DOJ review of Seattle PD released, same review requested by Spokane mayor



Posted on December 16, 2011 at 4:36 PM

Updated Friday, Dec 16 at 6:29 PM

SPOKANE -- The U.S. Department of Justice has released details of their investigation into the Seattle Police Department Friday.  This is the same review the city of Spokane is asking for our Police Department.

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner sent the request on November 16th.  Officials from the mayor’s office say they have not yet heard back from the Department of Justice.  KREM 2 crews sent in a request with the Department of Justice directly, but have not received a response.

U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington Jenny Durkan says the Department of Justice reviewed thousands of police reports in addition to hours of video footage and interviewing hundreds of community members and advocates.  She says the most alarming find is a lack of oversight.

“There are significant deficiencies in oversight policies and training on how to use force, when to use force and how and when to use impact weapons,” Durkan said.

The Seattle review is an example of how a department is intensely scrutinized.  The Seattle Police Department received a condemning report on their practices Friday.  The Department of Justice review showed the Seattle Police Department has systematic use of force violations.

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner’s letter requesting the same review was prompted by the Otto Zehm case and Karl Thompson’s conviction for excessive force and lying to investigators. 
However, Verner did not ask for a look at excessive force specifically.  Verner’s request asked for a specific look into compliance and accountability surrounding the policies and procedures.

If the Department of Justice takes on the review, they would go over thousands of Spokane police reports.  The investigation would not focus on individual cases.  Instead, it would look for patterns.

The Seattle review says ‘officers too quickly resort to the use of impact weapons, such as batons and flashlights.’  It also says ‘when officers use batons, 57% of the time it is either unnecessary or excessive.’ The report also states ‘Seattle Police Department officers escalate situation.’

The Seattle review found it was a small group of officers acting with excessive force, not the majority of the department.

KREM 2 crews spoke with U.S. Attorney Michael Ormsby.  He says he hopes to speak with the Assistant Attorney General about the Spokane request sometime in the next few weeks.