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December 1, 2011 at 3:21 PM

NAACP: Dropping charge against cop a 'punch in the face'

The president of the NAACP in Seattle said today that he and others in the community have lost confidence in the city’s elected leaders over the dismissal of an assault charge against a Seattle police officer and a decision to not quickly address federal concerns about protections afforded to officers who use force.

“At this stage and at this time, we can’t have any faith in our current powers-that-be in relation to protecting certain segments of the community from police brutality,” said James Bible, citing what he called a longstanding pattern of abuses that have not been addressed by city officials. “It’s a demonstrated punch in the face to all of us,” he added.

Speaking at a news conference, Bible assailed City Attorney Pete Holmes for dropping a misdemeanor assault charge alleging Officer James J. Lee used excessive force against an African-American teen suspect.

Holmes said he was left with no choice when the city’s key witness, a police training expert, recently reversed his opinion about Lee’s conduct after privately meeting with Lee’s attorneys and viewing new evidence.

Lee was charged in April after repeatedly kicking the teen, then 17, during an Oct. 18, 2010, confrontation in a downtown convenience store. Lee had approached the teen, who had his hands in the air, amid a drug operation that erupted in chaos after an undercover officer was assaulted.

“He was acting and reacting in rage,” Bible said of Lee, disputing assertions that Lee was trying to control the teen.

Lee’s case was dismissed by the City Attorney’s Office on Wednesday after the expert changed his finding that the last of Lee’s three kicks, apparently delivered to to the teen’s head, was unwarranted.

Bible also criticized the decision of Mayor Mike McGinn to not act immediately on recommendations by the U.S. Department of Justice that Seattle police change a policy that requires officers to invoke their protection against self-incrimination in all use-of-force cases, even the most routine.

As a result of the policy, prosecutors can’t use the statements.

McGinn said the city would study the issue before responding to a bluntly worded Nov. 23 letter from top Justice Department officials who are conducting an investigation into allegations that Seattle police engage in biased policing and use excessive force.

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

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