One way or the other, the Seattle Police Department deserves some props. The agency is either learning from its previous mistakes and improving accountability when it comes to the excessive use of force, or SPD is simply getting better at managing potential PR headaches created by overzealous officers manhandling citizens in the line of duty.
In light of the recent agreement between the City of Seattle, SPD and the Department of Justice, this development, while certainly unfortunate on the excessive-force front, could be seen as an improvement. It could be seen as an example of SPD taking quick responsibility for its actions, and being accountable to a citizenry already jaded by its past misdeeds.
On the other hand, considering the fairly damning YouTube video (embedded below) of the altercation posted by LoudMoneyEnt206 which was uploaded the very same day SPD announced its investigation of Powell, it could also be seen as SPD simply trying to manage the PR damage and get out in front of a story that obviously has the potential to be yet another black eye for the force. Whether there's any relation or not, it's worth noting SPD made its announcement regarding Powell late in the afternoon Friday, a classic move employed by politicians and PR types for burying stories they'd rather see ignored.
Whether Powell's case is an example of the former, the latter, or a mixture of all of the above is open to debate at this point. But one thing's for certain: for a police force trying to redeem itself in the eyes of its community, Powell's video-recorded tough-guy act was the last thing SPD needed.
Here's the official statement from SPD released last Friday afternoon:
The Seattle Police Department is investigating a report of excessive force and unprofessionalism by a 19 year veteran officer. The incident occurred while South Precinct patrol officers were in the 3700 block of South Othello Street investigating a report of a drive by pellet gun shooting.
Officers present during the altercation promptly reported the actions of the involved officer to their supervisor who in turn immediately notified department command. An Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) complaint has been filed and the case is currently under investigation.
The involved officer was relieved of duty and sent home. He remains on paid administrative leave pending further investigation.
Our department is committed to the highest level of accountability. We do not tolerate excessive force and unprofessional behavior. Anyone with information regarding this incident is urged to contact OPA investigator Sergeant Yvonne Tovar directly at (206) 684-8792.