Justice Department probes Seattle police violence

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 31, 2011 5:19 PM
Justice Department probes Seattle police violence

SEATTLE (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department is investigating allegations that Seattle's police officers routinely use excessive force on suspects after a string of violent incidents mostly involving minorities in the Pacific Northwest city.

Seattle police have been captured on camera in several violent confrontations with black and Hispanic residents over the past few years. The shooting and killing of native American woodcarver John Williams by a Seattle police officer last August brought local concern about police tactics to a head.

A Seattle Police report said the officer who shot Williams, who was carrying a knife, acted outside the department's "policy, tactics and training," but the officer is not facing criminal charges.

The Justice Department said on Thursday it has opened "a pattern or practice investigation" into the allegations that Seattle police have been using excessive force and discriminatory policing practices, which are outlawed under several statutes, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Justice Department said it will "seek to determine whether there are systemic violations of the Constitution or federal law by officers of the Seattle Police Department."

The DoJ has taken similar steps in jurisdictions such as New York, Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia and California.

(Reporting by Bill Rigby; Editing by Greg McCune)