This week, Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske's inclination to avoid disciplining wayward officers took center stage. Again. A 2005 report from the Office of Professional Accountability (OPA)—the group that reviews citizen complaints against the Seattle Police Department (SPD)—surfaced, showing Kerlikowske let three police officers slide after they were accused of using unnecessary force and misconduct during an arrest ["Face Off," Darrin Burgess, April 21, 2005]. At the time, former OPA director Sam Pailca recommended discipline for the officers, who beat Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes after he questioned them while they cited his friend for littering outside of a Capitol Hill nightclub—an incident that escalated into an all-out melee.
For several weeks now, Chief Kerlikowske has been under fire after a leaked report from the OPA Review Board—tasked with reviewing SPD's internal investigations—found that he had interfered with another investigation. This situation has made headlines in recent months, raising questions about whether two officers planted drugs and beat a man during a January 2 arrest ["Raw Deal," Jonah Spangenthal-Lee, June 7].
The resurfaced Alley-Barnes report flags the two ways (in addition to current accusations that the chief directly interfered with an OPA investigation) the chief can let officer misconduct slide. First, he can simply ignore OPA recommendations. Despite Pailca's recommendations that Officers Kevin Jones and Brian Hunt be disciplined for using unnecessary force against Alley-Barnes, Kerlikowske cleared Jones, who had admitted to punching Alley-Barnes in the face "as hard as [he] could." The chief also failed to discipline Hunt, who had grabbed Alley-Barnes's testicles and later kicked him while he was handcuffed on the ground.
Second, Kerlikowske can let time run out. Sergeant Gregory Sackman—the supervising officer at the scene of the Alley-Barnes beating—escaped serious consequences due to a clause in SPD's contract that states discipline must occur within a 180-day window in an OPA investigation. Sackman received a strongly worded letter from SPD management but was not disciplined further.