Federal review of SPD 'embarrassing,' says guild president

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by LINDA BYRON / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on February 9, 2011 at 11:33 PM

SEATTLE – Lawyers from the U.S. Department of Justice are expected to be in Seattle next week to start examining whether Seattle police have engaged in a pattern of unnecessary force against minorities.

The president of the Seattle Police Officer's Guild calls it "embarrassing."

The police union newspaper, “The Guardian,” goes out to all 1,200-plus officers on the Seattle police force. In the February issue, which is now in the mail, Seattle Police Officers’ Guild President Rich O’Neill makes it clear how he sees the Department of Justice review.

“I think this is embarrassing when you compare SPD to some of the departments who came under DOJ scrutiny,” writes O’Neill. “Do people really think that we have issues like the Rampart Division of the LAPD, New Orleans and Detroit?”
 
"I think it's embarrassing for the City of Seattle because I believe that we have a very good police department,” O'Neill told us separately, adding that SPD is among six out of 25 of the largest departments in the country that are accredited.
 
The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and 34 other groups asked the federal government to review a "pattern of violence" by Seattle police officers after a number of controversial police videos were made public.
 
The videos include the fatal shooting of a native woodcarver, the kicking of an African American teen who appeared to be in the process of surrendering and a gang officer’s use of racially charged language against a Latino suspect.
 
"All force looks bad. It's not going to look pretty,” O’Neill said. “It's not going to look like a police TV show.”
 
O'Neill says the videos have been misinterpreted and are prompting what he calls an “anti-police ‘feeding frenzy.’"
 
A public forum on police accountability last week drew protestors and calls for Seattle Police Chief John Diaz to step down. But O’Neill predicts the federal review, while in his words "overkill," could silence some critics.
 
"I almost welcome it because I think when all is said and done, I am confident there is not going to be any major corruption finding, any major civil rights violations" O’Neill said.
 
Whatever the Department of Justice comes up with, SPD is already revising its training for new officers, especially how to use alternatives to physical force.
 
Asked to respond to the article in the Guild newspaper, an SPD spokesman said the chief will implement any recommendations made by the Department of Justice.

“Police are held to a higher standard and we welcome that,” Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said.

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