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December 9, 2013 at 3:33 PM
The city of Seattle has agreed to pay $235,000 to settle public-records and civil-rights lawsuits brought by a man who alleged the Seattle Police Department illegally withheld documents from him.
The sum, which includes attorney fees and costs, will be paid to Evan Sargent, who sought the documents as part of his assertion that he was assaulted by an off-duty Seattle police officer in 2009.
As part of the settlement, the city made no admission of liability.
A King County judge imposed a $70,000 fine on the Police Department for violations of the state’s Public Records Act, prompting the city to appeal.
The state Court of Appeals found the department had failed to adequately explain all of the reasons for withholding some information from Sargent’s attorneys, but said the violations were unintentional and that fine was “completely disproportionate.” The court ordered the case sent back to the King County court to refigure the fines.
The case was then appealed to the state Supreme Court, where it was pending when the settlement was reached Friday. (more…)
November 27, 2013 at 2:35 PM
Assistant Chief Nick Metz, one of the most visible and longest serving members of the command staff in the Seattle Police Department, is being removed in the wake of a highly critical report on the progress of police reforms, according to sources familiar with the move.
As part of continuing shake-up in the top ranks, Interim Police Chief Jim Pugel has given Metz an ultimatum: take an assignment to captain or accept a severance package, the sources said.
In an emotional written message to the community and department this afternoon, Metz said he has accepted the change and pledged to serve the city with the “same level of care and professionalism that I promised when I took my oath over thirty years ago.”
Pugel’s action represents the most dramatic personnel fallout since the city entered into a July 2012 settlement agreement with the Department of Justice to curb excessive force and biased policing.
Word of the decision has swept through the department, sending shock waves through the ranks.
Metz declined to comment.
As part of the changes, Capt. Carmen Best, who heads the South Precinct, is to be promoted to assistant chief, one source said. Capt. John Hayes Jr. will take her spot in the South Precinct, the source said.
Pugel earlier this week informed the department of the demotion of Assistant Chief Dick Reed, who asked to return to the rank of captain.
Reed has overseen the department’s technology and data-collection operations, which came under sharp criticism in a Nov. 15 draft report by the federal monitor overseeing the city’s settlement agreement with the Department of Justice. The agreement calls for reforms to address the use of excessive force and biased policing.
The draft report from the monitor, Merrick Bobb, also cited resistance to the reforms in the top ranks of the Police Department, although he did not provide names.
Previously, Metz served as one of two deputy chiefs, the second highest rank in the department, until Pugel eliminated the position when he became interim chief in April. Metz was moved to the rank of assistant chief, where he currently oversees the Investigations Bureau.
Metz, 51, joined the Police Department in 1983. He was promoted to assistant chief in October 2001.
Metz previously headed the Patrol Operations bureau, at a time when the department came under scrutiny.
City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the council’s public-safety committee, said today that Pugel had been asked who should be held responsible for public perceptions about decades of misconduct.
Pugel was asked to seriously look at the issue and make changes he believed to be appropriate, Harrell said.
“We’re asking him to make tough decisions,” Harrell said.
November 26, 2013 at 11:21 AM
A federal judge today denied a citizen commission’s request to formally intervene in court-ordered Seattle police reforms and refused to grant delays the panel had requested to offer its views regarding policy changes.
But in a 19-page order, U.S. District Judge James Robart permitted the Community Police Commission (CPC) to file memorandums with the court “commenting on any issue or motion” raised as part of the City of Seattle’s settlement agreement with the Department of Justice to curb excessive force and biased policing in the Police Department.
Robart also granted “compromise” delays offered by federal attorneys to allow the CPC, which was created as part of last year’s settlement agreement, more time to comment on bias-free policing, brief detentions of citizens and the Police Department’s community outreach.
However, Robart denied the CPC’s request to extend deadlines to comment on use-of-force training curricula, an early-intervention system to identify problem officers and policy manual for the Police Department’s internal-investigation unit, the Office of Professional Accountability.
Robart’s ruling represented a victory for federal attorneys, who objected to the CPC’s request to intervene, saying it would cause undue delay in the reform. They also fully objected to some of the delays sought by the CPC.
In his ruling, Robart wrote that “permitting intervention would likely result in undue delay without a corresponding benefit to existing litigants, the court, or the process of reform because the existing parties are zealously pursing the same ultimate objectives as the CPC.”
November 25, 2013 at 1:46 PM
Dick Reed, an assistant chief in the Seattle Police Department, has asked to take a voluntary demotion to captain in a highly unusual shake-up at the top ranks of the department, according to two sources familiar with the change.
The move comes shortly after a federal monitor handed the city a scathing draft report Nov. 15 on the progress of court-ordered police reforms, which highlighted significant lapses in data collection that occurred under Reed’s command.
As head of the Field Support Bureau, Reed’s duties included supervision of information technology.
Reed, 52, who joined the department in 1985, was granted his request to be returned to his previous job overseeing the 911 call center, the sources said.
Reed was promoted to captain in 2006 and served as director of the 911 center, where he led a staff of more than one hundred employees. He became an assistant chief in 2008.
It is rare for an assistant chief to take a reduction in rank.
Reed is to be replaced by Capt. Mike Washburn, 50, who joined the department in 1986. He will join five other assistant chiefs in the department brass.
Reed’s job as assistant chief was widely viewed by observers as being in jeopardy in the wake of the draft report from the federal monitor, Merrick Bobb, who cited errors and problems with data collection essential to the reform effort.
Bobb’s report also cited resistance among some in the Police Department’s top ranks to reforms, which were the subject of a settlement agreement last year between the city and the Department of Justice to curtail excessive force and biased policing. Bobb also faulted the Police Department over what he described as failures in reviews of shootings by officers.
Reed informed Interim Police Chief Jim Pugel of his decision last week, one source said.
Pugel initially made changes at the top ranks of the department after Mayor Mike McGinn named him as interim chief in April to replace retiring Police Chief John Diaz.
In that case, Pugel reduced deputy chiefs Clark Kimerer and Nick Metz to the rank of assistant chief in what was seen by some in and outside the department as a move to address concerns about the progress of reforms.
November 20, 2013 at 11:09 AM
Facing critical issues in the Seattle Police Department, Mayor-elect Ed Murray today named a former federal official to advise him on law enforcement and public-safety matters during the transition.
Bernard K. Melekian, president of The Paratus Group, a law enforcement consulting company based in Santa Barbara, Calif., previously served four years as director of the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
He also served for 13 years as chief of the Pasadena, Calif., Police Department, beginning in 1996. His experience includes conducting internal reviews for the Oakland and Los Angeles police departments.
The Seattle Police Department is currently under a federal court order requiring it to adopt reforms to curtail excessive force and curb biased policing — issues cited by the Department of Justice in a 2011 report. Just last week, the federal monitor overseeing the reforms submitted a draft report to the city that sharply criticized the police department for resistance among some in the top ranks, error-ridden data production and faulty reviews of shootings by officers.
In a statement, Murray said, “During the campaign I talked about how public safety will be job one for my administration. Broadly speaking, this means restoring the morale of (the) police force, making critical reforms to our police force, and, ultimately, building confidence in our police force across our many diverse communities.”
Murray said Melekian has extensive experience in government, academic research and as a consultant to the private sector.
November 15, 2013 at 1:57 PM
Silas Potter Jr., the disgraced former head of a Seattle Public Schools small-business program, was sentenced to 43 months in prison today for a theft-and-kickback scheme tied to no-work contracts.
“I let down a lot of people,” a contrite Potter told King County Superior Court Judge Michael Trickey, who imposed the sentence.
Potter, 62, pleaded guilty in April to 36 counts of theft in a case that rocked the school district.
In a plea agreement, Potter admitted he approved dozens of school-district checks paying for services from a Tacoma nonprofit called Grace of Mercy, while “knowing no work had been completed.”
In return, Potter said he received some of that money back from David A. Johnson, who ran the nonprofit, which billed the district for classes it was supposedly teaching to small-business owners.
On Nov. 8 a Superior Court jury convicted Johnson of 30 counts of first-degree theft and six counts of second-degree theft. He was scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 10.
Between 2007 and 2010, Potter and Johnson agreed to bill the school district a total of $168,275 for training that was never performed, according to court documents.
Checks for falsified work invoices were mailed to Grace of Mercy at Johnson’s home address.
Potter admitted Johnson returned about half the money to him in cash. He pleaded guilty to 30 counts of first-degree theft and six counts of second-degree theft.
As the head of the school district’s Regional Small Business Development Program from 2006 to 2010, Potter oversaw efforts to teach minority- and women-owned businesses how to better compete for public contracts.
The program started small, but Potter, a former furniture salesman, grew it into a $1 million-a-year effort that was praised by some prominent minority community leaders, including some who were paid as consultants.
But it came crashing down when Potter became a central figure in the 2011 financial scandal that erupted after a state audit found he had abused his authority and potentially squandered millions of dollars in public money.
Auditors discovered Potter’s program had spent $280,000 — including the payments to Grace of Mercy — for work that was not done or didn’t benefit the district, and $1.5 million more for services that were poorly documented or of questionable value.
A follow-up audit last year turned up $1.3 million more in suspicious payments, finding Potter had approved inflated invoices to vendors charging double or even 10 times the usual rates for services.
The audits and a related school-district report portrayed an office that Potter had turned into a personal fiefdom, doling out public contracts to favored vendors while spending time on school computers looking at dating and gambling websites. His conduct was abetted, the reports found, by superiors who failed to rein him in despite warnings.
The fallout led the Seattle School Board to fire then-Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson, who died at age 55 last year after battling cancer.
November 13, 2013 at 5:28 PM
The city of Seattle has agreed to pay $75,000 to a Bellingham man who alleged his civil rights were violated when an off-duty Seattle police officer stepped on his head as he lay prone and handcuffed.
The settlement resolved a federal lawsuit brought by Jake Baijot-Clary, stemming from a December 2010 fight outside the BalMar nightclub in Ballard.
The confrontation came to light at a time the Police Department was already under intense scrutiny over several high-profile incidents involving use of force, which ultimately led to a federal Department of Justice investigation that found Seattle officers had regularly used excessive force.
As part of the settlement with Baijot-Clary, who is now 23, the city made no admission of wrongdoing on its part or by the officer, Garth Haynes. The settlement was finalized today, ending the suit without a trial.
“We want to commend the city for doing the right thing and giving some measure of justice to our client,” said Seattle attorney Christopher Carney, who represented Baijot-Clary along with Maria Lorena Gonzalez and Shaun Van Eyk.
Haynes, whose action was captured on patrol-car video, was charged with misdemeanor assault as a result of the incident but was acquitted by a Seattle Municipal Court jury in March 2012.
Later, the Police Department determined Haynes had used excessive force on a detained and unresisting suspect. However, then-Police Chief John Diaz withheld a 10-day suspension if Haynes stayed out of trouble.
November 13, 2013 at 5:17 PM
Recruits at the state police academy in Burien broke a rule when they shared study guides between classes, but the violations didn’t rise to the level of cheating or dishonesty, according to preliminary results of a Washington State Patrol investigation.
The result, which revealed sloppy test practices, relate to one class of recruits that was allowed to graduate today, with all 29 recruits receiving a written reprimand that will be provided to their respective law-enforcement agencies to consider further action.
The investigation will be completed over the next two weeks into 29 recruits in a second class also implicated in the matter, the academy said in a statement released today by Executive Director Sue Rahr, of the Basic Law Enforcement Academy.
Rahr asked the State Patrol to look into allegations of cheating after a recruit came forward three weeks ago and reported that recruits in two of three classes were sharing material from a computer thumb drive — a small, portable data-storage device — containing information from a study guide. The guide included test questions and answers for multiple exams, the academy said.
The State Patrol, which runs its own training academy, was asked to conduct the investigation to avoid any conflict of interest.
While the findings apply to one class of recruits, they also appear to cover the second class, Rahr said in an email.
The investigation made it clear that the questions and answers were legitimately obtained by the recruits when training officers conducted “overly specific” review sessions in the days before tests were administered, according to the academy’s statement.
Training officers discussed actual test questions and answers, the statement said. Recruits took verbatim notes on their laptop computers and added material to class study guides that was electronically stored by various means, including thumb drives.
These practices were “not a good training method” and have been stopped, the statement said.
November 4, 2013 at 2:55 PM
The Seattle City Attorney’s Office has filed a charge of resisting arrest against fugitive sex offender Michael Sean Stanley.
The charge filed today stems from the same Oct. 22 incident that resulted in Stanley being charged last month with harassment. Both charges are misdemeanors.
If convicted of the new charge, it could add 90 days to the possible sentence of 364 days Stanley faces if he’s also found guilty of harassment, according to the Seattle City Attorney’s Office. His next court hearing is scheduled for Nov. 18.
Stanley remains in the King County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Stanley, 48, was arrested after Seattle police responded to a report of a man yelling in a West Seattle alley early in the morning of Oct. 22. A neighbor told officers that Stanley threatened him after he asked Stanley to quiet down, according to a police report.
Officers said Stanley was belligerent and “actively resisted” their commands, according to a police report. Following his arrest, officers confiscated a small lock-blade knife, a flashlight, a screwdriver and pliers from Stanley, according to the report. (more…)
October 3, 2013 at 10:36 AM
Citing the need to protect public health, King County officials have sent notices to six hookah lounges in Seattle ordering them to stop allowing patrons to smoke from water pipes on their premises.
The move, covering hookah lounges scattered throughout the city, came after multiple inspections found violations of the state’s indoor-smoking ban passed by voters in 2005.
“Our investigation shows that these hookah bars are violating the law, and endangering the health of their workers and patrons,” Dr. David Fleming, director and health officer for Public Health — Seattle and King County, said in a written statement Thursday.
“Secondhand smoke is proven killer, and state law works to protect everyone from this health threat,” Fleming said.
Notices were sent to the lounges Tuesday, which require immediate compliance as well as the payment of $100 fines for each violation. More violations could result in additional steps, including court action, the health department said.
Hookah bars, rooted in ancient Indian and Middle Eastern culture, have maintained they are exempt from the smoking ban because they operate as private clubs that collect membership fees.
But county health officials found the six lounges were open to the public, operating similarly to nightclubs that charge a cover fee.
About The Today File
The Today File is a general news blog featuring real-time coverage of Seattle and the Northwest. It is reported by the news staff of The Seattle Times and edited by Assistant Metro Editor Nick Provenza.
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