Seattle police, already under scrutiny over use of force, have opened a criminal investigation into an off-duty officer who stomped on the head of a man who was handcuffed and lying on the ground.
The investigation began after other officers who responded to a December brawl outside a Ballard bar reported the officer's action to a supervisor, the Police Department said Wednesday in response to an inquiry from The Seattle Times.
Apparently, the off-duty officer—Garth Haynes—and a friend noticed that someone had taken their jackets from the bar. They found a woman outside with the coats, confronted her, and then were allegedly attacked by three men at the bar (the men have been charged with assaulting Haynes). On-duty officers arrived on scene and separated the five men, then recognized their colleague and let him up. After that, the video appears to show Haynes putting his foot on the head of a prone, handcuffed man, and bouncing it off the sidewalk.
Here's what SPD has to say about the incident:
As the investigation commenced, the off-duty officer made physical contact with one of the three handcuffed subjects. The investigating officers prevented any further contact between the off-duty officer and his assailants. The three subjects were booked into King County Jail and have since been charged with Assault in the 3rd degree. The off-duty officer was treated on scene by Seattle Fire Department medics and received additional treatment at an area hospital.
In adherence to department policy, the investigating officers immediately reported the off-duty officer’s actions to their supervisor and subsequently the matter was referred to OPA. On December 14, 2010 the officer in question was administratively reassigned. The OPA referred the matter for internal criminal investigation and this remains active and ongoing. The off-duty officer in question was hired in January of 2009.
This morning, Mayor Mike McGinn released a statement about the incident, saying, among other things, "We expect our officers to follow the highest standards of professional conduct. We need to do better.”
It's heartening that the on-duty officers reported Haynes's conduct—that's their job. But despite McGinn's rally cry, this is yet another videotaped instance of an officer physically assaulting a suspect who's been rendered defenseless.
Perhaps SPD isn't getting the mayor's memos?