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Seattle Ethics And Elections Commission Will Investigate Police Retaliation

Amy Radil

The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission has agreed to investigate a case of alleged retaliation by the Seattle Police Department. It's the first time the city's ethics commission has looked at police conduct.


In March 2009, Donald Fuller was arrested over alleged jaywalking in downtown Seattle. Seattle police officers asked him for identification. He protested that he was being singled out because he's African–American.

Ultimately he was tackled, Tased and spent four days in jail. But prosecutors said there wasn't enough evidence to charge him with a crime.

Fuller then filed a complaint with the Seattle Police Department's Office of Professional Accountability (OPA). That's the body that investigates police misconduct.

Then the OPA sergeant investigating Fuller's complaint sought once again to have him charged with a crime. The City Attorney's office complied, and Fuller was convicted of a misdemeanor.

James Egan is Fuller's attorney. He managed to have Fuller's conviction thrown out. He says the OPA retaliated against his client, and the city attorney cooperated.

Egan: "Should the OPA be daft enough to breach their own promise to complainants who come in the front door, then the prosecutor needs to be the final call and say, 'no way, no how.'"

Seattle city attorney Pete Holmes says there was no misconduct by his office. But Holmes says it's true that Fuller would never have been charged without the OPA sergeant's urging.

Now Egan has filed a complaint challenging the OPA's conduct. Mayor McGinn's office says having the OPA investigate itself would create a perceived conflict of interest. McGinn's staff asked the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission to do so instead. Commission chair Bill Sherman says coming to his group makes sense.

Sherman: "We all hope that we have strong consciences, but there's no doubt that that creates either an actual conflict or an appearance of conflict. So I think the mayor was right to be concerned about that."

Sherman says the commission was cautious about accepting this request, but he believes the staff has the right experience to do it.

Sherman: "We are aware that this is an unusual situation both for the OPA and the commission. But I think it's important to have an independent look at what happened."

He doesn't yet know what the timeframe will be for the investigation.

I'm Amy Radil, KUOW News.

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