Black Clergy: Cop Charges Are “Racist Application of Justice” In Seattle

A group of black clergy members have joined the push to get the city to drop charges against Seattle police officer Garth Haynes, who was caught on video kicking a handcuffed suspect while off-duty in Ballard last year.

Members of the United Black Clergy (UBC) sent a letter to City Attorney Pete Holmes earlier this month demanding “an end to the arbitrary and institutionally racist application of justice in the city of Seattle.”

A separate  online petition set up earlier this month has already by nearly 200 people, asking the city to drop charges against Haynes.

Officer Haynes was involved in a fight in Ballard while off duty last December. Hayes confronted a woman who walked out of the bar with his coat, and ended up in a fight with three other men. After police arrived and arrested the three men, Haynes, who got a concussion during the incident, was caught on camera kicking one of the men while the man was handcuffed.

After police took the three men away, a patrol car camera captured one of the men, who is white, referring to Haynes, who is black, with a racist slur, calling him a “spook.”

In July, Holmes filed assault charges against Haynes. The case against the three men who had fought with Haynes was dismissed after Haynes invoked the Fifth Amendment and declined to testify.

“While we do not condone in the last police misconduct,” the UBC’s letter says, “the facts in the Officer Haynes matter suggest that not even Black police officers are safe from the arbitrary and institutionally racist application of justice.”

The UBC’s letter also claims the conduct of the men who fought with Haynes “rises to the standard of a hate crime” and  bemoans the fact prosecutors did not file charges against Officer Shandy Cobane—who was caught on tape threatening to “beat the Mexican piss” out of a handcuffed Latino man—and Ian Walsh, who punched a teenage girl in a jaywalking incident last year.

It’s worth nothing that the letter also incorrectly claims no charges were filed against Officer James Lee (who was in fact charged with assault for repeatedly kicked a teenager during a botched drug bust last year) and King County deputy Paul Schene, who was tried twice for assaulting a 15-year-old girl in a holding cell.

The UBC’s letter closes with a few demands:

We demand a clear policy on the charging of officers, and we must be included in formulating it;

We demand that this clear policy be equally and fairly applied regardless of race or ethnicity.

We demand that the City counctil and Mayor’s Office convene a joint task force with no more than a one year term to compile all reports, scholarly articles, and investigations of arbitrary and racist governmental actions, and issue sweeping findings and conclusions to end such patterns and vestiges in the police department, the Seattle Police Guild, the City Attorney’s Office, the judiciary, and elsewhere in Seattle;

We demand a Citizen’s Review Board to review police misconduct, and said board should have independent subpoena power, and the power to recommend charges be brought and/or damages be paid.

We’ve heard a few more groups have sent letters to Holmes’ office, and have requested copies.

We have a call in to Holmes office for his reaction to the letter. Previously, his office has said: “While the Professional Rules of Conduct prevent the City Attorney from commenting publicly on this particular case, he is pleased to meet with community leaders in private. He has already had some of these discussions and may be involved in more.”