Police Chief Sends a Message

Monday, July 18, 2011

Last May we were stunned to see video of a Seattle police officer yelling racial slurs at a Latino man lying prone on the ground and kicking him in the head while another officer stomped on his legs.  This incident was one of many that led the ACLU and 34 other organizations to ask the Department of Justice to investigate the Seattle Police Department for racially biased policing.  

As disturbing as the officers’ actions were, we were equally concerned to learn that a supervisor at the scene stood by and did nothing to intervene.  So we are relieved to learn that the Seattle Police Chief John Diaz has disciplined the acting watch lieutenant on duty at the time for failure to assume command and control at the incident. 

Imposing discipline on individual officers will not solve the problems that led to this incident.  But the Chief’s recent decision sends a message to SPD supervisors and to the community that the duty to serve and protect lies with all SPD employees.  It is a meaningful step in the right direction.