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January 6, 2013 at 6:39 pm #606155
This is how an SPD spokesperson described the videotaped “interaction” between Isaac Ocak and some of Seattle’s finest two years ago.
WSB coverage here: http://tinyurl.com/a8qb9b8
Seattle Times story here: http://tinyurl.com/axveajv
This story is up to 91 comments and counting on WSB’s front page, and most of the commenters line up firmly on the side of the cops or Ocak. A few commenters – bless their hearts – perceive shades of grey.
My own bias favors Ocak. I don’t think he intentionally bit the cop, and I do think the cops were being too rough with him. However, that’s not what I wanted to talk about. Instead, I want to look at this incident and ask how it could’ve been handled differently. For example, would more “sensitivity” training for the cops really have prevented this, as some people claim? Personally, I doubt it.
To me it looks like Ocak struggled with the cops a bit, and yet, this does not surprise me. Why should it surprise anyone? He’s a vigorous young man and there’s a natural tendency for such young men to resist authority, just as there’s a natural tendency for cops to assert theirs, regardless of how much sensitivity training they’ve had.*
Here’s what I think. I think that when a cop tells you to hold still, put your hands behind your back, or whatever, you should do it. If you want to file a complaint for harrassment or brutality, you can do that later.
I also think it might be a good idea for teachers and parents to start talking with kids about what to do if you encounter a cop in this situation. We should go further, in fact, and PRACTICE having kids answer questions from cops, and even getting arrested. Just in case.
Maybe it could be folded into Drivers Ed.
As part of this training we could also teach kids what their rights are (to remain silent, to have a lawyer present during questioning, to be told of the charges). That way, we could combine the objectives of personal safety with an education in civics.
Good for cultural sensitivity, good for our kids, good for The System.
What do you all think?
*FWIW: I’m still in favor of sensitivity training.January 7, 2013 at 12:17 am #781850
“Here’s what I think. I think that when a cop tells you to hold still, put your hands behind your back, or whatever, you should do it. If you want to file a complaint for harrassment or brutality, you can do that later.”
Yup, cops can sometimes use too much force or bad judgement, they are human. It can be sorted out later. I’ve seen too many incidents lately where I find myself thinking, “It’s a cop telling you to do such and such and you’re not. What were you thinking?”
Where I grew up, if a cop told you to do something, no matter what you thought about it, you did it. If you didn’t, there were repercussions. It could all be sorted out later if the cop was off base.January 7, 2013 at 2:29 am #781851
I responded to the front page post with this. After watching the video I am surprised that the OPA did not act prior to now. Every time force is used it is reviewed by a Supervisor. Even without a complaint from the subject, the supervisor who signed off on the report should have forwarded this. Now to the meat of things. The initial detention by the Police was lawful. However, as noted in the police report. The Officers quickly determined the subjects identity (and no known warrants) and his vehicle was not stolen (how he came about acquiring his vehicle doesn’t matter). As defined by a Terry Stop, we’ve determined the subjects identity and no apparent crime has been committed. At this time the continued detention (i.e. place your hands on the hood) is no longer lawful. The continued detention and later assault by the police are clear and blatant violations of the subjects civil rights. Sadly, he will probably settle rather then hold the Police Dept. completely accountable for their actions.January 7, 2013 at 2:37 am #781852
from what i have heard all involved had culpability. CM has a very valid point. But i can also see the other side if you have done nothing wrong the police have no business harassing you.
a black acquaintance of mine (a doctor) got pulled over (in a city back east) for driving in a nice neighborhood. he was looking for a address and apparently gone around the block to many times in his search. he was pissed off but held his cool.
my hope is that society is moving towards being color blind.January 7, 2013 at 3:46 am #781853
@dbp, regarding providing info/training to teenagers about their rights when confronted by police – Chief Sealth PTSA held an extremely informational meeting last June with a local law firm who outlined exactly that. It was eye-opening to say the least and subsequently we arranged for the attorneys to present an assembly to most of the student body. WSB did a fantastic job capturing detailed notes – here’s the link from their coverage (scroll down past the PTSA business to the paragraph entitled “Students and the Law”. http://westseattleblog.com/2012/06/chief-sealth-international-high-school-ptsa-year-end-reportJanuary 7, 2013 at 9:41 pm #781854
I agree that kids need to be taught how to interact with the police. I have always taught my children to be polite, answer all questions regarding name, address, etc but anything else, do NOT answer without a parent or lawyer. No matter what the question is – especially – where are you coming from.
Thank goodness my oldest son listened. He was walking to a friend’s birthday party about 9pm (he was 16). He thought it was in a particular place but was wrong and called me to come and get him so I could drive him since it was at a different place a little farther away.
When I got to the area where he said he was, I saw my son in the back of the police car. I stopped and the officer was very nice to me and told me that my son is being held because he matches the description of a store robbery that just happened. They had the witness come and see if he recognized him. My son looks just like Isaac – brown skinned, short hair – just like many, many kids in West Seattle – especially at that time. Thank goodness the witness said he was 75% sure it was him but would not say 100% because he was a lawyer and knows what happens if it wasn’t him.
The police officer told me that he was already sure that it wasn’t my son because other police officers and a police dog were chasing the suspect and my son did not look like he had been running at all – no sweat, his clothes were perfectly ironed.
My question is – if the police officer initially realized that it wasn’t him because of his appearance – why did they even bring the eye witness down to see him? Eye witnesses are commonly wrong and in many cases the eye witness is the nail in the coffin so to speak when convicting a person – thank goodness for that witness being a lawyer and knowing the consequences.
I have always gotten angry with my son and his friends about their lack of respect and almost hatred of our police. But I’m am starting to see why. I have heard many stories from the kids about the police assaulting, intimidating and antagonizing them and friends of theirs. I used to think that they were exaggerating but I think they might have a good argument.
That bottom line is that these tactics by some of the members of our police department are causing consequences that are not good for them or the kids, who turn to adults and continue to have the same feelings about police.
I have an enormous amount of respect for those that choose this difficult and life endangering job. And I completely understand how a person could become more angry, bitter and/or insensitive doing this job. But at the end of the day, these power tripping, angry officers are making every police officers job that much more dangerous.
Please educate your children. Let your children know that you will be their advocate and to keep their mouths shut until a lawyer or parent is present – but to remain cool and calm and respectful – even if the officer isn’t.January 7, 2013 at 10:22 pm #781855
I was completely ignorant of all of this until this thread, but now that I’ve watched the video and read the statements – I strongly disagree with the comments “bite a cop, get punched in the face.” First, I saw the cop grab the kid by the chin; I did NOT see any body motion that indicated the kid tried to bite the cop. Second, the cop gets PAID to deal with these situations like a PROFESSIONAL – their language alone shows an abhorrent lack of professionalism…much less the obvious excessive use of force.
What was their “probable cause” after they cleared the car of being stolen and him of any warrants? That they thought they smelled MJ in the car? They continued to harass this kid because he ***gasp** had the gall to talk back. That is his first amendment right – as professionals it’s the cops duty to remain calm and not let his rant affect them.
I also strongly disagree with the statement “when a cop tells you to do something you do it” – that is EXACTLY the culture within the department that we the public need to change. They’re not deities, they’re public servants; if they tell you to do something they better have a good reason for doing so and explain it efficiently.
In my profession I sometimes deal with people screaming, crying and accusing my company of harassment – but I actually have to DEAL with it, I can’t cuss at them and I certainly can’t hit them repeatedly in the face…so why can’t we expect the same of the professional public servants of the Seattle Police Department?January 8, 2013 at 5:49 pm #781856
I lean towards CM’s and Hoop’s POV.
Just a thought about the key incident .. this was 2 years ago before some home invasion/robbery rings were caught in WS. So, the officer may have been curious about this guys many keys because there was a known robbery issue in WS. AKA just doing his job and Ocak wasn’t helping the situation. But maybe Ocak felt he was being detained for an unreasonable amount of time? The police didn’t feel the time frame was unreasonable obviously. So, it depends on what your definition of reasonable is.
Also, Ocak says he didn’t know it was illegal to park his car like he did .. well, it sucks but whether you know the law or not, you live by the law. If he would have followed the law, he wouldn’t be in this situation. He openend his self up to police entering the situation and invoking probable cause etc…
But that’s where officer discretion comes in. They don’t have to ticket you. But if we had everyone going abround saying “I didn’t know it was illegal to do XYZ” it wouldn’t much of a safe place to live. IMO the lack of common sense and the sense of entitlement is a major problem in society but that’s another topic.
I’m no fan of “bullies with badges” but police are under more pressure these days with staff shortages and it seems an increasingly belligerent public.
Not trying to defend one side or the other, just some thoughts.January 8, 2013 at 7:25 pm #781857
Isacc is a immature little punk who thinks the rules don’t apply to him and he can just park wherever he wants to because he’s more important than everybody else. When confronted with reality, instead of acting like a man, he becomes a whiny, petulant ‘victim’ of those horrible men who’s job it is to remind him that he has to play by the same rules as the rest of us.
The police officers merely delivered the correction that the young man’s parents obviously failed to his whole life.
I’ve never had an altercation with police and I never will. You see, I’m not a stupid punk. It’s really THAT simple.
Chris Rock even made a PSA about it: (it get’s a little blue!)January 8, 2013 at 9:06 pm #781858
Regarding “the rules” . . .
Last I heard, mall parking lots were private property. That is why you don’t see parking enforcement handing out tickets there (though you can still get one for parking in a disabled space).
In any case, even if Ocak were violating some traffic law, that merely called for a ticket. It did not call for a group of cops playing 20 questions with him.
By law, a cop has to have a reasonable suspicion that you’re involved in criminal activity before he can do a “Terry stop” on you, and unless he can turn up something right quick, he has to let you go.
Did the cops have good reason to detain Ocak and keep asking him questions? Doesn’t look like it. Therefore, the cops should have let him go before it escalated.
This incident illustrates one of the main problems with the Terry stop. At its best, it’s an effective way for cops to nab criminals. At its worst, it’s a tool to harass people. Given SPD’s recent problems with excessive force and racial bias, they need to tread lightly.January 8, 2013 at 9:06 pm #781859
I hear ya Filbert and DBP.
Separate comment.. the city is paying 5 figure settlements left and right.. Where does the money come from? Not the police officers wallet.January 8, 2013 at 9:18 pm #781860
Up to a point, cops are shielded from civil liability for their actions. I believe the City generally agrees to assume complete liability, unless the cop is found guilty of a crime.
In theory, the City will weed out bad cops to protect its own interests (and the interests of the taxpayers) over the long run. In reality, several factors mitigate against that. For example, the Police Officers Guild and their lawyers have been very effective at preventing the City from disciplining bad cops. As a result, we can have a situation where a cop does something really bad, the City gets sued (and loses big), and the bad cop stays on the force.
Thanks, Police Officers Guild.January 8, 2013 at 9:21 pm #781861
Clicking the Like button for DBP.
Yeah, what sucks is when cops rarely get to the termination phase they can appeal and get their job back.January 8, 2013 at 10:39 pm #781862
@dbp, you are correct. A ‘Terry Stop’ is suspicion of a crime, short of probable cause for arrest. One key issue to highlight is that the police are limited in the scope of their investigation when they initiate the contact. In this case it has to be related to the observable crime. A running parked car. (However, because the car was secure, it negates the fact that it was left running). Also, another thing to note. A search of a persons in this case is only lawful to check for weapons. Questioning Ocak regarding his keys is again outside of the Officers scope. Once the police had confirmed the identity of Ocak. They either have to cite him (if possible), or let him go. Because the later detention was unlawful. He can’t be held for assaulting an officer. You’re under no obligation to follow an unlawful command by law enforcement. It is however more prudent to litigate it after the fact.
Though as noted in the Seattle Times article. This issue occurred in 2010. As cited later by the Justice Dept. The SPD had been found to have policies/procedures in regards to the “terry stop,” that were clear violations of federal laws/civil rights. Corrective action is currently being taken by SPD. I hope it works.March 12, 2013 at 1:57 am #781863
From Post #12 above. I wrote these words two months ago:
In theory, the City will weed out bad cops to protect its own interests (and the interests of the taxpayers) over the long run. In reality, several factors mitigate against that. For example, the Police Officers Guild and their lawyers have been very effective at preventing the City from disciplining bad cops.
And today we have yet another article from the Seattle Times describing how the Police Officer’s Guild wants to block key provisions of the reforms. The article is entitled: “Seattle police guild, manager group file court challenge to police-reform plan”
While federal and city officials have expressed their respect for collective bargaining rights, Bobb’s monitoring team has indicated they do not intend to follow the bargaining process set forth in Washington state law, they said.
The [Police Officers Guild’s] court complaint said the monitor’s plan violates state law and may further do so in the future. It asks the court to find that provisions of Bobb’s proposals are subject to bargaining requirements.
So what the police union is saying is that reform is fine with them . . . as long as it doesn’t actually require the cops to do anything differently.
Good goin’ fellas. And you wonder why people don’t have respect for the law . . .
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