Any time a police officer is exposed engaging in disturbing behavior, as was the officer caught on videotape yesterday punching a 17-year-old girl in the face during a jaywalking stop, the question arises: Is this an isolated incident or part of a broader pattern? The most recent report (see pdf) by a civilian auditor charged with reviewing police disciplinary investigations suggests that this incident is definitely part of a broader pattern.
Michael Spearman (pictured above), is a state appeals court judge who served as auditor last year. He examined nearly 500 cases stemming from citizen complaints between June and November of last year, and had this to say about them:
What stood out most often was the number of instances in which citizen/officer contact escalated from innocuous to a use of force situation. On many occasions the initial contact was brought about by an allegation of jaywalking which escalated when the citizen failed to comply with the officer's order to stop. (Emphasis ours.)
Spearman went on to recognize that officers often confronted "rude and offensive remarks" when they tried to enforce the law. Nevertheless, he bemoaned officers' reactions, which he said "often ends with a take-down or, on at least one occasion, with the use of a Taser." He recommended additional training in de-escalation techniques.
SPD spokesperson Sean Whitcomb says he doesn't know of any specific training that resulted from Spearman's report. He says, however, that officers learn de-escalation techniques during four days of training they are required to undergo every year.