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December 16, 2011

DOJ investigation of SPD: Excessive Use of Force & 'Serious Concerns' about Treatment of Minorities

Today, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced results of an 11-month, civil-rights investigation into the Seattle Police Department (SPD). DOJ found systemic Constitutional violations and widespread use of excessive force by officers - a majority of which involved people of color. Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General of DOJ Civil Rights Division, announced results of the investigation this morning in Seattle after meeting with SPD Chief John Diaz and Mayor Mike McGinn.

OneAmerica has been deeply engaged throughout the course of its ten-year history in fighting racial profiling in numerous ways. This included participation as an appointed member of Mayor Nickel's 2007 Police Accountability Task Force, and an appointed member of the 2010 Police Chief Search Panel.

The DOJ has been busy. Perez said that his department is currently involved in 20 similar pattern and practice investigations across the country, the most in division history. Yesterday, he was in Phoenix to announce stark findings of a three-year investigation into Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's department that found the most egregious example of racial profiling by law enforcement in the nation. Immediately after, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would terminate its 287(g) agreement with the Sheriff’s Office and restrict access to the "Secure Communities" program.

The following is a statement from Pramila Jayapal:

"As I've said previously, a great majority of Seattle Police Department officers work hard every day to win trust and serve our communities. However, we have consistently expressed our deep concern around ongoing police abuse against people of color and racial profiling within the department, and our firm belief is that the culture of the department needs to be changed. In addition, we have consistently expressed concerns about practices and training that may encourage stereotyping and excessive use of force.

The results of this investigation confirm much of what many people of color and allies have been articulating for years. We are deeply grateful to the DOJ for undertaking this investigation. The results of this investigation feel like a long-overdue recognition of some of the problems. At the same time, the lack of data that seems to have affected the ability to meet the racial profiling standards must be systematically collected so we can continue to monitor the situation.

Communities of color - including Black, Latino, Asian, Native American and Muslim - have borne the burden of unfair, discriminatory and brutal treatment. We believe that the leadership for fixing these problems must come from SPD Chief Diaz and Seattle Mayor McGinn, and that every member of the SPD should be deeply committed to changing any culture that undermines the overall department's ability to build trust with the communities it serves and protects.

OneAmerica is ready and willing to direct our energies toward real solutions, in collaboration with our allies and the SPD, to clearly address issues of racism and racial profiling and support efforts to set strong standards for the culture and integrity of the Seattle Police Department."

Media

For more information or to arrange interviews, contact Charlie McAteer, OneAmerica Communications Director, 206-452-8402, charlie@weareoneamerica.org

About OneAmerica

OneAmerica, formerly Hate Free Zone, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that advances the fundamental principles of democracy and justice by building power within immigrant communities.

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