Police Abuse

Seattle May Spend Millions Teaching Police Officers How to Not Stomp on People

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Today, Seattle city leaders and the Department of Justice came together to announce a plan to try to end a pattern of abusive police behavior that resulted in a federal investigation (pdf). Via the Seattle Times:

"Okay, when you get out of the patrol car, try NOT hitting anybody."

Years of friction between police and minority communities — many centered on allegations of officers escalating petty situations into confrontations, and then using force to quell them — came to a head in 2010 and 2011 with a series of highly publicized and controversial incidents, many of which were caught on tape.

The public outrage reached a crescendo Aug. 30, 2010, however, when Officer Ian Birk shot and killed a First Nations totem carver who was walking downtown carrying a piece of wood and a small folding knife. A dashboard camera in Birk's patrol car captured the audio of the encounter and revealed that only about four seconds passed between the time Birk issued commands to put down the knife and when he fired the shots that ended the life of John T. Williams.

The shooting proved a catalyst within the communities that had over the years witnessed attempt after attempt at police reform falter or fail. This time they responded with a single voice and to a higher authority, the Department of Justice.

The Seattle Times has a page hosting several of these videos here.

In response, in order to prevent the DOJ from suing Seattle, the city will start a commission! Yes, a commission is just the thing:

The new commission, which will include community representatives and a member of the police department, will report its findings to a court-appointed monitor who will guide the Police Department as it carries out the reform plan, one source said. The monitor has yet to be selected.

Creation of the commission is spelled out in a memorandum of understanding that will accompany a comprehensive consent decree covering broader aspects of the reforms, the sources said. The consent decree, or settlement agreement, would be in place for five years, possibly longer or shorter depending on the city's compliance.

But training police officers on when and how to not beat people up is apparently not cheap, even if they've already been presumably trained on when and how to not beat people up. Reuters explains:

Talks on a settlement had bogged down over the anticipated costs of implementing a Justice Department proposal, which a city memorandum estimated would run roughly $41 million for the first year alone.

The memorandum had described those expenses, including $18 million to develop and implement training programs and $11 million for new city positions, as "prohibitive."

Details of the final settlement, including its costs, were not immediately revealed.

Update: The Seattle Times just posted the text of the settlement (pdf).