Seattle police chief reverses OPA recommendation to discipline officer

SEATTLE — The Community Police Commission (CPC) is disappointed that Seattle Police Department Chief Adrian Diaz overturned the recommendation of the Office of Police Accountability to discipline an officer who ordered tear gas and blast balls to be fired at demonstrators last June during protests.

A clash and tug of war over a pink umbrella near the East Precinct was the incident that set things off.

Demonstrators were protesting against police brutality over George Floyd’s killing and said they were provoked and met with brutality from officers.

The OPA investigated and agreed that officers used blast balls and injured innocent people, acting inappropriately.

However, policy allows the chief to overrule the recommendations.

On Wednesday, Diaz sent a letter to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and City Council President Lorena Gonzalez explaining his decision for overruling the OPA’s recommendation.

He said his reason for doing so was “... rooted in principles of fundamental fairness.”

He added the incident commander shouldn’t be held responsible because “decisions were made at levels of command above” him.

On Wednesday, the CPC sent out a statement in regards to the chief’s decision, saying in part, “Chief Diaz’s decision to overturn OPA’s decision is detrimental to community trust in SPD and Seattle’s entire police accountability system.”

Read the entire statement from the CPC below:

“We are concerned by Chief Diaz’s decision to overturn the OPA findings in this case, the justice denied to peaceful protesters, and the harm this decision will do to trust in the Seattle Police Department and Seattle’s entire police accountability system.

“In his decision to overrule the Office of Police Accountability, Chief Diaz states that officers were overwhelmed and uses the fact that the situation was complex as justification for this police officer’s use of force, despite the fact many officers involved in that same incident did not commit similar misconduct. He says the decision to meet peaceful protesters with force was made at a “higher level of command” but does not detail how he will be holding that higher level of command accountable. In doing so, he denies justice to thousands of Black Lives Matter protesters who marched against police brutality only to be met by indiscriminate police violence.

“SPD has repeatedly pointed to its cooperation with ongoing OPA investigations as proof of its commitment to accountability. There have been tens of thousands of complaints against SPD over the past year, but only a handful of investigations have met the high bar OPA has set to find police officers have committed misconduct. This case met that high bar. Chief Diaz’s decision to overturn OPA’s decision is detrimental to community trust in SPD and Seattle’s entire police accountability system.

“This decision illustrates why the Community Police Commission (CPC) has repeatedly called for a ban on SPD’s use of weapons like tear gas and blast balls – since even when it is clear an officer abused these weapons, SPD refuses to hold them accountable.

“Finally, the CPC was not given any advance notice of Chief Diaz’s decision. We were informed through SPD’s social media post. In the spirit of partnership, notice of this decision in advance as envisioned by the Accountability Ordinance would have been appropriate.”