Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole says she would have fired Officer David Bauer had current policies been in place when the 2010 incident occurred.
A veteran Seattle police officer has been suspended for 10 days without pay over a 2010 video-recorded incident in which he punched a restrained man in the face 14 times in rapid succession.
The officer, David Bauer, also delivered an unwarranted kick to the man, Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole found in a disciplinary report that concluded Bauer used excessive force and violated department policy on lawful conduct.
“Your actions were inappropriately aggressive and unnecessarily increased the violence of the interaction, and were a gross misuse of the power police officers are afforded by those we serve,” O’Toole wrote.
O’Toole, who became chief in 2014, wrote that she would have fired Bauer had the incident “taken place during my tenure or under the department’s current Use of Force policy, which requires officers to use de-escalation tactics.”
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The department’s internal findings came after federal and King County prosecutors declined to bring felony charges against Bauer. No misdemeanor charge can be brought against him because of a two-year statute of limitations.
City attorneys alerted O’Toole to patrol-car video of the incident last year as they were preparing to release it as part of a bulk request for videos by KOMO-TV.
Bauer, 55, who joined the department in 1986, was one of three officers who responded to a 911 call on Nov. 4, 2010, outside a South Seattle bank, where police used force during a violent confrontation with four people working as an after-hours cleaning crew.
A bartender at a nearby bar had reported that two intoxicated men had been thrown out and were outside making threatening gestures, county prosecutors wrote in a memo.
The officers found two men matching the descriptions provided by the bartender sitting in a parked car in the bank parking lot. Two more people walked out of the bank and joined the fray.
During the confrontation, Bauer kicked the car’s driver, who he was struggling on the ground with another officer and resisting efforts to control him, according an internal-investigation report prepared by the Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability (OPA).
O’Toole’s report, signed July 28 and obtained by The Seattle Times under a public-disclosure request, described Bauer’s action as a “wind up kick” delivered to the man’s midsection.
“You stated to OPA that you kicked the individual in order to let him know ‘that there was another officer there and he was going to be subdued, and that was one of the ways I was going to subdue him,’” O’Toole wrote.
She also cited Bauer statements that he was “a little riled up” and wanted to “make sure this guy right here gets into custody.”
Bauer’s subsequent 14 punches to the man’s face in less than minute occurred while he was pinned beneath Bauer and the other officer, O’Toole wrote.
“At this time, the individual was no longer assaultive and his arms were restrained,” her report said, rejecting Bauer’s contention the force he used was justified to quickly end the incident and protect officers.
Pierce Murphy, the OPA’s civilian director, concluded the kick served no lawful purpose.
He also found, under department policy at the time, three initial punches Bauer delivered to the man were reasonable to counter assaultive behavior. But the 14 punches weren’t necessary and Bauer was unable to explain them, Murphy found.
O’Toole, in her report, described Bauer’s “riled up” comment as “deeply disturbing.” She also noted neither Bauer nor the other officers asked the bartender who placed the 911 call to determine the nature of her safety concerns.
However, Bauer also took full responsibility for his actions and any embarrassment he caused the department, O’Toole wrote.
She only declined to fire him, she wrote, because of her recognition that the department’s approach to use of force has changed considerably since the incident.
The incident occurred before Seattle police adopted sweeping reforms to curb excessive force under a 2012 consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department.
O’Toole warned Bauer he should expect to be fired if he violates use-of-force policies in the future, adding she was giving him a “last chance” to serve the community in a manner consistent with the department’s expectations regarding use of force.
Kevin Stuckey, president of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild, did not return a phone call seeking comment.