Seattle receives 14,000 complaints about police conduct in protests

SEATTLE — Video of a young girl after she was apparently pepper-sprayed by Seattle police last weekend went viral.

It also generated at least 11,000 complaints to the city’s Office of Police Accountability.

OPA Director Andrew Myerberg said Tuesday his office had so far received 14,000 complaints about 13 incidents over four days of protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

“People are angry, people want answers now, and we need to do our best to move forward expeditiously with these cases while still being thorough,” Myerberg said.

Myerberg wants his civilian-led investigations into the most pressing cases done in 45 to 60 days, instead of the usual six months.

“We are going to get to the bottom of all these cases,” he said.

Other complaints allege an officer punched a person on the ground who was being arrested and that officers covered their badge numbers.

The OPA is investigating two incidents where officers put their knees on people’s necks.

“I’m deeply concerned about the rank and file,” said Rev. Harriett Walden of Mothers for Police Accountability.

Walden said officers didn’t act quickly enough Friday night to arrest what she calls “professional anarchists.”

“It’s been hands off the white privilege kids,” Walden said. “If they had done their job on Friday night some of this stuff would not have been happening. They could have got ahead of this, now they’re trying to catch up.”

Walden is also concerned police didn’t give adequate warning before pepper spraying crowds.

Civilian investigators will determine if an officer violated policy and Police Chief Carmen Best will decide on discipline.

Seattle has a relatively new civilian-led oversight system after a federal consent decree designed to correct a pattern of biased policing and excessive force.

“In Seattle we have a very excellent system of accountability. It’s multiple layers, which is the key to this,” said Professor Matthew Hickman, criminal justice chair at Seattle University.

On Wednesday morning, the Community Police Commission begins its review of the protest response.

On Wednesday afternoon, the city council will question the police chief.

These 10 incidents received the most complaints:

  1. Pepper spraying a young girl (Saturday)
  2. Punching a person on the ground who was being arrested (Friday)
  3. Placing a knee on the neck area of two people who had been arrested (Saturday)
  4. Covering up badge numbers
  5. Failing to record law enforcement activity on body-worn video
  6. Pepper spraying peaceful protestors (Saturday)
  7. The use of flashbangs, including causing a significant thumb injury (Saturday)
  8. Failing to secure rifles in the rear of a patrol vehicle (Saturday)
  9. Punching a person on the ground who was being arrested (Sunday)
  10. Officers breaking windows of a Target store (date unknown)

Read more here and track specific cases here.

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