Harrell Wants to Take Closer Look at SPD Policy After Officer Drug Sting

Days after a Seattle police officer Rick Nelson fatally shot himself after he was arrested with crack cocaine, City Council member Bruce Harrell—who’s taking over the council’s public safety committee—told PublICola he thinks the department’s doing enough to test officers for drugs, but wants to take a closer look at some of SPD’s policies on evidence handling.

“I dont’ read into [t]his situation that we have a rampant problem with officers using drugs,” Harrell said, adding that he believes department’s current drug testing policy—which calls for testing officers who exhibit “a reasonable suspicion of impairment” on the job—is enough to help police to police themselves.

“Officers will do what’s in their best interests” and report their colleagues if they believe they’re using drugs, Harrell said. “You don’t want a crackhead officer serving next to you.”

In light of the fact that SPD has accused Officer Nelson of mishandling drug evidence, Harrell says he wants to make sure SPD’s department manual requires officers to report similar behavior to their commanders.

The department’s manual only specifically lists three things which must immediately be reported to command staff—if an officer is the focus of a criminal investigation, a domestic violence case or protection order, or has their license suspended—and does not specifically require officers to report their colleagues for mishandling evidence. The department’s manual, however, does include a bit of a catch-all, noting “all employees observing instances of serious misconduct or abuse shall intervene to stop the misconduct or abuse.”