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December 15, 2011 at 2:59 PM

Justice Department to release findings of Seattle police probe

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday will release the results of its investigation into allegations of excessive use of force and biased policing by the Seattle Police Department.

The announcement comes 11 months after the DOJ launched a preliminary review of the department, which was upgraded to a so-called “patterns and practices” investigation last March. During the investigation the DOJ examined whether there were “systemic violations of the Constitution or federal law” by SPD officers.

The announcement will be made at 9:30 a.m. at the federal courthouse in Seattle. Scheduled to speak are Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, and Jenny Durkan, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington.

Three weeks ago, the DOJ issued a sharply worded letter urging the department to immediately address a policy that allows officers to invoke their protections against self-incrimination in even the most routine use-of-force issues, making prosecutions of errant officers difficult and undermining public confidence in the department. Chief John Diaz has said the department has fully cooperated with the investigation.

Last week, in response to the DOJ’s critical letter, Diaz ordered sweeping changes in how the department develops standards and expectations of officers and created new panels to monitor and oversee the use of force by Seattle police.

Diaz has invited the Justice Department to participate in a top-down rewrite of the department’s policies and procedures.

The Justice Department initiated its review of the department in the wake of several highly publicized videotaped confrontations between officers and minority citizens. In one, a detective threatened to “beat the Mexican piss” out of a prone robbery suspect.

In another, First Nations woodcarver John T. Williams was fatally shot in August 2010 by a Seattle officer. The shooting prompted a letter calling for the investigation authored by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and endorsed by 34 community groups. The shooting was found to be unjustified and the officer, Ian Birk, resigned.

The findings released Friday are expected to involve only the civil investigation into the patterns and practices of the department. A separate criminal federal grand jury investigation into the Williams shooting remains ongoing.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: Seattle Police Department, U.S. Department of Justice

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