Justice Department says Seattle police used excessive force

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 19, 2011 4:14 AM
Justice Department says Seattle police used excessive force

Please note strong language in second paragraph.

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Seattle police officers used excessive force over the last two years and were too quick to resort to using their batons and other weapons, the U.S. Justice Department said on Friday.

The city's police has been criticized for its practices, especially after a native American woodcarver was shot dead by an officer without appearing to pose a threat, and police were caught on video stomping on and threatening to "beat the Mexican piss" out of a prone suspect.

A review by the Justice Department found that when Seattle officers used force between 2009 and April 2011, nearly 20 percent of the time it was excessive and when they used their batons, more than half the time it was unnecessary or excessive.

"The problems within SPD (Seattle Police Department) have been present for many years and will take time to fix," said Thomas Perez, head of the Justice Department's civil rights division. The department said the Seattle police force was already implementing reforms.

This is the second report about misconduct about police forces in as many days. The Justice Department issued a scathing report on Thursday that said the sheriff's office in Phoenix, Arizona regularly engaged in racial profiling and making unlawful arrests.

In Seattle, the Justice Department said there were deficiencies in oversight, policies and training for officers on how and when to use force and their weapons like batons and flashlights.

The city appointed a new police chief, John Diaz, in August 2010.

Nearly two dozen police departments nationwide are under review by the Justice Department, including Miami; Puerto Rico; Newark, New Jersey; New Orleans; and Maricopa county, Arizona.

(Reporting by Bill Rigby in Seattle, with additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky in Washington)