already. what a liability.

Posted by holz | December 7, 2007 6:34 PM

Well, it took Deputy Chicago Police Chief Charles Ramsey to come to town to clean up the Metropolitan Police Department in DC. After Ramsey arrived, it didn't matter who was mayer, the DC cops were smart, honest and had good procedures. Good cops follow good cops. One World Class City goal we really should pursue is to get ourselves a WCC police department and start observing the law. The laws are actually pretty decent and the ones which don't make sense can be changed. Enforcing and the proper management of that enforement is where we need some good talent.

Posted by Chas Redmond | December 7, 2007 7:18 PM

Those four are not the only ones who care.

I care too. It's just that I care in a different way. It's actually not just caring. It's love, truth be told. But not love like you know.

You see, a pimp's love is very different from that of a square...

Posted by elenchos | December 7, 2007 7:41 PM

I care, but why the fuck would I waste my time? Unless the system is radically overhauled, the OPA will remain impotent, cops will run wild, and civil suits will be the only recourse. SPD's not so corrupt and brutal that it'll end up under federal supervision, and the lawsuits are expensive, but not so expensive that the city will be compelled to do anything, so the status quo will remain.

Posted by Gitai | December 7, 2007 8:06 PM

How does a "verbal exchange" turn into a "scuffle" with back up being called? Gilchrest and company sound like wankers. Nevertheless with cheap digital cameras, all police/suspect actions could easily be recorded as Public evidence, which might put both parties on more civil behavior. Not to endorse big brother but at least there would be a record.

Posted by cynical | December 7, 2007 8:25 PM

I care as well, but while I knew about the OPA meeting, my drive from work in snohomish county left me too wiped out to get there.

On some level, I'm not surprised turnout at the OPA was low. The victims of police misconduct are african americans and the white hipsters who read the slog tend not to be victims are too busy drinking cocktails and playing skeeball at King's Hardware.

Posted by neo-realist | December 7, 2007 9:18 PM

All I know is that Chief Kerlikowske wears some mighty tight uniform trousers. Yum. Mrs. Kerlikowske is one lucky lady.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | December 7, 2007 10:40 PM

@8 pretty much has it on the money.

I don't know if any of you have heard about Michael Ladd's case but basically the SPD through someone to the ground without any substantial reason. The city dropped the case but as soon as Mr. Ladd counter sued the city reestablished the charges and no instead of a court case against the city even being allowed any time in the near future, Mr. Ladd has to be prosecuted for charges that will take years and which the SPD has already acknowledged were illigitimate. They are simply doing it so they dont have to pay any money, hoping that Mr. Ladd will get to fed up with the system to pursue things anymore.

Who wants to go complain about cops when the same day that one victim gets paid, another two get their asses handed to them. Seriously, there is something very wrong with the SPD and things need to change.

Posted by Josh | December 8, 2007 12:42 AM

I care quite a bit. But there isn't no fucking way in hell I'm going near a police station on my own to air my grievances with the SPD and their lack of oversight.

Especially when it's not going to do one damn iota worth of a difference to complain to the people who have not one speck of power over how the SPD conducts itself.

Posted by Packratt | December 8, 2007 1:22 AM

Oh, and by the way, while it wasn't well advertised the schedule is available on the website and I had also obtained a schedule by emailing the contact listed for OPA and OPARB meeting information.

So, maybe next time they hold one away from the damn donut hut some more people might show up.

Posted by Packratt | December 8, 2007 1:29 AM

Tempest in a tea-fucking-pot. Look chiefs, speaking as someone who lost--and is still missing--a tooth courtesy of SPD, you guys need to undergo some kind of initiation rite into Life As An Adult In America.

Anyone who thinks Seattle cops are "running wild" needs to be given a stern talking-to and then left in their soiled diapers in a lonely, moldy corner to contemplate the error of their ways. Truth is, cops have the shitty job of dealing with the violent psychopaths that the USA churns out as regularly as toothpaste, only to turn around and get harangued by jackasses clamoring for Greater Powers For the Civilian Oversight Board, and other hilarities.

You know who's running wild? The pack of 25-30 kids who molested and beat that couple on the #7 bus and were never apprehended. The fuckheads who keep shooting people at music clubs. The crack-ho's 'n heads in Rainier Valley who are singlehandedly staving off gentrification.

Finally: if a cop tells you to stop what you are doing, just fucking stop. Avoids any misunderstandings, keeps you from getting your head smashed in, and leaves nothing for the NAACP to get all steamed about--a winning strategy all around!

Posted by croydonfacelift | December 9, 2007 1:22 AM


Posted by Hal | December 9, 2007 12:29 PM

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