This afternoon the Office of Police Accountability released the results of its six-month investigation into six Seattle Police Department officers who flew to D.C. to attend Trump's "Stop the Steal" rally on January 6.
You know, the one where the former President told all in attendance to march to the architectural embodiment of democratic rule and "fight like hell" to stop Congress from certifying the results of a democratic election. The rally where SPD officers accounted for the highest known number of cops compared to any other department in the country. The rally that preceded a publicly planned invasion of the Capitol building and its restricted grounds. An invasion that led to the arrests of (so far) over 500 people—some of them active soldiers and cops—and the killing of a Trump supporter. An invasion that may have contributed to the deaths of others and definitely to the injury of hundreds. That one. The day of rage.
The OPA sought to determine whether all six alleged SPD employees violated department policy by breaking a federal/state/city law and by acting unprofessionally.
OPA director Andrew Myerberg found that two cops—Named Employee #1 and Named Employee #2, who the Seattle Times identified as a married couple, Officers Alexander Everett and Caitlin Rochelle—"violated SPD policy and Washington, DC law" when they breached a clearly defined Capitol perimeter and stood around smiling for the cameras while insurrections invaded the building. At that particular time, those two cops were also hanging out with a former SPD officer, who Myerberg refers to as FO#2. (That former SPD employee declined an interview with the OPA.)
Those two officers also violated SPD policy when they failed to report this misconduct to their superiors. The OPA only found out about this whole thing after Named Employee #2 posted to Facebook a photo of herself, Named Employee #1, and another former officer (referred to as Former Officer #1) hanging out "at the demonstration." A report of that photo spurred four other officers—Named Employees #3-6—to self-report their attendance at a rally for overturning the results of a democratic election.
To make his determination in these two cases, Myerberg relied on three video stills the FBI handed over to the OPA. Those stills revealed the following:
The second and third photographs showed NE#1 and NE#2 directly next to the side of U.S. Capitol Building. From the vantage point of the photographs, demonstrators were on the steps of the building, as well as climbing the scaffolding, and numerous demonstrators were surrounding the building.
The FBI informed OPA that these photographs were stills from a video. The FBI said that the video showed the individual recording people on the steps of the Capitol Building and scaling the walls. The individual turned to NE#1 and NE#2 and asked: 'Well fuck, doing it?' The individual then turned to again face the building and a male off camera said: 'Thinking about it.'
Was the "male off camera" who said he was thinking about invading the Capitol NE#1??? Can't say for sure, because we don't have the video. Myerberg said the OPA asked for it, but the FBI declined to hand it over because it was part of another "ongoing investigation," according to the report.
During interviews with the OPA, those two officers claimed they were standing on the Capitol lawn and "did not see any signs of disturbance" (in his case) nor anyone on the Capitol steps "due to the large crowd and trees blocking her view" (in her case). They also claimed they didn't know they were trespassing. In essence, they were standing in the middle of an insurrection and were like, "What insurrection??? There's trees all over the place!! How am I supposed to see an insurrection going on?"
This supposed ignorance runs contrary to a statement from the Assistant Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department, who OPA interviewed as part of the investigation. That cop said "that anyone in the vicinity would have known at that time that the events were out of control and dangerous."
He continued: "Smoke and chemical agents were in the area and anyone there would have understood that there was a battle ongoing inside of the building."
Based on the video stills and this interview, Myerberg found the accounts from Named Employees 1 and 2 "simply not credible."
OPA couldn't determine whether Named Employee #3 trespassed. This cop told the OPA he was hanging out "with NE#1 and NE#2 in a grassy area ["near Third Street Southwest and Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest"] for around 10 to 15 minutes," which made "it possible that NE#3 was technically trespassing," but the OPA didn't have any video stills of this cop smiling while people were climbing up on Capitol walls. Since the OPA didn't have enough proof to put him as close to the Capitol as the other two nor enough proof to "exonerate" him, Myerberg declined to sustain the allegation.
Named Employees 4, 5, and 6 "all left the vicinity of the Capitol prior to the insurrection commencing" and, unlike Named Employees #1 and #2, all offered "consistent and credible accounts of what they did and did not do on January 6," according to the report.
There was an allegation of a seventh SPD employee at the rally, but the OPA couldn't find any solid evidence one way or another for that, so they marked the case "not sustained - inconclusive."
Myerberg offered a myopic First Amendment argument to defend the idea that officers 4 through 6 did not "engage in behavior that undermines public trust in the Department, the officer, or other officers" when they attended a rally for a racist authoritarian who was clearly trying to overturn the results of a democratic election:
These officers were entitled to exercise their freedom of expression and to assemble. That they did so in a manner contrary to the majority view in Seattle does not alter this view. This is the case even if I, as the decider in this matter, disagree vehemently with everything the rally stood for.
Any contrary result would be incorrect – both constitutionally and morally – and would undermine the rule of law that is the bedrock of our society. It would also serve to speed up the current decline of reason, objectivity, and fundamental fairness that plagues America and its contemporary collective discourse. To OPA, that would be simply unpalatable and unacceptable. While this decision may be unpopular with some, OPA believes that it is supported by the law and is consistent with due process.
The members of the Seattle Community Police Commission said, "While the CPC has always stood for the civil liberties of our community, especially to protest, this was something utterly different – this was an act of terror. Any officers’ participation in the insurrection is concerning. However, the fact that at least two Seattle police officers broke Washington DC law and Seattle Police Department (SPD) policy while insurrectionists attacked the seat of our democracy is inexcusable."
They also thanked the OPA for the "thorough investigation," urged Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz to act on the OPA's recommendations, and demanded SPD release a clear and public plan to remove "extremism within the ranks." The CPC also noted that one officer was able to avoid fully complying with the OPA's investigation because of limitations on its subpoena powers. Seattle's Accountability Ordinance gave the OPA those powers, but the city negotiated it away in the last police contract.
In a statement, Chief Diaz said, "If any SPD employee participated directly in assaulting the Capitol, I will terminate them." Today, SPD said “Chief Diaz intends to issue his disciplinary decision within the next 30 days.”
According to a press release from OPA, "Any discipline for the two employees who trespassed at the Capitol must be determined by the Chief of Police. However, the Discipline Committee—which includes the officers’ chains of command, employment counsel and the OPA Director—recommended that the employment of both officers be terminated. As the officers are entitled to due process, additional proceedings still need to take place before discipline can be imposed."
The people running for mayor of Seattle will likely all have statements on this issue, and I'll collect them here.
In her statement, Lorena González called on SPD leadership to fire the two officers who "breached restricted area son the Capitol grounds and acted complicitly with those who stormed the Capitol Building" and added that there "should be disciplinary action and accountability for the four other officers who participated in the reprehensible events on January 6."
She continued: "Police officers take a solemn oath to serve and protect the public by upholding laws and the U.S. Constitution. Their extraordinary power to take life and restrict our liberty requires that we hold our police to a higher standard of professionalism."
Jessyn Farrell called for the same outcome: “The two officers who were found to have breached the Capitol grounds should be terminated immediately, and any other officer who participated in the anti-democratic demonstration on January 6th should face accountability and disciplinary action for their behavior.”
Colleen Echohawk reflected many of the CPC's primary concerns on the issue:
Six police officers travelled to DC during the 1/6 insurrection and at least 2 Seattle police officers broke the law that day. We have a problem within our ranks of extremism that must be addressed. Engaging in any way with the attempts to dismantle our democracy especially in the blatantly lawless nature we saw shows contempt for our city our nation and our shared values.
Also deeply concerning is the limited investigation by OPA. Critical reforms from the Accountability Ordinance of 2017 were rolled back with the approval of the 2018 contract including the ability of OPA to subpoena records. One Officer refused to comply with the investigation which could have implications in the investigation of all 6 officers. Two of my opponents voted for this contract which fundamentally altered accountability of our police department.
As Mayor, I will restore the landmark reforms from the 2017 Accountability Ordinance, hire a chief of police who will actually hold officers accountable for misconduct, and fundamentally change the culture of SPD.
Update: On Friday, Echohawk released a stronger statement calling for all six officers to get the axe:
After the damning report from the Office of Police Accountability, it is abundantly clear Chief Diaz should immediately fire all six police officers who attended or were involved in the insurrection on January 6th. If we are serious about holding police accountable and changing the culture of the department, we need to start now and lead by example.
We have a problem with anti-government extremism in the Seattle Police Department. Our city leaders have to address this immediately. We should be able to stop the petty squabbles in city hall long enough to focus on ending anti-government extremism. We can’t allow this ongoing disturbing pattern of behavior in our police department any longer.
Andrew Grant Houston's campaign has been ahead of the game in calling for resignations, not only for the officers who participated in the Trump rally, but also for their protectors and enablers:
We called for the six identified officers' resignation the same day they were identified by name on April 26th, by local activist group, Divest SPD.
Ace, and the team at large, called, and continue to call for, the immediate removal of the involved officers and any leadership suppressing the public knowledge of their undemocratic acts. This includes all officers involved, and Mike Solan, President of the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG), and Adrian Diaz, Interim Chief of SPD. Solan (who blamed the storming of the Capitol on Black Lives Matter) and Diaz have both failed to uphold the responsibilities of their positions of leadership.
This demonstrates, in yet another circumstance, that our police department, SPOG, and related policing groups are vehemently opposed to accountability and transparency. The community deserves better.
Casey Sixkiller is down to fire the couple, but thinks the First Amendment shields the others from discipline:
I fully support OPA’s recommendation to fire the two officers who participated in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. In order to enforce the law, you need to follow the law, and these two officers did not meet that basic test — in my view they should have been terminated months ago. As for other officers or city employees who attended the rally, whether we personally agree with their choices does not matter, their attendance is an expression of their First Amendment right and I do not believe that alone is grounds for termination or discipline. I want to be clear, however: this entire episode underscores the need for cultural, contractual, and operational changes at the Seattle Police Department so the actions of officers sworn to protect us meet the values we all share as a City.
Bruce Harrell seconds the OPA recommendations and discusses the need for culture-change within SPD:
I agree with the recommendation of the Office of Police Accountability to dismiss the officers who violated their oath to our constitution—and obligations to the rule of law.
While the other four officers may not have technically broken the law and invaded the Capitol itself, there is no doubt they violated the spirit of their commitment to protect and serve our city and its people, whether they joined the riot to overthrow our free and fair elections or just rallied with right-wing extremists in support of that effort. When I speak of culture change at SPD, I am referring specifically to issues like this, where officers feel both disconnected enough—and emboldened—to engage in fundamentally offensive and dangerous activities. That must change for there to be true trust and safety.
I'm grateful for the work of the OPA, including the investigators I helped hire. But the larger issue is building an SPD where police officers protect both our laws and our values—where they know our community and are part of our community. We need more officers who understand that—and we must reject and hold accountable those who affiliate with domestic terrorists.
I've written to the campaign for Lance Randall and will update when I hear back from them.