Seattle Police rarely found guilty in high-profile misconduct cases



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Posted on May 24, 2010 at 6:25 PM

SEATTLE -- The video of two officers stomping on a Latino man who was being detained during a robbery investigation has shaken the Seattle Police Department’s relationship with the Latino community. It's prompting calls for the officers to be fired and police accountability increased.

A decade ago, there was a similar outcry, also involving a dramatic video. KING 5 News captured Seattle Police officers pursuing a mentally ill African-American man named David Walker, then fatally shooting him. Minority leaders demanded that Officer Tommie Doran, who fired the shot, be criminally prosecuted. But, Doran was later cleared by police internal investigations and a civilian inquest jury.

Doran is still working at the Seattle Police Department. He was promoted to sergeant and works in the auto theft unit.

In 2001, protests erupted over another deadly police shooting of an African-American man named Aaron Roberts. Officer Craig Price told an inquest jury that he yelled at Roberts to stop his car as Roberts drove away while dragging Price’s partner, Greg Neubert.

Price was exonerated, but later left the department.  Neubert, who ordered Price to pull the trigger, was also cleared and is still with the department, working in harbor patrol.

Those cases led to major changes in Seattle, including the increased use of non-lethal force and the creation of a civilian oversight system which is now being put to the test.

"I'm looking for some better ways of making sure we don't ever, ever have this happen again," said James Kelly of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle. Kelly says the outcry over the Seattle police stomping case may sound similar to what happened with the Walker and Roberts shootings, but he sees a very important distinction.

"Basically, there were provocations and public safety issues,” Kelly said. “Roberts driving erratically, David Walker having a knife. This case is different because there was no provocation, they were just racial profiling."

The U.S. Department of Justice is looking into that allegation while Seattle police investigate whether the officers committed any criminal wrongdoing.

Later this week, the Urban League will meet with the Seattle Police Officers Guild to discuss officer discipline. The League wants the two officers in the stomping case fired, but the Guild contract allows them to work desk jobs and collect paychecks while investigations are underway.