Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske's repeated involvement in the investigation of two officers damaged his department's credibility and makes increased oversight necessary, according to a civilian review board.
A report by the board, consisting of a lawyer, a former Sumner police sergeant and a former president of the local branch of the NAACP, was blasted last week by Kerlikowske as "despicable" and politically motivated.
Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels stood by him, but City Council President Nick Licata said the dispute pointed to changes that might be needed in the setup of the Office of Professional Accountability Review Board, which prepared the report centering on a contentious drug arrest.
George "Troy" Patterson, 26, a convicted drug dealer who relies on a wheelchair, accused Officers Gregory P. Neubert and Michael A. Tietjen of using excessive force and planting drugs on him in the arrest during the wee hours of Jan. 2 at a downtown intersection.
King County prosecutors declined to file charges against Patterson after viewing surveillance videotape from a nearby business and notified defense lawyers in at least 17 other cases of an internal investigation into the officers' credibility.
Following an internal investigation, Neubert got a written reprimand and Tietjen a one-day suspension for failing to report the detention of another man who was shown on a business surveillance videotape being handcuffed at the scene but who was then released without being mentioned in their report and without clearance from a sergeant.
Katrina C. "Kate" Pflaumer, a former U.S. attorney who is auditor of the police department's internal investigations unit, found that the officers lied in their reports, hindered the internal review and that one confiscated a small amount of marijuana from the second man and failed to place it in evidence.
She agreed with Kerlikowske in finding that the officers did not plant drugs or use excessive force.
Kerlikowske, who has the final word on disciplinary action within the force, said he believed the officers merely had difficulty remembering details of the arrest.
The board's review accused Kerlikowske of using "extraordinary measures" to direct investigators to an unreliable witness who corroborated the officers' version of events. The witness, held in an unrelated drug case, was subsequently released from jail.
"No one knew what that woman was going to say," Kerlikowske said.
Licata, who presented the report to the City Council on Friday, said he was considering a move to shift oversight for the police chief from the mayor to the council, a move Kerlikowske and Nickels said would politicize the job.
The review board, which examines internal police investigations and the resulting actions by the chief, was created by the council in 2002 as a citizen watchdog of the Office of Professional Accountability -- an office established two years earlier following the discovery that accusations that a detective's stole money from a crime scene had been ignored.
"At a minimum, we need to look at how OPA is structured and see if it needs some changes and reach some agreement with (the police union) about it if possible," Licata said.
Kerlikowske said he supports civilian oversight of the police but criticized the process and the leaking of what was supposed to be a confidential report.
"I am incensed beyond words," he said.
Much of his ire was directed at Peter S. Holmes, a lawyer who heads the review board and ran unsuccessfully for a City Council seat in 2005.
"I would hope we could have a higher level of conversation than personal attacks," Holmes said.
Holmes said the board has a tough job with little support from City Hall.
—The Associated Press