Federal criticism leads to Seattle police reforms

By Manuel Valdes
Seattle, Washington (AP) April 2012

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn proposed a series of police reforms in response to a damning federal report that came after several high-profile incidents involving minorities.

McGinn and police Chief John Diaz said among the 20 initiatives to be implemented over 20 months were training for all officers on use of force standards, the development of protocol to make sure encounters don’t escalate and steps to address biased policing.

“As mayor, I will be holding police leadership accountable to achieve these changes,” McGinn said at a City Hall news conference.

In December, the U.S. Justice Department said inadequate supervision and training had led officers to grab weapons such as batons and flashlights too quickly, intensifying confrontations – even when arresting people for minor offenses.

The department launched an investigation following the fatal shooting of a homeless Native American woodcarver and other reported uses of force against minorities.

Federal investigators determined Seattle police engaged in excessive force that violated federal law and the Constitution.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and other community groups called for the inquiry after a Seattle officer shot and killed the woodcarver, John T. Williams, in 2010.

Video from Officer Ian Birk’s patrol car showed Williams crossing the street holding a piece of wood and a small knife, and Birk exiting the vehicle to pursue him. Off camera, Birk quickly shouted three times for Williams to drop the knife, then fired five shots. The knife was found folded at the scene, but Birk later maintained Williams had threatened him.

Birk resigned from the force but was not charged. A review board found the shooting unjustified.

Other incidents captured on surveillance or police-cruiser video include officers using an anti-Mexican epithet and stomping on a prone Latino man who was mistakenly thought to be a robbery suspect; an officer kicking a non-resisting black youth in a convenience store; and officers tackling and kicking a black man who showed up in a police evidence room to pick up belongings after he was mistakenly released from jail.
0
0
0