There's little doubt the Justice Department will impose federal oversight on the Seattle Police Department, once the ongoing U.S. investigation ends. The homicidal death of John T. Williams and repeated acts of brutality that sparked the feds' probe have been reinforced by newer video and legal findings; they confirm the department needs outside intervention. Under the watch of both ex-chief Gil Kerlikowske (now seeking the same job in Chicago) and current chief John Diaz (ingrained by 31 years inside the department), SPD 's image took a great fall, and its practices caused great harm. The department is facing the same fate as King County's jail system, which, under a 2009 federal court agreement, is being forced to end civil-rights violations of prisoners and halt a seemingly endless string of inmate deaths.
Most recently, its drummed-up 2010 case against David Rengo, accused of assaulting renegade cop Shandy Cobane, was thrown out by a judge who seemed offended that such a phony case could ever be brought by the police and King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. In fact, says Rengo, the truth was the other way around--Cobane assaulted him, and threatened more harm. Rengo later obtained a court protection order to keep Cobane at bay.
Adding to the incriminating pile, another judge concluded there was an obvious question of excessive force by SPD officer Kevin Oshikawa-Clay when he arrested John Kita in 2008. As SW reported in a February compilation of video-related civil claims filed against SPD, Kita claims he was beaten and kneed by Oshikawa-Clay after the officer discovered Kita fighting with a woman under the I-5 freeway, an arrest recorded on police digital video.
The officer, who was administratively exonerated, said Kita resisted and required "minimal" force for a take-down. The video referred to in files has now surfaced, and, like the Rengo case, appears to turn the police claim on its head. In particular, there's the moment after Kita complies with the officer's orders and then gets his head bashed onto the car's hood:
In court papers, Kita--who was found not guilty at his criminal trial--refers to his case and others under investigation by the feds as representative of the "alleged local custom of sanctioning the constitutional violations of its police officers." Federal Judge John Coughenour, rejecting the city's motion to have the civil case thrown out, said the issue should be decided by a jury. Of course. But in the court of public opinion, is there any reasonable doubt the cops need someone to watch over them, and us?