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NAACP Seattle Chapter President James Bible. Photo by Soggydan.

NAACP Seattle Chapter President James Bible. Photo by Soggydan.

KUOW News

NAACP's James Bible Criticizes Seattle Police Tactics

Amy Radil
12/02/2011

Leaders with the Seattle chapter of the NAACP say they believe the Seattle attorney was wrong to drop assault charges against a Seattle police officer. They say the department continues to use excessive force, especially against minorities. KUOW's Amy Radil reports.

TRANSCRIPT

NAACP officials disagree with the decision of Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes to drop a charge against a police officer. Seattle Police Officer James Lee was charged with assault for kicking a young man inside a convenience store. An expert with the Washington State Patrol initially believed Lee used excessive force, but changed his position once he read Lee's own statement of what happened. Holmes says at that point he decided to dismiss the case.

But NAACP President James Bible says the Seattle police force still has problems.

Bible: "We will not stop simply because the city attorney has failed to continue with the prosecution of a particular officer."

Bible points to the cases of two men he's representing in lawsuits against the city — he's obtained video of both incidents. In one of them, Darius Yearby was kicked by Officer Lee that same night while prone on the ground in handcuffs. In another incident last year, a man named Terry Jefferson was pulled from his car by officers and pummeled, leaving his face bruised and bloodied. Bible says both his clients faced unfounded criminal charges from those incidents that were ultimately dismissed.

Bible says he's working with clergy and other nonprofits to target SPD Chief John Diaz, Mayor Mike McGinn and others he says haven't done enough to rein in excessive force. And Bible said the ongoing Justice Department review will just lead to recommendations that won't be implemented.

Bible: "And once they leave, and eventually they will, it's going to be worse for African–Americans and people of color, because the Seattle Police Department — which hasn't been changed at all — will be in a space where they're going to tell us, 'see, they're gone now.'"

Seattle Police spokesman Sean Whitcomb says he can't discuss the two incidents since both are involved in lawsuits and internal investigations.

Whitcomb: "Certainly there's going to be situations and events that don't get handled in the best possible way, and this is in the backdrop of the hundreds of thousands of calls that we handle routinely."

Whitcomb says the department is seeking to do better, through the Office of Professional Accountability and its civilian oversight.

Whitcomb: "We're also being reviewed by the Department of Justice. So certainly at this point and time I think we're in a position to say we've reached about as much transparency as we possibly could as a police department."

But even people with ties to the Seattle Police Department echo Bible's worries. They fear that the department won't be able to implement changes resulting from the Justice Department review if those changes are resisted by the Seattle Police Officers' Guild. They say the report could leave the department caught between the public's expectations and the department's own collective bargaining agreements.

I'm Amy Radil, KUOW News.

© Copyright 2011, KUOW

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