U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan promised "close scrutiny" by federal prosecutors of recent incidents involving the use of force by Seattle police officers and said she will review a call for a broad investigation into the department's treatment of minorities.
U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan promised “close scrutiny” by federal prosecutors of recent incidents involving the use of force by Seattle police and said she will review a call for a broad investigation into the department’s treatment of minorities.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington says it will call for a broad civil-rights investigation into the Seattle Police Department following the release of a surveillance video that shows an undercover officer kicking a 17-year-old African-American boy several times during an arrest at a downtown convenience store on Oct. 18. The officer was responding to a report of an assault on other officers in the area.
The incident is the latest in a string of incidents in which Seattle officers have been videotaped using force and the controversial August fatal shooting of a First Nations carver by an officer at a downtown intersection. The department’s Firearms Review Board has preliminarily found the shooting of John T. Williams was not justified.
The ACLU on Thursday said it would ask the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct an investigation of the police department to determine if there is a “pattern and practice” of civil-rights violations.
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Durkan said she has not seen the ACLU’s request, and couldn’t comment about specific cases.
“At the end of the day, if we conduct any investigation, it will be because the facts demand it, not because one party or another wants it,” Durkan said.
Durkan added that the most recent cases — and the Williams case in particular — “requires close scrutiny individually, and I think we have to ask whether there are broader issues at play here.”
“A proper investigation takes time and has to be thorough,” Durkan said. “A lot happens before cameras are turned on, and a lot happens after they’re turned off.
“But some cases demand that we exercise our duty to make sure the power of the law is applied properly,” Durkan said.
The Justice Department has broad authority to conduct civil-rights investigations of police departments. Any probe would begin with a preliminary inquiry to determine whether a full investigation is warranted.
If an investigation is ordered, the Justice Department conducts a top-to-bottom review of a department’s operations. It then may work with a police agency to remedy problems or, if constitutional violations are uncovered, seek written settlements to ensure reforms.
Durkan served on two task forces that have looked at the Seattle Police Department’s disciplinary procedures, and she is a former civilian member of the department’s Firearms Review Board.
In two other incidents captured on videotape earlier this year, a Seattle officer kicked and threatened to beat the “Mexican piss” out of a Latino man, and an African-American teen was punched by an officer during a fracas that broke out during a jaywalking stop.
Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or email@example.com