"everyone wishes that the...death of Mr. John T. Williams never happened"

By Jonah Spangenthal-Lee September 9, 2010

SPD just sent out a response to the ACLU's open letter, criticizing the department for a "pattern of violence" and calling for a change in the "mindset" of SPD:

Resorting to lethal force is a very difficult decision to make.  Officers are presented with limited information and limited time with which to decide whether or not such force is necessary.  Failure to act or acting incorrectly can have dire consequences.  There is one thing that everyone can agree with – everyone wishes that the officer-involved shooting death of Mr. John T. Williams never happened.  His death and the circumstances surrounding it are tragic.  No officer begins their shift expecting to be involved in such an incident.  That said, all have chosen this profession and are aware that they may be placed in a position where circumstances dictate the use of force.  

When force is used, there is a well established review process that scrutinizes the details surrounding it.  With lethal force, even more oversight is required, from an internal Firearms Review Board to a public Inquest.  The goal is to shine light on the incident and to bring forth evidence and statements that may offer answers to difficult questions.  We recognize and appreciate that not all questions can be easily or quickly answered.  We also understand that no amount of governmental process will return Mr. John T. Williams to his family and loved ones.  We will strive to make this investigation thorough and transparent.  We ask for patience from those who have expressed concern and faith in the process and its intentions.  

People have questioned whether or not training factored in the shooting death of Mr. John T. Williams and other recent incidents involving the Seattle Police Department.  

At Chief Diaz’s direction, the Seattle Police Department Training Section is in the process of reassessing the training that all departmental personnel receive.  It is important to keep in mind that the foundation of all existing Seattle Police training is based upon effective decision making and de-escalation.  In addition, enhancements are currently underway.  We are in the process of expanding the number of officers who are trained in Crisis Intervention (CIT), we are expanding the number of officers equipped with less lethal force options, we are evaluating Verbal Judo and other communication training for department personnel and we continue our first year of Perspectives on Profiling training.

“As it pertains to the fourth paragraph of the ACLU of Washington’s Open Letter (dated September 7th) I find the assertions to be both inaccurate and objectionable.  I plan on discussing my concerns with Kathleen Taylor privately,” says Seattle Police Chief John Diaz.  “The Seattle Police Department is committed to providing effective police services to our community.  We are continuously evaluating our protocols and procedures to ensure that we are delivering the quality of service that all citizens of Seattle expect and deserve.”

This is a pretty dry letter, which doesn't say a whole lot. But this is a pretty interesting move on SPD's part, which I don't think would've happened even six months ago.

Since John Diaz formally took over as Chief, the department's been a bit freer with some information—they released the names of the officers involved in the fatal shooting of John Williams, as well as a shooting in West Seattle—and apparently are now responding directly to criticism from the ACLU.

Howboutthat: actually engaging with your critics. Let's see how long this lasts.

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