CD with a beat

The recorded history of complaints against the Seattle Police Department.

JOHN HOFFMAN'S NEW CD features some memorable hits: cops hitting suspects, patrol cars hitting trees, officers hitting each other up for favors. Over in Silverdale, a drunken off-duty Seattle cop flashes his badge and asks local police not to arrest him for pulling his gun in a bar fight. He goes to jail anyway.

Culled from 6,000 pages of rarely seen citizen and officer complaints, the CD-ROM, called "SPD Dirty Laundry," is both a new release and golden oldie. It's a searchable database cataloging Seattle Police Department internal investigation reports from 1991 through 1999—a record even the cops no longer have (they purge Internal Investigation Unit complaints after three years).

An activist/public records expert who has waged a five-year effort to pry secrets loose from local police agencies and inform the public, Hoffman feverishly filed extensive requests for even more records as the recent SPD scandal heated up. "I paid for copies on a sort of installment plan," says Hoffman, "staying one month ahead of the shredder." In past years, the documents and Hoffman's tips have led to a wealth of revealing stories in the local mainstream and alternative media.

Though he's selling the CD-ROMs for $200, he has not copyrighted the collection, which also includes recent internal reports from the King County Sheriff's Office. He hopes to sell a couple dozen to recoup production costs, but is allowing purchasers to then freely copy and distribute the disk. "It belongs to the public," says Hoffman.

The CD-ROM also includes an arcane section showing which records (and their file sizes) are kept at SPD. Among them: 42 cubic feet of detective investigative files from 1991 to date and a half cubic foot on inform- ants, including "Names and Aliases" and "Problem Informants."

Hoffman thinks the CD-ROM will be especially useful to attorneys and others looking for patterns or examples of police complaints—something he expects to investigate once he makes it through law school. Last week, he headed off to his motherland, North Dakota, where he hopes to become an expert in documents law.

"Fighting in the street has its charms," said Hoffman. "Then you want to do more. But I'll be back. That's a threat."

The CD-ROM can be ordered from Hoffman at 3514 11th Ave N #9, Grand Forks, ND 58203.

 
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