Seattle Police use-of-force allegations dropped since 2020, OPA report finds

Allegations of an overuse of force by Seattle Police (SPD) were down 61% in 2021 compared to 2020—a major takeaway from the Office of Police Accountability’s (OPA) Annual Report, released on Tuesday.

Office received 2,866 contacts from the public which resulted in the opening of 558 cases, a drop of 28% cases from 2020. More than half—52%—of those cases were investigated, and of those cases, the OPA sustained 26% of those allegations.

The report says there were 140 use-of-force allegations in 2021, a drop of 61% from 2020, when there were 358.

2020 was a year that saw many protests over police brutality, the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, and the Black Lives Matter and Defund the Police movements.

By comparison, both years are well below 2019, where there were 452 allegations of excessive use of force.

"SPD is also encouraged by the decline in Use of Force allegations" says a statement by SPD Communications. "SPD will strive to improve in all areas and appreciates the oversight of its community partners, including the OPA."

The report says two officers were terminated by the Seattle interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz as a result of disciplinary findings made by the OPA. Other officers in line for termination due to OPA findings quit before the termination could take place.

The two officers fired by Diaz were involved in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Investigation: 2 off-duty Seattle police officers broke law during Capitol siege

Seattle City Council member Lisa Herbold, who chairs the council's Public Safety Committee, took issue with some demographic numbers in the report.

The report identified who was making the complaints. It said 27% of those filing complaints where Black/African American, which was an increase from 22% in 2020 and 23% in 2019.

Herbold notes that Seattle’s population has 7% Black/African American residents.

"I am concerned that the racial disproportionality in OPA cases has continued to increase over previous years" said Herbold. "I thank SPD for their work implementing OPA’s management recommendations. Management action recommendations were made in 22 policy areas, and nine are fully or partially implemented, and ten are in progress. This is how SPD—working with OPA—is proactive in preventing future misconduct."

Diaz did not follow the 2021 recommendation to discipline a lieutenant who gave the order to pepper spray and tear gas a crowd of protestors during what’s been called the "pink umbrella incident" on June 1, 2020.

It was the only OPA disciplinary recommendation in 2021 that Diaz did not follow. Instead, he demoted an assistant chief who was an incident commander during that time.

Panel reviews 'Wave 2' of 2020 protests, provides further recommendations on SPD response

An independent review of Seattle Police’s response to the 2020 protest continues, identifying an "erosion of trust" and "lack of awareness, responsiveness and communication" as inflaming tensions between officers and protesters.

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