The Seattle Police Department is putting together a special internal task force to examine the conduct of officers who work off-duty at downtown nightclubs, according to two law-enforcement...
The Seattle Police Department is putting together a special internal task force to examine the conduct of officers who work off-duty at downtown nightclubs, according to two law-enforcement sources familiar with the inquiry.
The task force, including several of the department’s most experienced investigators, will operate independent of a criminal investigation by the King County Prosecutor’s Office and the FBI, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
In the criminal investigation, law-enforcement officials and others have said, prosecutors and the FBI’s Public Integrity Task Force are looking into allegations that off-duty officers overlooked illegal drug and alcohol use at nightclubs in Belltown or Pioneer Square, or in some cases participated in criminal activities including drug dealing and promoting prostitution.
The task force will examine related issues and will focus on whether officers violated department rules, such as failing to report income, the sources said.
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Although the department has conducted previous reviews into the allegations, the task force will take a fresh look at the matter to determine whether anything was overlooked, the sources said.
Among those on the task force are several sergeants who previously have worked in the department’s internal-investigations section. They will work within the department’s Office of Professional Accountability.
Seattle police officials declined comment on the review.
The department already has placed one veteran officer, John Powers, 43, on administrative leave with pay pending the criminal investigation. Powers, who was suspended Nov. 24, has denied any wrongdoing and hired a criminal defense attorney.
Powers was one of several officers in the department’s West Precinct who worked off-duty at Club Medusa, a Belltown nightclub that has been cited for liquor-law violations including obscene conduct by employees and serving alcohol after the 2 a.m. cutoff under state law.
One officer in the precinct told The Seattle Times that FBI agents have been interviewing officers at their homes in recent weeks.
Other officers have been subpoenaed to testify in a secret inquiry proceeding in King County Superior Court, in which witnesses, attorneys and prosecutors are legally barred from discussing the testimony.
A week after Powers was suspended, Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske announced the department was tightening its rules regarding off-duty work.
Under the new rules, officers must provide more information about their employers on department forms. The department also will increase its oversight of their work.
The department took the step to gain more control over officers who have circumvented a policy that prohibits them from working at businesses that sell or dispense liquor, including parking lots and perimeters.
Such work poses potential conflicts of interest, with officers beholden to private businesses.
Officers have gotten around the rule by working for informal groups of bar owners who hire them to provide neighborhood security outside the clubs.
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