By Chris B. Bennett, Special to the NNPA from The Seattle Medium –
(NNPA) - Members of the African-American community woke up appalled and angered by the images of a young Black female being punched in the face by a Seattle Police officer. The video, aired on KOMO 4 TV, shows Seattle Police Officer Ian Walsh punching the Black teen in her face while struggling to handcuff another Black female.
The incident began, according to police reports, as the officer had stopped a young Black male for jaywalking across Martin Luther King, Jr. Way just south of the intersection of Rainier Avenue and MLK. The officer was explaining to the young man the need to use the pedestrian overpass that runs over the busy intersection instead of jaywalking.
Then four young women jaywalked across the street – admittedly to find out why their friend (the Black male) had been stopped by the officer. The officer then attempted to stop the four females for jaywalking and gather their information in order to issue a verbal warning or a citation, when one of the females, age 19, began walking away. The officer told her that she was required to identify herself so he could issue her a citation, and if she refused to do so she would be arrested for obstruction. At this point, Walsh indicates that the young woman continued to walk away. Walsh then walked up to the young lady and “took hold of her upper left arm with his right hand,” and according to Walsh’s report she tensed up and began to resist.
The video shows the officer struggling with the young lady for some time, and then her friend steps in and attempts to help separate the other young lady from the officer. After she steps in and pushes the officer, the officer steps back, looks at the young lady, strides towards her and punches her in the face. “It’s appalling to me to see this,” said Rev. Robert Jeffrey, Sr. pastor of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church of the video. “If a man had done this in their home we would have put him under the jail.”
“The police walk around like they are exempt from the basic rules of decency and honor, if this is honor then we have sunk to the lowest level in this city,” added Jeffrey.
Nicole Gaines, president of the Loren Miller Bar Association, was equally disturbed by the video and the actions of the officer.
“It troubles me that an officer, who is trained, could allow a jaywalking incident to escalate into an incident where force and violence were used,” said Gaines. “He is the adult in this situation. He is trained to make sure that incidents like a jaywalking incident doesn’t escalate into violence.”
According to SPD, the incident will be reviewed by both internal affairs and a civilian review. However, they did indicate that the girls were being “verbally antagonistic” towards the officer, and that the 17-year-old girl intervened while Walsh was attempting to place the other teen in handcuffs and placed her hands on him causing the officer to believe that she was attempting to physically help the other teen to escape. SPD alleges that Walsh pushed back the second girl, but the girl came back at him, and Walsh then punched her.
“The provocation by this 17-year-old kid may have presented a confrontation situation, but the use of violence in the form of a full punch in the face was just plain wrong,” said James Kelly, President and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle. “We thought the Police would have learned lessons about overreacting to non-violent situations based on the recent incident involving a Hispanic youth a month ago...Our police should be thinking that overreaction to a non-violent situation is a last resort — not the standard practice,” continued Kelly. “One can only wonder what would have happened if the video had not been made.”
However, SPD was not convinced that the officer handled the situation incorrectly.
“The issue we have to investigate is whether the force he used is reasonable given the combative resistance he was facing,” said Assistant Seattle Police Chief Nick Metz. “We’re not going to pass judgment on that until the matter has been thoroughly investigated.”
According to Metz, Walsh will be transferred to SPD’s training section.
“The officer is going to be transferred to the training section for a few days to review the tactics that he’s been taught,” Metz said.
While the police indicate that they’ve been proactive in reaching out to the African-American Community, African American leaders want action and accountability.
“At this time our community seems to be in an abusive relationship with law enforcement,” says Seattle/King County NAACP president James Bible. “We’re living in a hostile environment for people of color, and a hostile environment for people in poverty.”
Harriett Walden with Mothers for Police Accountability said, "We know that jaywalking is not an arrestable offense ... They [the police] are our employees, they are not volunteers. And I didn’t like how they used my money yesterday. I want to see him fired.”
The community has been increasingly enraged.
“This was an appalling act of injustice,” said pastor Reggie Witherspoon of Mt. Cavalry Christian Center. “There is no way it can be looked at as proper behavior and we are demanding that something be done about it.”
Both teens were cited for jaywalking. The 19-year-old was booked into the King County Jail for investigation of obstructing an officer. The 17-year-old girl was booked into the Youth Service Center for investigation of assault of an officer.
|< Prev||Next >|