At a press conference this morning in the main foyer of city hall (wisely scheduled right after the mayor's own presser emptied out upstairs), Latino community leaders announced demands for stronger action against the SPD officers involved in the apparent assault of a young Latino man.
Seven floors up at the mayor's earlier meeting with the press, the talk had been of a long, deliberate process for investigating what happened and eventually meting out appropriate punishments.
McGinn pronounced himself "appalled" by what he saw in the video of the alleged assault, but then added: "It is important that we move forward deliberately and thoroughly so that we can achieve the appropriate outcome at the end of the investigation.” He also explained that the union contract the city has with police officers places some limits on what can be done, and when, in response to events like April 17th's apparent assault.
Interim Police Chief John Diaz, seated next to McGinn, said that "the officers, like any other citizens of the country, have due process rights." Diaz acknowledged that people may not like that, but assured that the department's investigation is currently in the hands of a criminal investigator, who will refer all findings to the King County Prosecutor's office. Diaz also noted that the Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into the incident.
“I have complete confidence in our investigators,” Diaz said, adding that previous investigations by the department have resulted in the firing of officers—and that he has a reputation as a hard-ass on matters such as this.
Still, all in all, the message from McGinn and Diaz was: Patience. Trust the process, and let it play out.
Downstairs in the foyer the demands were for immediate action: the removal of the two principal offending officers from the SPD, the launching of a criminal investigation (which already appears to be happening), unpaid leave for the supervisor who allegedly witnessed the incident but remained silent, and suspension without pay for a minimum of two weeks for the other two officers who witnessed the incident but remained silent.
Outside the building, a few middle aged white men marched back and forth on the sidewalk holding signs that read "Power to the Police," "Enforcing Border Law Isn't Racist," and "I Want Our Country Back."
Fe Lopez, President-Elect of the Latina/o Bar Association of Washington, said that despite the mayor's claim of being limited in his response by the SPD's union contract, the contract does allow for officers to be suspended without pay, something that hasn't happened here—and something she wants to happen now in order to show that the department has zero tolerance for police brutality and racial profiling.
"This is not an isolated incident," Lopez said. "This is a bigger issue than just a few officers."