Press Releases

October 23, 2020

OPA releases second set of investigative findings into Seattle police behavior at protests

Seattle - Today the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) released five more completed investigations into alleged Seattle Police Department (SPD) employee misconduct at protests following the murder of George Floyd. The incident in case 2020OPA-0363 occurred on June 7th when demonstrators positioned their bodies on the ground to prevent bicycle officers from leaving a barricaded area. One demonstrator was arrested after refusing to move. Video analysis indicates that the involved officer forcibly pushed the demonstrator into the ground, causing injury to the demonstrator's head. OPA found that the force was not proportional because of the lack of resistance on the part of the demonstrator and the lack of a physical threat to the officers. Given this, OPA recommended a sustained finding.

The underlying incident in case 2020OPA-0323 took place on May 29th when officers prohibited demonstrators from walking down a street and one person refused to comply. As officers attempted to take this person into custody, he physically resisted, struggling with two officers on the ground. He hit the officers with a water bottle, and the officers used force to prevent him from engaging in further similar conduct. OPA concluded that the force used by one officer was appropriate under the circumstances, given that it was an immediate reaction to the threat. However, OPA also concluded that the six to eight punches used by the other officer were excessive, particularly because he failed to modulate his force as the threat subsided. As such, OPA recommended a sustained finding for this officer.

The other findings released today were for cases 2020OPA-0402 (not sustained), 2020OPA-0438 (not sustained), and 2020OPA-0383 (not sustained).OPA compiled a short video to show the incident in 2020OPA-0383.

Since May 30th, OPA has been contacted over 19,000 times about SPD's conduct at and response to various demonstrations. So far, the emails, phone calls, and other feedback have resulted in 126 cases. OPA is now updating its website dashboard every three weeks to show progress into demonstration-related complaint investigations.

September 24, 2020

OPA requests criminal investigation after officer rolls bicycle over person

Seattle — OPA is investigating the SPD officer who rolled a bicycle over an individual lying on the ground. The Seattle Police Department’s Force Investigation Team (FIT) responded to the incident at 2:40 a.m. and notified OPA. OPA staff responded to monitor the investigation. From a review of the video posted on Twitter, FIT identified potential violations of SPD policy, as well as potential criminal conduct. FIT accordingly referred the matter to OPA. At 5:00 a.m., after further analyzing the video and observing the interviews conducted by FIT, OPA requested that a criminal investigation be conducted. OPA asked that the investigation to be done by an outside law enforcement agency, and SPD agreed. We are awaiting confirmation on the identity of that agency. We will provide additional information as it becomes available, including the case number. So far, OPA has received over 30 complaints concerning this incident.

September 18, 2020

OPA releases first set of findings after in-depth investigations into police behavior at protests

Seattle - Today the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) released five completed investigations into alleged Seattle Police Department (SPD) employee misconduct at protests following the murder of George Floyd.

OPA was contacted nearly 13,000 times about case 2020OPA-0322, an incident in which a young boy was affected by pepper spray. OPA's review of bystander and body-worn video found that the boy was not individually targeted. He and his father moved towards a protester who had grabbed an officer's baton and was pushing into the police line. An SPD supervisor used pepper spray to move the protester back. In response, the protester ducked, causing the pepper spray to inadvertently affect the boy and his father. OPA deemed the use of pepper spray on the protester consistent with policy based on the protester's actions. While the impact to the boy was an unfortunate result, he was not visible on the video at the time of the pepper spraying and therefore could not have been seen by the supervisor. 

Case 2020OPA-0324 involved allegations that an officer used excessive force when he placed his knee on an individual's neck during an arrest. OPA did not see evidence that suggested the officer intended to impair the demonstrators' breathing or use a neck or carotid restraint. However, OPA identified that the officer's knee was on the individual's neck for around 13 seconds. This use of force was found to be improper and inconsistent with SPD policy and training. OPA also found that the officer made statements that violated SPD's professionalism policy. This case is currently before Interim Chief Diaz to determine discipline to be imposed.

The other findings released today were for cases 2020OPA-0375 (not sustained), 2020OPA-0348 (sustained), and 2020OPA-0350 (not sustained).   Since May 30th, OPA has been contacted approximately 19,000 times (including the 13,000 mentioned above) about SPD's conduct at and response to various demonstrations. So far, the emails, phone calls, and other feedback have resulted in 118 cases. OPA updates a website dashboard every two weeks showing progress into demonstration-related complaint investigations and will continue to issue findings on a rolling basis.

June 12, 2020

OPA creates dashboard so public can track progress of investigations into SPD conduct at recent demonstrations

Seattle, WA - The Office of Police Accountability (OPA) created a website dashboard showing progress into demonstration-related complaint investigations. OPA has been contacted over 17,000 times about SPD conduct at demonstrations over the past two weeks. At this point, the emails, phone calls, and other feedback boil down to 17 primary complaints, listed below. OPA is fully investigating each of these complaints.

The website has graphics representing the progress achieved thus far in each of the 17 investigations. Above each graphic is the OPA case number and specific case allegation. Below each graphic are the "next steps" in the investigation, which give the public some insight into what an investigation entails.

The dashboard shows that as of today, all 17 cases are between 30% and 50% complete. OPA is committed to finishing the investigations as quickly as possible while still abiding by legal and contractual timelines. The dashboard will be updated as investigations progress.

  1. 2020OPA-0322 Child pepper sprayed (May 30)
  2. 2020OPA-0323 Excessive force - punching (May 29)
  3. 2020OPA-0324 Officer knee on necks (May 30)
  4. 2020OPA-0325 Officer identification issues (multiple days)
  5. 2020OPA-0326 Body-worn video not activated (multiple days)
  6. 2020OPA-0327 Pepper spray use against protestors (multiple days)
  7. 2020OPA-0328 Flashbang thumb injury (May 30)
  8. 2020OPA-0329 Unsecured rifles in SPD vehicle (May 30)
  9. 2020OPA-0330 Excessive force - punching (May 30)
  10. 2020OPA-0331 Officers damaging storefront (May 30)
  11. 2020OPA-0332 Excessive force - neck restraint (June 1)
  12. 2020OPA-0333 Flashbang injury - reporter (June 1)
  13. 2020OPA-0334 Overly aggressive crowd dispersal tactics (multiple days)
  14. 2020OPA-0335 Flashbang injury - man sleeping (June 1)
  15. 2020OPA-0337 Police radio threat against protestors (June 3)
  16. 2020OPA-0344 Flashbang injury - woman (June 7)
  17. 2020OPA-0345 Tear gas use post 30-day ban (June 7)

June 3, 2020

OPA asks witnesses to help with investigation surrounding girl pepper sprayed during Saturday's protest

Seattle, WA - The Office of Police Accountability (OPA) is seeking information from any community members who may have witnessed the girl getting pepper sprayed at a demonstration on Saturday. While being mindful of the trauma this incident has caused the girl and her family, we would like to speak with the girl's family/guardians to gain their perspective on what occurred.

Due to the immense public concern surrounding this incident, OPA is working to complete this investigation in 60 days rather than the standard 180 days provided in the Seattle police labor contracts. During these 60 days, OPA will be reviewing body-worn video/community member video/other evidence, interviewing the involved employee and community member/officer witnesses, drafting case findings, and seeking external review from the Office of Inspector General. While we understand that 60 days sounds like an eternity, conducting a thorough investigation takes time.

In response to questions posed on social media regarding the identity of the officer in question, OPA is prohibited from releasing the names of employees who are investigated. However, we are committed to providing as much information as legally possible regarding the status of this investigation.

We promise a complete and fair accounting of what occurred, and we pledge to do so in a timely fashion.

June 1, 2020

OPA processing 12,000 complaints after weekend demonstrations

SEATTLE, WA – The Seattle Office of Police Accountability (OPA) recognizes the community's anger and sadness following the death of George Floyd. We whole-heartedly support the movement for equitable policing across the nation.

OPA has received approximately 12,000 individual complaints concerning the Seattle Police Department's (SPD) response to this weekend's demonstrations. We are currently reviewing and processing these complaints. The resulting investigations will be our top priority moving forward.

Below are the ten specific incidents about which OPA has received the most complaints. We have assigned each a case number that can be used to track the progress online of the corresponding investigation. These investigations will be civilian-led and as transparent as possible given the law and police collective bargaining agreements. We will complete our investigations quickly due to the immense public concern and will provide updates via our website and Twitter.

  1. Pepper spraying a young girl (Saturday): 2020OPA-0322
  2. Punching a person on the ground who was being arrested (Friday): 2020OPA-0323
  3. Placing a knee on the neck area of two people who had been arrested (Saturday): 2020OPA-0324
  4. Covering up badge numbers: 2020OPA-0325
  5. Failing to record law enforcement activity on body-worn video: 2020OPA-0326
  6. Pepper spraying peaceful protestors (Saturday): 2020OPA-0327
  7. The use of flashbangs, including causing a significant thumb injury (Saturday): 2020OPA-0328
  8. Failing to secure rifles in the rear of a patrol vehicle (Saturday): 2020OPA-0329
  9. Punching a person on the ground who was being arrested (Sunday): 2020OPA-0330
  10. Officers breaking windows of a Target store (date unknown): 2020OPA-0331

Please note that we will not prejudge any actions prior to finishing our investigations. We respectfully caution the public about reaching findings without having all the evidence.

We also urge the public to allow the system created by the Police Accountability Ordinance to carry out its respective responsibilities. This includes not only OPA's investigative duties, but the Inspector General's systemic review and the Community Police Commission's raising of community concerns. The system was built to respond to these incidents, and OPA is confident that all involved will do so ethically and to the best of their ability.

We encourage community members to continue filing complaints. We are working to ensure space on our voicemail, but if you are unable to leave a message, please file a complaint via our web form. If you have video that you think may be useful, please include a link to it.

October 16, 2019

OPA Finds New Years Eve Shooting by SPD Officer Consistent With Policy

SEATTLE, WA – The Office of Police Accountability (OPA) released findings from its months-long administrative investigation into the fatal shooting of Iosia Faletogo by a Seattle Police Department (SPD) officer. After evaluating the facts and circumstances of the incident, OPA found the officer’s conduct followed SPD policy and training.

The incident occurred on December 31, 2018, in north Seattle following a traffic stop in which Mr. Faletogo fled on foot. Multiple officers ran after him, and an on-the-ground scuffle ensued. Body-worn video revealed that Mr. Faletogo did not comply with police commands and was in possession of a handgun. After struggling with officers and being ordered not to reach for the gun, Mr. Faletogo stated, “nope, not reaching.” Almost simultaneously, one of the officers fired a single, fatal shot.

Regarding the finding, OPA Director Andrew Myerberg said, “I recognize the death of Mr. Faletogo was a tragedy. He left behind family, friends, and a community who loved him. However, OPA’s investigation found that the officer made the difficult, split-second decision to use deadly force because he perceived he was in grave danger given Mr. Faletogo’s immediate access to a weapon and lack of compliance.”

Less than one second elapsed from when Mr. Faletogo said “nope, not reaching” to the moment the shot was fired. OPA determined that, even had the officer who fired the shot heard the statement, it would not have been possible for him to change his actions given the quickly-evolving and chaotic nature of the situation.

The case went through both internal and external investigations to ensure a full evaluation of the facts. This included an independent criminal review by the Washington State Patrol and multiple SPD administrative investigations. No criminal charges were recommended or filed.

May 31, 2019

OPA Clarifies Role in Police Officer Disciplinary Process

Seattle, WA - As reported today in The Seattle Times, the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) concluded that an officer lied during an administrative misconduct investigation interview. It is important to further explain OPA's role in recommending discipline for police officer misconduct and the steps OPA took in this particular case.

Based on OPA's investigation, Director Andrew Myerberg recommended a sustained finding for dishonesty. The officer's chain of command, including a member of SPD's command staff, concurred with the sustained finding during the Discipline Committee Meeting, which occurs whenever a sustained finding is recommended.

OPA and the chain of command also came to a consensus regarding the range of discipline to recommend to Chief Best: 30-days unpaid suspension to termination. That joint recommendation encompassed the different perspectives of those on the Discipline Committee, and the proposed disciplinary range was consistent with those positions. As with the practice of convening a Discipline Committee Meeting, a consensus range of discipline is proposed in virtually every case.

Chief Best, who is the final decision maker on discipline, imposed a 30-day unpaid suspension. While short of termination, a 30-day suspension is the second-highest level of discipline an officer can receive.

January 10, 2019

Office of Police Accountability Initiates Investigation into Fatal New Year's Eve Officer-Involved Shooting

Seattle, WA - This week the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) initiated an investigation to assess whether the conduct of the Seattle Police Department (SPD) officer who fatally shot Iosia Faletogo complied with police policies and procedures. The incident occurred on December 31, 2018, in North Seattle following a traffic stop. OPA anticipates its investigation will be complete by the end of July.

OPA also recommended that SPD seek an independent review of the incident by an outside law enforcement agency. The evidence collected during that investigation would be used to determine whether the officer's conduct during the incident was lawful.

Regarding the proposed course of action, OPA Director Andrew Myerberg said: "Together, these investigations are intended to provide a thorough and impartial evaluation of the facts, which are critical not only for evaluating the case, but for ensuring transparency and maintaining public confidence in the SPD and the police accountability system."