Excessive Force Sparks DOJ Review of Seattle Police

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A demonstrator covers her mouth to protect herself from tear gas following street clashes with riot police in downtown Seattle, Washington on the opening day of the WTO meeting. Nov. 30, 1999 (MIKE NELSON/AFP/Getty)

AUDIO WARNING: Sensitive listeners may find some content in this interview disturbing.

All week, we've been looking at the state of law enforcement across the country and the relationship between communities and their cops. On Tuesday we heard about Cleveland, where excessive force prompted a statewide investigation. Today, we turn to a similar situation in Seattle.

The Emerald City has a complicated past with law enforcement. The infamous World Trade Organization protests of 1999 saw aggressive crowd control tactics by the Seattle Police Department (SPD), including the use of chemical agents. At the same time, the police have earned praise for their support of decriminalizing drug offenses. They have worked closely with the community to ease the legalization of marijuana, even passing out notifications of new pot laws with bags of Doritos.

But community relations hit a dark low in 2010 when Officer Ian Birk shot and killed John T. Williams, a Native American wood carver who was holding a small knife at the time police approached him.

Amy Radil is a reporter for member station KUOW in Seattle. She says it was that high profile incident that prompted the DOJ investigation in 2011 that led to policy changes and federal oversight. We take a look at the status of the reforms.


Amy Radil

Produced by:

Allie Ferguson


T.J. Raphael

Comments [1]

afried to leave name its complicated

I was listening to NPR news for the past few days, and it would be remiss of me not to encourage you to take a look at Buffalo NY......I recently resided in this city but left because of reprisal by officers.I will tell you a story, of one of the incidents that happened, while attending Buffalo state collage. The location Grant Street, the reason why why iam shearing this information, is because there was an incident the happened with officers, in ........that is presently in litigation, and is a Civil Rights Case at present.These are repressed memories, that have resurfaced from the combined trauma, some of which Ive hidden prior to graduating from collage in 1988. I was stopped by police officers on grant street in the city of buffalo,who assumed that I was doing some thing wrong, I was asked to place my body/head on the front of their vehicle while that went into my pockets,I was instructed not to move, I can recall moving, and one of the officers struck me on the the right side of my head, I could feel my blood running down the right side of my cheek, It was late no one was out.. I recall comments by officers, mentioning, wow he's bleeding like a pig. The officers placed a bag over my head, and pushed me into the back of their vehicle. Thay drove me around the city, I could here them whispering, with uncertainty....... what are we going to do with this man he hasn't violated and law, at least we came get him some help. I was dropped off at Sheenon Memorial Hospital, where i recived 10 staples on the side of my head. I guess this was the norm, I deserved this right? never the less, who would belive me, Thease were my thoughts,I was young than, am a father of 3, a grandfather of 3, and a working professional working to instill hope into the community inwhich i now reside, I had to leave this city becouse of fear of repsisel" But ive asked questions to many residing in this City. Peolpe are afried of the police and of are under the assumption that, thay are obove the law.

Jun. 26 2014 03:46 PM

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