SPD’s New Rulemaking Unit; Plus Man Attacked While Photographing Drug Dealers

Today in Fuzz: SPD tells DOJ it’s creating a new unit to do old work, man says he was attacked for photographing drug dealers, and teen arrested for bringing (fake) gun to school.

1) In response to Department of Justice’s ongoing investigation into misconduct within the Seattle Police Department, the city says it will create a new unit within SPD to research and handle all changes to department regulations, as well as work directly with the DOJ during its inquiry.

Last January, following a series of high-profile incidents—including the fatal police shooting of John T. Williams—the Department of Justice began reviewing SPD’s policies to examine whether officers are using unnecessary force

A letter sent by the city to the DOJ today—in response to questions about the department’s policies on officer statements in use of force reports—says the department is undergoing a  “top-to-bottom review and rewrite” of the SPD’s officer manual, and is creating a new 8-person unit tasked with “researching and identifying legal and constitutional standards” for new department policies.

The Seattle Times makes it sound like a series of sweeping changes are coming to the department. However, in reality, it appears SPD is really just reshuffling the deck.

The new Professional Standards Section of the department—which will be led by homicide unit Captain Mike Washburn and two attorneys—will, in effect, mostly be in charge of writing the SPD officer’s manual, as well as sending out department-wide notifications to SPD’s 1300 officers about policy changes. But that’s something that’s already been happening for some time at SPD. Just today for example, officers within SPD received a fairly standard email reminding them of how SPD handles cases involving immigration policy.

The department is updates its manual fairly regularly—several times a month on occasion, to keep up with changing case laws, like new court rulings affecting officers’ abilities to search a suspect’s vehicle—so it seems the department is simply creating a new unit to handle some work previously performed by SPD’s Accreditation Unit (at least until SPD lost its accreditation).

There are a few noteworthy changes buried in today’s letter to the DOJ, though: the department’s also creating a board to review officers’ use of force, as well as a “force investigation team.”

We’re checking in with SPD to see if we can find out more about the new investigation boards.

2) A man told police he was attacked by a group of drug dealers after he tried to snap pictures of them on First Hill last week.

The man left a store at 9th Ave. and James St., carrying a bag of groceries, around 10 pm on November 29 when he saw three people standing around near a pay phone on the corner.

The victim—who later told officers he’s “fed up” with drug dealers in the neighborhood, and the city’s “inability to combat the problem”—began snapping pictures of the group of men, who “became agitated” and told the man not to take any more pictures.

Undeterred, the victim kept taking pics, until one of the supposed drug dealers grabbed the man’s grocery bag and flipped it onto his head.

A glass bottle in the bag smacked the victim in the head, cutting him, according to police.

It appears from the report that the suspects got away.

3)  On Monday morning, someone flagged down a patrol officer near Franklin High School and said they had seen a teen with a pistol. The witness pointed out the teen to police, but when officers tried to confront the boy, he fled into the school.

Officers identified the boy using a school yearbook and pulled him out of class. He admitted he’d had a BB gun and showed police where he’d dumped it on the third floor of the school.

Officers arrested and booked the kid into Youth Service Center for “investigation of a dangerous weapon on school facilities.”