Cienna is down at the King County Courthouse, where Dan Satterberg, the King County Prosecuting Attorney, is formally announcing that SPD officer Ian Birk won't face criminal charges for shooting Native American woodcarver/minding-his-own-business pedestrian John T. Williams. Cienna will have more soon.
Just so we can be on the same page, we're talking about this:
After this happened last August—i.e., when the city was aghast and wondering what the fuck to make of it all—officials chanted that Seattle has one of the best officer disciplinary programs in the nation.
In addition to the internal review (which has, at most, the threat of firing an officer), we had a firearms review board (that evaluates the status of an officer after a gun is used), and we even had the inquest proceedings that can lead to criminal charges against a cop (Cienna covered the Birk proceedings in detail here). Last fall, talking about all these mechanisms, Seattle City Council member Tim Burgess said that we need to evaluate their efficacy by watching them "go by like a tortoise."
The tortoise is making it to the finish line—and... where are we? Birk may be fired (rumor is that he will be, but SPD brass can't announce that today). But a more serious charge is off the table because prosecutors choose to read the state law in a way that requires an officer to have malice when they kill someone—actual evil intent. Many people don't buy that reading of the law; however, those people aren't the prosecutors.
I can't say I'm surprised by Satterberg's decision. But I'm not convinced our discipline is top notch. If you can't charge someone for this (not even try to file charges) when half the jury doesn't believe the cop's version of events, then the inquest process is a joke. And the disciplinary process (you killed him, boy, so now you're going to have to update your resume!) seems impotent in context.