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Fatal Police Shooting Creates Shake-Up at Seattle Department

Fatal Police Shooting Creates Shake-Up at Seattle Department

Seattle Police Deputy Chief Nick Metz was given the newly created duty of overseeing community relations. At left is Mayor Mike McGinn, at right is Police Chief John Diaz.

The Seattle Times via YellowBrix

September 16, 2010

The incidents led to calls for changes in the Police Department from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington and some Seattle City Council members, along with criticism over the shooting from Seattle’s Native American community.

Kimerer acknowledged public concerns over the incidents, telling reporters, “I want to say plainly that our training program is on trial right now.”

Diaz announced that the department will conduct a systematic review of its training techniques to be overseen by Capt. Steve Brown, who has been the commander of the downtown West Precinct. The review is to be completed by Jan. 1.

As part of the changes, more officers than the 300 who currently have them will be equipped with Tasers, and the department plans to launch a pilot program to equip 40 officers with personal video cameras that would record their actions, Diaz said. Birk did not have a Taser when Williams was shot.

The department also is expanding the number of officers trained in crisis intervention in order to help them deal with people suffering from mental illness and other problems.

Deputy Chief Metz said the department would look to ways to get officers out of their cars, including more foot and bike patrols. He said the department has been caught in a “response mode,” in which officers respond to 911 calls, take reports and leave.

McGinn said the shooting and other recent incidents raise “very serious questions about preparation of our officers and concerns about racial profiling within the department.”

He said the reorganization of the Police Department was not all about those incidents but incorporates the “concerns that arise from those incidents.”

Burgess, in his statement, called the reorganization a “very good step,” saying it “places a focus on building effective relationships in every neighborhood.”

The chief’s action fulfilled a promise during his confirmation that he would act to strengthen police and community ties, Burgess said.

Burgess also credited Diaz for seeking outside reviews of the shooting investigation.

“Agreeing to seek an outside and independent peer review of the investigation of the death of John Williams is an extremely strong affirmation of our detectives,” Burgess added. “It will also build credibility in the community by allowing another set of qualified and experienced eyes to examine the evidence.”

Wednesday’s briefing was attended by several community activists, who peppered McGinn, Diaz and other police officials with questions about the department’s practices.

At one point, McGinn was moderating a tense exchange between Kimerer, the deputy chief, and community activist Rod Parnelle, stepping forward to say, “Hey, one at a time, man.”

Hours later, more than 200 people attended a City Council meeting Wednesday afternoon to discuss the shooting from a civil-rights perspective.

Representatives of Native Americans and other minority groups and people from human- and civil-rights organizations demanded more training for police in everything from de-escalation to sign language.

They demanded a civilian-review panel to look at the case and said they saw the shooting not as an isolated incident but as one in a long string of incidents where people were singled out by police because of how they looked.

Denise Stiffarm, the president of the Chief Seattle Club, said she was encouraged by the announcement the mayor and police chief made Wednesday about changes in the department.

“We appreciate the immediate action,” she said, “but sustained and meaningful action will be the real statement to our community.”

  • Snocountyanniversary_2_max50


    over 3 years ago



    I would like to speak of my 2 cents here regarding the tragic event on August 30th, 2010, which took place in the City of Seattle and just say for myself who is a law abiding citizen supports the King County Prosecutors decision to be made in removing Ian Birk to face any criminal charges. One thing is for sure, it's easy for us who are not in Law Enforcement to point fingers and hear the media drum up all kinds of angles to persuade someones decision, but I also know when it's all said and done, their has to be good reason to justify not charging Ian Birk with any wrong judgement made on that late afternoon, which I remember distinctly. I support Law Enforcement 100% for many reasons, one I have many friends; including on this site who are good friends of mine. I also know from a civilian standpoint not involved in the case we are only hearing one side of the story and not both sides, which in any event you never take one side, so it would make me believe the officer was within his department guidelines and acted in a lawful and appropriate manner when confronting John T. Williams in what was described as the knife blade being extended going toward Ian Birk on August 30, 2010.

  • Anonymous-killer-whale-232189_1__max50


    almost 4 years ago


    I agree with those of you who maintain 9 feet was too close to allow the subject to be to the officer. Being referred to as a "public inebriate" in the story is also very telling about the subject's state of being.

  • 100_7432_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    Until training, equipment and appropriate protocols are installed into a police service/dept then the coal face members running the show will have to continue to do the best they can with what they have.
    Here in my lot in life - South Aust. Police - we're only now just signing off on ECD's, (or Tazers), but even only then they'll be carried in the cars ONLY and deployed if the bad guy is "ARMED".. Politics is the same the world over.
    Stand tall, Go well and God Bless all....

  • Justice-400_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    I've heard mixed details about this shooting. He was advancing, he wasn't advancing, he was on meth, he was sober, etc. I'm waiting for the investigation to be completed and details released before I pass any sort of judgment. One thing is for sure though; armed with a knife and nine feet away is dangerously close.

  • Uniphone1_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    Sounds like a thorough investigation was done. Especially if they are willing to allow peer agencies to look at it. I like that idea rather than a civilian review. I think they are responding more to community and civic outrage though. I'd feel better if ABOVE ALL, acknowledged (and stressed) the extreme danger that the officer was in at the time. But I'm sure there is so much more to know about this incident. I hope it all works out for the officer....

    "Stay in the Fight"

  • Big_bad_pig_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    I agree Grant. Even if he was the nicest guy in the world, today might be the day he's not going to jail again. Carry on.

  • My_kids_027_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    I understand that change is warranted in all departments the way things we deal with are changing. But one thing I'm getting from this is that they are indirectly saying that this officer acted inappropriately. I don't know all of the exact specifics of this case, but i can say that if someone comes at me with a knife they will more than likely be shot way before they get within nine feet of me. I don't know how other states train, but it is a known fact that a man can stab you from 21 feet away before you can draw your weapon and fire. Nine feet, give the guy credit it seems to me that he went above and beyond trying not to have to shoot him.

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