Although the Seattle police chief stopped short of filing assault charges against one of her officers, she did fire the department veteran for using excessive force during a 2014 incident in which he punched a female suspect in the face.
“How and when officers use force is a central core of department policy.” Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole wrote in the officer's disciplinary action report. “Your conduct in punching the handcuffed subject was squarely outside of policy and contrary to the department's mission to accomplish law enforcement objectives with minimal reliance on force.”
She went on to write: “Under Department policy, an officer is authorized to use physical force so long as it is reasonable, necessary, and proportional. Under the circumstances here, where the subject was handcuffed, inside a patrol car, and other officers were nearby, your use of force was in clear violation of this policy. Punching this subject in the face was neither reasonable nor necessary as there were ready alternatives to stabilizing the incident.”
The incident occurred two years ago. Earlier this year, the woman who was punched, settled a civil lawsuit against the city for $195,000. The incident, which was captured by a video camera in the officer's patrol car, left the woman with a fractured eye socket.
The officer, along with several others, were responding to a 911 call regarding threats reportedly made by the woman they believed was intoxicated. The woman was placed in handcuffs and the officer shoved her into the back seat of a patrol car. Before he could close the door, she kicked him in the face with her boot, so he punched her.
In a statement released to the public, the police chief said the incident was investigated separately over the last two years by the Washington State Patrol, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Office of Professional Accountability. During that time, the officer, who joined the police force in 2005, was on paid leave. It was the decision of the chief and the recommendation of the Office of Professional Accountability to fire the officer.
Charges were dropped against the then-23-year-old woman who was arrested and the police department declined to file assault charges against the officer. Had charges been filed against either of them, they could have faced prison time.
Either of them would have had to use the force or means likely to produce great bodily harm or death to be found guilty of assault in the first degree, a Class A felony which carries with it a potential of up to life in prison, or a fine of up to $50,000, or both.
They could have been found guilty of assault in the second degree if their actions did not rise to the level of first degree assault, but instead they recklessly inflicted substantial bodily harm. If found guilty of a Class B felony, they could have been sentenced to up to 10 years in prison, or a fine of up to $20,000, or both.
The woman also could have been charged with assault in the third degree, which includes the assault of a law enforcement officer while in the process of performing his official duty at the time of the assault, which is a Class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, or a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
Regardless of the circumstances of your arrest, if you are facing criminal charges in Washington state, call the Seattle law office of Steve Karimi at (206) 621-8777 or contact him online.