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City of Seattle
Ed Murray, Mayor

SUBJECT: City Attorney Says Police Department Is Capable of Far Better

6/17/2010  1:00:00 PM
Kimberly Mills  (206) 684-8602

After reviewing the evidence in consultation with lawyers in my office and the King County Prosecutor, I have decided to charge Marilyn Levias with Obstructing a Public Officer, a gross misdemeanor under the Seattle Municipal Code. Levias’ conduct in the video reflects a dangerous refusal to observe the cardinal rule that civilians simply must comply with instructions from police officers. During my years of service on the SPD’s Office of Professional Accountability Review Board we consistently admonished the public -- and especially parents -- of the critical importance of following police officer commands, and my decision today reinforces this basic rule. We are fortunate that no civilian or officer was seriously injured in this incident.

That said, our police department is capable of far better than we have witnessed in recent months. Besides educating the public, the OPA Review Board and at least two OPA Auditors have also consistently stressed the need for de-escalation training for officers, including the observation by Judge Michael Spearman that "The use of force in a [jaywalking] situation as a best practice is questionable." Jaywalking is a known problem around Franklin High School, and despite that knowledge, SPD leadership essentially "planned to fail because it failed to plan." I trust that we will not see this ongoing problem addressed in the same shortsighted manner that occurred on Monday.

An essential element of effective policing today is increased cultural sensitivity. At my direction, training developed by the City under its Race & Social Justice Initiative for every member of my office is well under way. SPD leadership at the very top must insist that its members also undergo this training for the good of our entire City -- civilian and officer alike.

Incidents such as these underscore the void in leadership at the top. All of us hope this latest incident will provide a teaching moment: Reminding everyone of the absolute need to comply with officer instructions, and to bring any complaints about officer conduct to the OPA instead. Finally, I urge the Mayor as commander in chief to act promptly to rectify the leadership void at SPD. We have an excellent police force, and it is time the department had leadership worthy of its ranks.

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