SEATTLE-- Some Seattle police officers appear to inflict injury out of anger at suspects rather than to protect public safety, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and dozens of other groups say in a formal request to the U.S. Justice Department asking for a civil-rights investigation of the embattled department.
Distrust of the police by communities of color grows as a result, and it becomes harder for the Seattle Police Department to do its job of keeping all Seattle residents safe, says a six-page letter sent Thursday to the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C., and U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan in Seattle.
The letter, signed by the ACLU and 34 community and civil-rights organizations, asks the Justice Department to investigate whether Seattle police have violated the civil rights of suspects, particularly minorities, during a series of violent confrontations in the past 18 months.
Most Seattle police officers are devoted to their mission of public safety. We recognize, too, that the police department has some training programs in place and has taken other steps designed to curb unwarranted use of force. However, disturbing incidents of excessive force including assaults on individuals when they are already down have continued, especially against people of color, Kathleen Taylor, executive director of the ACLU of Washington, said in a written statement Friday.
Justice Department spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa in Washington, D.C., said Friday that department officials are reviewing the letter.
A spokesman for Mayor Mike McGinn said, It's the city's practice to engage with the Department of Justice when there are allegations of civil rights violations. We welcome their participation.
Rich O'Neill, president of the Seattle Police Officers' Guild, reacted sharply Friday, calling the request grandstanding by the ACLU.