by Wendy McElroy, January 13, 2012
KOMO News reports (Jan. 4) that the City of Seattle is taking an attorney to court because he requested public records.
The legal tug-of-war that will almost certainly ensue has national importance, not only because the lawsuit sets a precedent, but also because it is part of the city’s resistance to a Department of Justice (DOJ) attempt to rein in police abuse across America. The lawsuit also offers a glimpse into the lengths that police departments will go to reduce their own transparency.
An earlier KOMO News headline (Dec. 20, 2011) had optimistically announced, “City, Police Leaders ‘Ready to Tackle’ Harsh Federal Review.” Days before, the DOJ review had accused the Seattle Police Department (SPD) of violating the civil rights of those arrested and using excessive force. For example, one of the report’s findings is that “when officers use batons, 57 percent of the time it is either unnecessary or excessive.”
Thomas E. Perez, an attorney for the DOJ’s civil-rights division, stated of the review, “Our findings should serve as a foundation to reform the police department and to help restore the community’s confidence in fair, just and effective law enforcement.”