Meeting between Seattle PD chief, Latino leaders 'good first step'

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by LINDA BRILL / KING 5 News and KING5.com Staff

NWCN.com

Posted on May 14, 2010 at 3:15 PM

Updated Friday, May 14 at 6:51 PM

SEATTLE – Seattle Police Interim Chief John Diaz, Mayor Mike McGinn and leaders of Seattle's Latino community met for two hours Friday in an effort to ease frustrations following the videotaped incident involving police officers stomping on a young Latino man and yelling profanities at him.

The parties announced they are going to set up steps in the future to ease tensions. Those steps will be announced next week.

"Our two hour meeting with Mayor McGinn and Chief Diaz was a good first step of many steps to come," said Estela Ortega, Executive Director of Seattle's El Centro de la Raza. "Both were listening and concerned. We believe they're just as troubled as we are and want to eliminate any semblance of racism, undue force or a culture of protecting officers who are guilty of egregious actions."

In the April 17 incident, Martin Monetti, 21, is seen on video lying face down on the ground. Detective Shandy Cobane is seen stomping on Monetti's hand and yelling "I'm going to beat the f---ing Mexican piss out of you homey. You feel me?" Officer Mary Woollum also appears to stomp on Monetti's leg.

The officers were investigating an armed robbery in the area involving Latino men. Monetti was let go, but two other men were arrested.

Diaz also announced that the internal investigation is expanding to other officers involved as well as looking into allegations that police beat another Latino man at the scene, which was not caught on video.

Diaz says he did not find out about the incident until April 24. He says he immediately turned it over to the Office of Professional Accountability to investigate.

The officers involved have been taken off the street, but that didn't happen until the video surfaced on May 6 – 19 days after the incident and 12 days after Diaz says he first heard about it. When asked by reporters if there was a cover-up, Diaz said "absolutely not."

Ortega has called the officers' actions "outrageously racist" and the NAACP says it wants the officers charged with assault and malicious harassment. The NAACP says it doesn’t trust Diaz, who is Latino.

"I think we work extremely hard trying to build that trust. And you could work for years and then you can have an incident like this and you have to start rebuilding again," said Diaz.

Diaz is one of three finalists for the permanent chief position. He says he hopes those making the decision look beyond this one incident.

"I have spent 30 years trying to do my best for the department and I hope they look at my track record," said Diaz. He says he will not withdraw his name from consideration.

"Are we going to make mistakes? Are we going to make huge mistakes at times? Absolutely. The key that a chief has to do is look at, when you have this situations, how are you going to deal with them," he said.

The other two finalists are from California – East Palo Alto Police Chief Ron Davis and Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel. Mayor McGinn will select his candidate, who must be approved by the Seattle City Council.

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