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Today in Police Violence

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Seattle cop handcuffs a drunk black woman and throws her in the back of a police car. She tries to kick at him. He punches her in the face and breaks her orbital bone. Seattle’s city attorney urges charges to be pressed as the cop committed a clear felony. King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg refuses. Cop goes scot free. Woman spends four days in jail because the cop says she assaulted him and messed up his jaw, even though he was determined to have no injuries after an examination. The charges against the woman were dismissed.

This is not the first time Satterberg has refused to charge a police officer for violence against a person of color. In 2011, he refused to charge a Seattle police officer for shooting and killing a Native American woodcarver, saying the law protected the police with few exceptions.

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  • Linnaeus

    I can’t imagine why SPD is under a consent decree.

    • Brett

      Same thing with Cleveland PD. If things don’t improve, it would be worth seriously looking at disbanding the police force entirely and rebuilding it with new leadership and a new set of rules and accountability measures.

    • Robert Cruickshank

      Yep.

      Though it should be noted that the previous mayor of Seattle pushed for the cop who killed John T. Williams (the woodcarver referred to in the post) to be fired. That cop quit the day before his firing became official. So the mayor went to the state to revoke that cop’s ability to work as an officer in WA ever again. Last we heard, that cop was working as a security guard in Arizona.

      This case is a test for the new mayor, who took office with the support of the police officer’s guild. Will he too push for the officer who punched a handcuffed woman to be fired? If not, can we take the new mayor’s claims to be a reformer seriously?

  • Manny Kant

    To be fair, Satterberg is probably correct to think he’s not going to get a conviction – these cases never get convictions, even when they are tried fairly seriously by DA’s offices.

    • That may well be true, but without even trying them, it just reinforces the fact that the police can do whatever they want to people without consequence.

      • MAJeff

        The problem is that the cops can do pretty much whatever they want to people without consequence. It’s not just that local DAs are in bed with them and won’t indict, it’s also that SCOTUS has given them an out from almost everything. They aren’t just thugs with badges, they’re thugs with immunity.

        • Snarki, child of Loki

          #notallcops yadda yadda

          #notalldogs are rabid, either.

        • Matt

          Problem: people can’t even CHALLENGE a refusal to indict. There’s no judicial relief for inaction.

          Perhaps that’s the solution – call for the impeachment of the goddamn prosecutor. At the very least, maybe the next guy would at least PRETEND to try to prosecute cops instead of publicly sucking them off…

    • George Lovell

      Satterberg cannot claim that the reason is the difficulty of getting a conviction. He is currently wasting huge sums of county money by insisting on bringing death penalty charges in three other cases, despite near certainty that none of the defendants will ever be executed in Washington State. http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/holding-three-simultaneous-death-penalty-trials-in-king-county-is-unprecedentedandmdashand-hugely-expensive/Content?oid=20991684
      One case involves an African American defendant accused of murdering a police officer, and who is very unlikely to live until the full appeals process plays out. Satterberg, who ran unopposed in the last election, needs to be held accountable. There is much more at stake for the community than the likelihood of a conviction in the Durden-Bosley and Williams cases. The reluctance of prosecutors to challenge bad police practices is a huge part of the problem of holding police accountable and changing police culture.
      And officers can be charged and convicted in these cases, as the relatively forward thinking state of South Carolina is showing recently. (Though I’m not sure what is up with that.)

      • JohnT

        In all fairness, I don’t think there’s a prosecutor in the country who could avoid trying to go for the death penalty for a cop-killer and a couple who shot six people (including two very young children) in cold blood. Not while capital punishment was still on the books. That’s why I think Washington should follow through and actually scrap it – a moratorium is not enough.

        • George Lovell

          Well, his predecessor in the same position declined to seek the death penalty against a defendant accused of killing more than 50 people.

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    it seems like they should have 1) let the woman go as soon as she sobered up- this keeping her for four days is bullshit- and 2) maybe not a trial, but there should have been some sort of disciplinary action for using excessive force. the stonewalling and just outright dismissal of the notion the cop did *anything* wrong just does no good to *anyone*

    • runsinbackground

      there should have been some sort of disciplinary action for using excessive force. the stonewalling and just outright dismissal of the notion the cop did *anything* wrong just does no good to *anyone*

      Not true, it preserves the notion that the cop on the scene has sole discretion in the use of violence, which is pretty great for the cops. Talking about the need to restore mutual trust between the cops and the people they serve and protect is all very well, but it needs to be said that it’s mostly for the benefit of the latter group; the cops only need the trust of the people insofar as its lack would restrain them, and as we have seen in the last few months that means “not at all, really.”

    • DrDick

      What is the point of having the power to fuck up people’s lives if you can’t abuse it?

  • Richard

    I dont disagree that there appears to be probable cause to hold the cop for excessive force charges but you have one important fact wrong – the cop is NOT white. From the video and from other photos on the web, he is clearly African-American

    • witlesschum

      He’s blue.

      • runsinbackground

        It’s almost as if privilege is a positional good or something!

      • joe from Lowell

        Yep.

        And the headline is “Today in Police Violence.”

        The only reference to race in the post is to the race of the victim. As we’ve seen in the death penalty stats, that’s the key race-related variable.

        Edit: apparently, I’m reading a later version.

  • Richard

    Now corrected to refer to Seattle cop, not “white Seattle cop”.

  • So that’s what an orbital fracture injury looks like. I, for some reason, assumed it looked more like a slight razor burn on a cheek.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      A backwards “B”, perhaps?

    • SV

      If that’s an actual photo from the fourth or fifth day, imagine how bad it could have been during the preceding days. I’ve had very bad black eyes that looked better on the fourth or fifth days. Not always, but sometimes. And the redness…

  • tsam

    OT-she looks like the lady who plays Pussay on Orange is the New Black

  • LeeEsq

    Every police department in the United States needs to be put under a consent degree and reformed. We can start with the big cities and move on from there.

    Like I said in past threads, police services need to be more centralized. Rather than having dozens or hundreds of police departments in each state, each state should have one state wide police force run as a single government department and funded through general revenue rather than fines, etc. Any fines collected by the police should just go into general revenue where they could be used for whatever. Police stations could be located wherever deemed appropriate. I believe that this would result in better service with fewer cops.

    We also need to increase the standards of training and get rid of certain personality types. Any hint of viciousness is something that we don’t want in a police officer. Police officers should have a higher than usual amount of impulse control.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      that all sounds good, but i wonder if we don’t need *more* cops. not csi-type specialists, quasi-militarized swat units or public relations flacks but just normal go-around-and-be-part-of-the-neighborhood cops. when i read these stories and the reactions to them there is one constant: a mutual sense of estrangement- the public from their police, the police from their public (aside from the rah-rah contingent which i think is smaller than they sound). neither side puts a face on the other, just deals in various “thug” stereotypes. it needs to be put back on a human scale somehow

      • Brett

        The few departments that don’t seem to be having huge issues with police misconduct and shootings are taking the “community police” approach, like Richmond, California.

      • Murc

        but i wonder if we don’t need *more* cops. not csi-type specialists, quasi-militarized swat units or public relations flacks but just normal go-around-and-be-part-of-the-neighborhood cops

        There is, if I recall right, an actual consensus amongst people who study law enforcement seriously (even hard-charging right-wing types) that the adoption of the radio-equipped police cruiser is one of the worst things to ever happen to policing in America.

        Making the cops super mobile let departments cover massively expanded areas and populations with proportionally smaller numbers of police, but at the cost of completely estranging the police force from the communities they were nominally part of and making them a lot more reactive. It’s a super cheap way of maintaining order, but it has had long-term deleterious consequences.

        • Mike G

          It’s a super cheap way of maintaining order, but it has had long-term deleterious consequences.

          And there it is. Cut costs and to hell with quality, it’s the American management way. Everyone praises the shallow cost-cutter, but it takes deeper knowledge and observation to see the rot in quality.

          It costs more to do community policing. It costs more to train cops properly in conflict resolution and de-escalation, and you have to be more selective in hiring. So much cheaper and easier to just hire short-tempered bullies and give them carte blanche to crack skulls, and as a bonus it’s so much more gratifying for the authoritarians and sadist cop fanboys infesting this country.

          • Murc

            To be perhaps overly fair, I’m not sure this is a problem that even people skeptical of the police to begin with could have forseen.

            Because I have to say, on the surface radio-equipped police cruisers seem like a great idea. In fact, I’ll go further; they are a good idea. Being able to instantly dispatch officers the second a 911 call comes in, and for them to be in communication with a wide network of other officers, all of whom are incredibly mobile and re-deploy instantly to cover gaps in patrol coverage or converge on a hot spot or provide backup? Those are all good things.

            The reason that the radio-equipped police cruiser is maybe the worst thing to ever happen to American policing is that it is maybe too good at what it does. You don’t realize the impact not having beat cops strolling along has on things until it is far, far too late.

            This is something some departments seem to get. I have a lot of bad things to say about policing in London, but the Met really gets that you should be god damn putting strolling uniforms on the street in large numbers. Whereas a ton of cities in the states that really ought to know better have police departments whose members seem to regard getting out of their fucking donutmobile as the worst possible thing.

            • nathanw

              This seems apropos with the urban/suburban discussions on other threads: the beat cop sounds great for genuinely urban environments, but what is the alternative to the police cruiser for the areas that are just not that walkable?

              • Joe Bob the III

                Totally agree. I would think that very few American cities, even parts of cities have the population density required to make walking-the-beat policing worthwhile.

              • jim, some guy in iowa

                maybe what they have to do is get *out* of the car once in a while and find someone to just visit with for a moment. hell, the town cops here have been known to hang around the convenience stores and shoot the shit (i don’t think literally but who knows) for a while

            • Ahuitzotl

              You don’t realize the impact not having beat cops strolling along has on things until it is far, far too late.

              Not so – as I recall, there were at the time many voices (usually senior/ex cops) predicting that this is what would happen

        • LeeEsq

          We have the LAPD to think for that then. From what I read in Kevin Starr’s book on mid-20th century California and elsewhere, a lot of our current problems with the police came from Southern California in one way or another. Radio-equipped police cruisers, SWAT times, etc. All from the LAPD.

          • UncleEbeneezer

            Don’t forget Eric Estrada! Some sins should never be forgiven.

            On a serious note: I wonder when the portrayal of police switched from the Keystone Cop laughing stock to the brave, loyal, good-looking, power-wielding modern day knight that has been the image of 99% of all depictions I’ve seen in my lifetime. Were Keystone or bad/corrupt police always extreme outliers in our pop-culture or was there at some point a move away from police as human beings and into superhero archetypes? (just thinking out loud/mumbling to self)

            • JL

              Did 9/11 have some sort of effect there? I didn’t have that much exposure to non-music pop culture as a teen so I don’t really remember if there was a shift after that.

              • Hogan

                In the ’50s and ’60s the LAPD and the FBI put a lot of effort into burnishing their images, including effectively sponsoring TV shows like Dragnet, Adam-12 and The FBI. (And note that the main setting of Adam-12 was a squad car.) Don’t know if that’s where it started.

                • Origami Isopod

                  Aside from the sponsorship of law enforcement agencies in such efforts, I suspect that a newly prosperous white population was all too eager to start buying into the Officer Friendly type branding. Their support of the cops undoubtedly ramped up during the Civil Rights Movement and the later protests of the 1960s and ’70s.

            • LeeEsq

              I think the problem originated with the Hayes Code, which made it nearly impossible to depict a bad or corrupt government official at any level. Since there are more movies about cops, prosecutors, and similar government officials than postal workers or the people at the DMV than you get a lot of heroic cop movies. Before the Hayes Code, Hollywood had no problems depicting corrupt or violent cops.

        • joe from Lowell

          IMHO, police in cars should be a sort of mobile reserve, available to be called in by the beat cops at their discretion, and subject to their command when they get there.

    • witlesschum

      Well, it depends how cynical you are about what state control would mean. Michigan currently being in control of Republicans, I’m glad we have local control, so Kalamazoo can at least say they’re going to stop pulling black people over as such ridiculous rates compared to everyone else and just do less traffic stops.

    • joe from Lowell

      Every police department in the United States needs to be put under a consent degree and reformed.

      No, not really. There are police departments in the United States that are actually well out ahead of not only the typical US police department, but of even the Department of Justice.

      It isn’t a good idea to bury this fact, because being able to point to places like Lowell (pioneer in community policing strategy, biggest drop in crime of any city in American during the 1990s) refutes the claim that thuggish policing is unavoidable, or that it is necessary to reduce crime.

      If I could count on Eric Holder being Attorney General for the next 50 years, putting the Lowell PD under the control of the DoJ wouldn’t bug me so much, but I probably can’t.

    • Joe Bob the III

      To me the question is: do we need more cops? Or just focus the cops we have on other things? Alternately, take some of the enormous resources we expend on prisons and use it instead for policing and crime prevention. As a lump sum, we already spend a lot of money on police and prisons. We don’t need to expand the overall size of law enforcement – just reallocate resources.

      Where I live, the vast majority of property crimes will go completely uninvestigated and that includes crimes like auto theft and daytime residential burglaries. You file a form with the police department and otherwise it’s between you and your insurance company. The only thing that might compel police to show up and actually collect evidence is a nighttime burglary that happens when people are asleep in the house.

  • SeattleCyclist

    That is the way Seattle and King county cops treat a young black woman who is drunkenly screaming outside her boyfriend’s house.

    The same day the Seattle Times reported that story, this was reported on the front of the b section of the paper. Note that this older white woman had killed her husband, fatally wounded her son-in-law, and had an un-seat-belted minor in her lap while driving through her living room into a lake – and she was so drunk that 4 hours later her BAC was above the legal limit. The cops could not have missed that smell unless they had been drinking heavily too. But she got released after being “briefly booked” into King County Jail, and wasn’t charged for more than six months. I guess that’s the difference in how rich whites and poor blacks are treated in this “progressive” part of the country.

    It seems like if you look even slightly closely, all of America looks like the ass-backwards corner of Mississippi I spent part of my childhood in…..

    • Mike G

      Seattle and Portland both have reputations as progressive cities, yet they both seem to have really awful police departments.

      • Add Oakland to that list. They have been under a consent decree for years.

        • DrDick

          We seem to have a pattern here. Perhaps the powers that be get jittery when the populace actually starts to stand up for themselves.

        • joe from Lowell

          It would probably be faster to think of cities in which the police department isn’t the most regressive institution in the power structure.

          Lowell is such a city. It’s sort of strange. We have the cops dragging the City Council and the newspaper along behind them.

        • Hob

          Not just a consent decree, but now a court order chewing them out for going through the motions of firing abusive cops but not necessarily trying very hard to keep them fired on appeal.

  • Murc

    I’ve really reached the point where I think nothing is going to happen until the pigs start treating white people the way they treat non-white people.

    • Derelict

      DING! DING! DING! We have a winner!

      If police killed young White men at the same rate they kill young Blacks, police reform would be the top priority for every politician.

    • witlesschum

      See, I don’t think that would even do it.

      For one, they sometimes do already, many of libertarian cause celebs about overpolicing have been white. They get written out of whiteness because they did something wrong, or seemed like they did or looked at a cop funny. For two, look how people with authoritarian mindsets react to even rich white men who dissent from orthodoxy. They can care way more about enforcing the order they want in their minds than they do about anything else and I think they’ll back the cops even if they start plugging grandmas on their way into the outlet mall. The problem we have is a bunch of scared, angry people.

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