Seattle Human Rights Commission

Established 1963

September 19, 2012

Bruce Harrell, Chairman Committee on Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology Seattle City Council Seattle City Hall 600 Fourth Avenue, 2nd Fl. Seattle, WA 98104 Re: Office of Professional Accountability The Seattle Human Rights Commission was founded in 1963 to advise the Mayor and City Council in respect to matters affecting human rights. Seattle Municipal Code 3.14.931. In 2012, the Commission provided the City Council with its report on police oversight and accountability. In our report, we stated that, “Accountability means that both police officers and citizens have the opportunity to fully present their case to the oversight authority without fear of reprisal.” (page 4). We further wrote that, “inherent to human rights is the ability to obtain due process and an appropriate remedy when or if rights are violated, even if a government official commits the violation.” (page 6). We also concluded that “a system that does not provide a complainant with a neutral decision-maker who has the ability to independently investigate and analyze claims of police misconduct, and provide recourse through an appeals procedure, violates basic tenets of due process.” (page 8). Recently, the Commission became aware of the case of Seattle v. Donald Fuller, No. 538140 (Municipal Court). As you are aware, Mr. Fuller was arrested for obstruction, assault and resisting arrest by Seattle Police officers on March 6, 2009. He was released from jail on March 10, 2009 because the City Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute citing insufficient evidence. On March 11, Mr. Fuller filed a complaint with the Office of Professional Accountability (OPA). The assigned investigator, Caryn Lee, wrote in her file that on April 23, 2009, she personally visited the City Attorney’s Office to “file this case.” On May 19, 2009, Lee contacted Suzanne Hatfield with the City Attorney's office to check status of this case. Later that day, Lee spoke with Marc Mayo with the City Attorney's office and, “[a]fter respectfully listening to his explanation, I explained I did not agree with his decision. He agreed to reconsider after determining it was a legal stop and the Officer's had PC. He said at a minimum he would file Obstructing charges and possible the Assault on Officer Willoughby. He said he would get back with me.” On May 21, 2009, Mayo telephoned Lee to inform her that the City Attorney would file assault, obstruction, and resisting arrest charges against Fuller. 1
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Seattle Human Rights Commission
Established 1963 We are extremely concerned that, but for Fuller’s decision to file misconduct charges with OPA, the City Attorney would not have prosecuted him. The OPA citizen complaint process is intended to be fair, impartial, and free from conflict. Most importantly, the OPA should never retaliate against a citizen for filing a complaint. The SPD Police Manual provides: “No employee shall retaliate against any person who initiates or provides information pursuant to any citizen or internal complaint, or against any person who provides information or testimony at a Department hearing, because of such person’s participation in the complaint process. Such retaliation may be a criminal act and/or constitute separate grounds for discipline.” Section 11.001(III)(H) The Fuller case gives rise to at least the appearance that OPA has attempted to influence a prosecution involving an OPA complaint. Further, the Fuller case gives rise to the appearance of retaliation against a complainant. The City recently entered into a Settlement Agreement with the United States Department of Justice. The Settlement Agreement states in paragraph 166 that, “The City and SPD will revise their policies, as necessary, to clarify that prohibited retaliation includes discouragement, intimidation, coercion, or adverse action against any person who reports misconduct, makes a misconduct complaint, or conducts or cooperates with an investigation of misconduct.” Given the extreme importance the City and the United States have placed on fighting retaliation, and given the seriousness of the allegations that Mr. Fuller has raised regarding improper influence of a criminal prosecution, we ask the City Council to refer the matter to the City Attorney for investigation. Sincerely,

Chris Stearns, Chairman Seattle Human Rights Commission


Kathryn Olson, OPA Director

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