Seattle officer suing city, interim chief over ‘pink umbrella incident’

SEATTLE — A Seattle police officer who was demoted after the infamous “pink umbrella incident” is taking legal action.

Steve Hirjak says he has been made a scapegoat by interim police chief Adrian Diaz for the escalation at last summer’s protests outside the East Precinct.

The lawsuit states Hirjak was blamed for the escalation, despite the Office of Police Accountability determining that Lieutenant John Brooks was responsible, saying: “Chief Diaz announced that he was overruling OPA’s determination that Lt. Brooks was responsible for the violation of SPD policy. Even though OPA had concluded that Lt. Brooks alone ordered the use of force against demonstrators.”

The suit also says he was discriminated against, stating: “Other similarly situated White employees were not demoted. In fact, several such employees were praised, promoted, and given raises.”

Seattle police releasing a statement to KIRO 7 that reads in full: “The Seattle Police Department and Chief Diaz are committed to bias-free policing and a workplace free of discrimination and harassment. Recognizing the rights of every employee to have claims of discrimination thoroughly and fairly reviewed without interference, the SPD and Chief Diaz defer any comment on this matter to the City Attorney’s Office.”

The city of Seattle is also listed in the suit. They tell KIRO 7: “The City takes its obligation to provide a workplace free of harassment and discrimination seriously, and the plaintiff’s claims are being fully investigated.”

“What I saw was an excessive use of force on a scale the city of Seattle had never seen,” says Omari Salisbury, who captured the encounter on his phone.

He says every officer who was there is responsible for what happened that day and it’s the people who were hit with tear gas who should be the ones suing.

“You saw baristas and bartenders and bankers, you saw people out of work from COVID you saw kids you saw students. And with no regard gassed again and again and again so I think that the whole conversation is preposterous to begin with.”