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SPD’s Latest Incident Of “Excessive” Force Caught On Camera…Again

June 14, 2010

June 16, 2010 It’s the second full day of punch-gate and there have been a few developments since the tape first aired.

From KOMO:

SEATTLE — A 30 year veteran of law enforcement training told KOMO News Tuesday that an officer who punched a teenage girl in the face while struggling to get her and another teen under control in South Seattle was “well within the scope of appropriate responses to the situation.” More…

This is important because most see the punch as a violent reaction but don’t understand it is, in this case, an acceptable tactic by law enforcement.

The NAACP and Urban League held a joint presser:

James Bible, the president of the Seattle NAACP, said he is shocked that interim Seattle Police Chief John Diaz is a finalist for the job of Seattle police chief.“We have someone who is willing to hide the dirty deeds of his department,” Bible said. “He is not prepared to protect the people at the expense of the union.”Bible said Diaz should “step away based on this incident and so many others on his own.””At this stage, that would be the dignified thing to do,” Bible said.“There is no way you can tell me for one moment this officer was trained to behave that way,” said the Rev. Reggie Witherspoon of the Mount Calvary Christian Center.

The presser brought… strong reactions from some in the media and many across the greater Seattle area:

I absolutely love how the racial ambulance chasers immediately hitch their wagon to the central figures in these stories – only to find out that they have attached themselves to little thugs. It happened in the Seattle Bus Tunnel story – and it’s happening again now…I wonder if the NAACP, the Urban League and the various pastors feel any embarrassment when they discover the girls they so adamantly defended are actually a couple of little thugs who bring all their problems on themselves?

The background of the two girls came a bit more into focus:

19-year old Marilyn Ellen Levias and 17-year-old Angel Rosenthal:

Rosenthal was charged in November with second-degree robbery. According to prosecutors, she punched a 15-year-old boy in the face while she and a group of youths were on their way to a rave in South Seattle last Aug. 28. The boy told police that his cellphone and $20 were stolen in the incident. A 14-year-old boy told police that he was punched in the head and his hat was stolen.

Authorities say the case was dismissed when the boys refused to testify.

In April 2008, Rosenthal was charged with third-degree theft after she allegedly stole a minivan in Tukwila, prosecutors said. Kent police said she used a screwdriver to break the ignition and start the vehicle.

The charge was later amended to theft of a motor vehicle. Rosenthal was given a deferred disposition — charges would be dropped if she stayed out of trouble — because it was a first-time offense, said Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff for Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg.

Levias was charged in February 2009 with third-degree assault after she allegedly pushed a King County sheriff’s deputy down.

According to charging documents, on Feb. 3, 2009, deputies were called to the Ruth Dykeman Children’s Center, a Burien center for troubled girls, in response to a report that Levias was being abusive toward staff. When Levias was confronted by Deputy Amy Zarelli, she pushed the female deputy, causing her to fall, charging papers said.

Levias was given a deferred disposition because it was a first-time offense, Goodhew said.

SPD referred the tape to the OPA for review and have expressed some “concern” over what happened:

“You obviously have to take into context everything that occurred from the point that the officer did make contact with the individuals until the situation ended. As I said before, we have some concerns about the tactics the officer used and employed at the time. Again, we did feel what occurred did deserve a review by the Office of Professional Accountability,” said Metz.

“I think if the young women involved had just cooperated with the officer, I can’t say what the officer’s actions would have been – whether he intended to cite them or if he intended to just give them a verbal warning – it certainly would not have escalated to where it did. These women do have to bear much of the responsibility in the altercation that occurred,” said Metz.

Original Post:

The Seattle Police Department just can’t catch a break.  A few months ago an officer was caught on video physically and verbally assaulting a man in his custody, screaming, “I will beat the fucking Mexican piss out of you homie!”

That incident, which garnered national attention, has fallen by the wayside locally, bogged down in side stories about the tape, the videographer, and q 13 Fox’s decision to keep it off their airwaves.

Now we have yet another video tape, this time taken by a citizen who happened to be present when an apparent jay walking incident got well out of hand.

SPD says the young woman teenager in the video assaulted the officer, or at the least “came at the officer” before she was struck.

King 5 News wasted no time making the video available to its viewers. It clearly shows an officer punching a woman; an act SPD says didn’t “appear” to cause any injury (which I guess is their way of saying it was okay).

According to King 5:

Both girls – one 19 years old, the other 17 years old – were eventually handcuffed and booked on suspicion of obstructing an officer. Police said in addition to the more serious charges, both females were cited for jaywalking.

We often have kneejerk reactions to situations like these.  We see the key words in a headline and jump to conclusions.  At first glance, one would think a cop just hauled off and clocked some kid in the face.

But that’s not what happened.  That 17 year old pushed a police officer.  That’s beyond a no-no.  Am I excusing his behavior? No. But I’m not prepared to excuse her’s either.  She was so far wrong for what she did in that situation, from beginning to end.  If you want to smack talk a police officer you better be prepared for whatever he dishes back.  If you want to touch a police officer- you best pray you don’t get yourself or any of your friends shot.

What the cop did doesn’t justify what she did.  And what on earth would make her think she was justified in her actions?  I would be horrified if I saw a video of my child behaving that way towards a cop.  It’s reckless, hell, it’s dangerous.  But she didn’t care about that- didn’t even pause to consider it.

Sure, we can say that the jay walking offense isn’t that serious, or that Blacks are stopped more than Whites.  All of those things may be true.  But homegirl and her friends jay walked. They broke the law.  I feel like Bill Cosby, about to give the infamous “poundcake” rant.  Not only did she break the law once, she broke the law again when she set a single finger on that cop- let alone two full hands.  That is unacceptable.  There is nothing that can make it acceptable.  She should have known the outcome would not be favorable for her because that’s what a person of reasonable intelligence would think. Making the choice to shove a cop is like choosing to walk into your kitchen right now, turn on the front eye of the stove top to “high”, wait till it gets hell-red and then slam your open hand down on it. Your brain won’t let you do that to yourself because it’s hardwired for self preservation. the 17 year old in question clearly lacks that fail safe. Physically confronting a police officer goes against self preservation, especially for us!

But that’s my opinion. What do YOU think? Was the officer in the wrong or justified in punching a 17 year old?  Were the girls attacking, or defending themselves? What do you see when you watch the tape?

26 Comments leave one →
  1. June 14, 2010 11:13 pm

    I see a grown man with too much power punching a teenage girl in the face. Totally inappropriate. He should be fired, as should all of the officers in the first “Mexican Piss” case.

    And at this point, it makes me feel like whoever is in charge of the office of professional accountability needs to resign also. They clearly aren’t holding anyone accountable. Jaywalking tickets?!?!

  2. Bill B permalink
    June 14, 2010 11:44 pm

    unfortunately we miss the open actions that would give us a better framing of the punch. it seems that from the footage presented that the officer was a aggressively trying to get a hold on the first woman (like a thumb hold) and the second came to her aid with a push (probably shouldn’t have, but i understand her reaction).

    the punch response seems over the top – a sign of frustration or loss of control. i think the officer handled the situation badly using aggressiveness and domination rather than using a little cooler interaction – this seems to have contributed to the escalation which the women also added too. at least she wasn’t on the ground surrounding by a bunch of them…

    i would be surprised if that type of situation isn’t taught at the academy. if not, it sure should be. i’d also like to know what is the police procedure for that type of situation – did the officer stray from the playbook?

  3. S. Harris permalink
    June 14, 2010 11:48 pm

    Yes, the girls were out of control, but a punch to the face was definitely not necessary. I think pepper spray would’ve been a more appropriate measure to subdue teenage girls.

  4. Tarah permalink
    June 15, 2010 12:13 am

    Hmmm….not too sure about this one Sable. She did get aggressive with him first, but I think his actions, not only as the adult, but as the professional officer, may not have been appropriate as it seems to me that his reaction was out of anger, not to subdue the situation. She pushed him – he punched her. I had to watch the clip a few times, and I think what concerns me the most is that he took a pause right before he struck the girl.

    Nonetheless, while I don’t give him a pass, I don’t think these girls should be given a pass either. The girl who was punched assaulted the officer. This case should not be compared to the previous officer involved brutality case, IMO. The Latino victim in that case was clearly the victim – he was unarmed, in custody and clearly unable to defend himself, whereas these girls seemed to be the aggressors.

    There seems to be enough wrong in this case to go around, and around.

  5. June 15, 2010 12:48 am

    Sadly, the Seattle Police remain bizarrely obsessed with “jaywalking” as if it is by far the biggest safety threat ripping the city apart. SPD is overstaffed, overpaid, arrogant, and unaccountable. Thank god McGinn is pushing a budget cut–we need more until they reform and start helping the city instead of hurting it.

  6. Jacob Galfano permalink
    June 15, 2010 10:14 am

    On Sunday evening, I (a white male) jaywalked right in front of a police car — knowing full well I’d likely get away with it.

    Whether or not the use of force was justified, I’m afraid that police disproportionately stopping folks of color is based on unfounded suspicion and is becoming tragically pedestrian (terrible pun!).

  7. Ivann permalink
    June 15, 2010 10:37 am

    Once I got past the shock of the circumstances, I paused and realized that one of the girls was interferring in an arrest. The officer was justified in punching the girl. Look at the video closely and you will see that the girl was obstructing a police officer in the line of duty. Although I don’t condone punching a woman, she got wha she deserved! Even the young bystander said that “this was not their scene!” They were out of line for jaywalking and second, one resisted arrest and the other inteferred with a police officer….

  8. egoboy permalink
    June 15, 2010 10:47 am

    My previous comment seems to have been removed. Sniff.
    So here is my new one…..jaywalking is a symbol of what is wrong here. First of all, it is stupid to step out into traffic against a light. You slow down traffic flow (particularly when people have to drive around the ambulance scrapping you off the road.) Second, who raised these people? As I said over on SV’s fb page, in a civil society you “fight” the ticket in court. Where these two media stars raised by the same folks who raised the bus tunnel brawlers? They didn’t respect a uniform either. Yeh, I know, a good American keeps a healthy disrespect for authority, but these two could have taken that cop and several times got well within his “gun zone.”

  9. Jazmyn permalink
    June 15, 2010 10:51 am

    I completely agree with you Tarah! In no way shape or form was the officer right in punching a young lady in the face however, both of those girls were clearly a bit hot headed. Most of us know that it will never end well if we decide to pop off at a cop. As much as they may have disagreed with his decision to stop them for jaywalking, they made their situation ten times worse by resisting, interfering and assaulting. BAD MOVE!

    Police need to be held accountable, yes. But we need to do better about making sure that young people know how to appropriately react when in situations like this.

  10. Jason Carpp permalink
    June 15, 2010 10:55 am

    Why jaywalking is illegal in the first place is beyond me. I do it alot when there’s no crosswalk close by. We all have to be careful when we walk accross the street, we don’t want to get run over by someone who’s not watching where he/she is going. Nevertheless, I thought the Seattle officer’s behaviour was too aggressive, particularly considering what he saw.

  11. June 15, 2010 11:20 am

    people keep asking me what I think of the video of the officer punching the sista. I’ll say this; I’d never touch a cop, let alone push him, grab him, or stand in his way. Why? Because he has a gun he is more than capable of shooting me with. Is it pretty to see a young woman clocked in the face? No. But she is LUCKY …he didn’t shoot her foolish ass.

  12. June 15, 2010 11:29 am

    Also, for the record, there IS a way to cross there, the overpass which covers MLK and Rainier, and which they are standing RIGHT next to. It’s a pain to have to use it (I used to live right by there)but it’s there. It’s probably true that there is disproportionality in jaywalking stops, but that aside, I’ve done it in front of a cop (because I didn’t see him before I stepped off the sidewalk) and not been stopped. Maybe it’s because I’m older, but I’m still Black and still a woman.

    These young ladies made themselves an easy target for the cop to site them and go on about his day. but once the older of the 2 put hands on him, he perceived a threat and reacted quickly. I maintain- she is lucky she wasn’t tazed or shot. It’s about his perception (racial biased or not).

  13. Mike Clark permalink
    June 15, 2010 12:03 pm

    We have this incident involving an African American young woman and the incident last month involving the SPD and a Hispanic man. Two entirely different sitautions, but on the surface, people are looking at is a race related. Do you think those incidents coupled with Braziel withdrawing his name from the chief of police consideration (where he was … See Morepoised to be chosen), will put pressure on city officials to now put Diaz (interim SPD chief), Ron Davis (East Palo Alto police chief) or another minority in the chief of police position?

  14. JFreshh permalink
    June 15, 2010 1:44 pm

    I’m not sure a punch to the face was necessary, but getting violent over a jaywalking citation was definitely unnecessary. Who in their right mind thinks that they can put their hands on a police officer and not expect trouble? I want to know what the hell she was thinking?

  15. Le Roi Brashears permalink
    June 15, 2010 2:08 pm

    This is an interesting situation based on the video.

    Sable, you are right about the foolishness of touching a policeman in any way. Seattle cops in particular are so violent and bigoted that any encounter with them carries the risk of great injury or death, so yes, she is lucky the cop did not shoot her.

    But as these confrontations proliferate, isn’t that far too low a standard to expect police to meet? Long as they do not shoot our kids, well, that’s ok? …

    I am bothered by the foolishness of the policeman in question here as well. Shouldn’t police be able to handle a confrontation with 17 and 19 year-old girls without coming to blows? Who are the public safety experts here anyway?

    I saw that cop bending and twisting that girl’s arm so as to break it – an old pro wrestling move. That is when the other girl interceded. Honestly, it would have been very difficult for me to have restrained myself from jumping in as well if I saw a grown man, cop or not, twisting a girl’s arm like that especially over jaywalking.

    The jaywalking scam is what they use as a common cop tactic when they want to hassle kids and have no other probable cause – in particular, they use that on kids on parole.

    Just think about it, two cops agreeing to hang out in front of Garfield High School and cite kids for jaywalking. What a great use of cop time in pursuit of public safety!

    We have an exceptionally bad police department in Seattle – the worst of any city I’ve every lived in. It is time to face that fact squarely.

    Davis is in for misery of biblical proportions if he takes that job. If I talked to him, I would urge him to pass becasue Seattle is not ready for him and the police department certainly isn’t and the police union has made it very clear that they want Diaz. Braziel was very smart to pass on it, too.

    That does not mean I think Diaz will do a good job. Under him, the police brutality will only increase and become more severe.

    My though is that we have become used to being terrorized and brutalized by these police. We are under no obligation to continue becomeing more comfortable with this. We have to stop them somehow.

  16. June 15, 2010 2:11 pm

    There are separate and equally important issues at work here.

    1. When one of you comes up with a justifiable reason for a police officer to Strike ANYONE, much less a young girl (even one who pushes you) with a closed fist…kindly call me. (and if you ACTUALLY have a reason I wont laugh at in your Ear…Ill email you my cell#)

    #2 I would like to believe People of Color, and Black folks especially have seen enough carnage at the hands of law enforcement that they would instill in their children a certain understanding of how law enforcement sees them. Or DOESNT see them. Which is as humans.

    And with this valuable insight they would tread lightly when dealing with law enforcement, lest they find themselves some sort of Cause Celebre. And as much as people seem to crave this microwave fame that exists when you find yourself thrust in the news…It never seems to work out well when its YOU vs. Law Enforcement.

  17. June 15, 2010 2:18 pm

    I doubt very much these were one time screw ups and that we should focus on the behavior of SPD alone because we know it’s a constant. When I look at these girls, I see sass mouths who talk to to their parents, to teachers, to strangers, and to law enforcement the very same way. They come from a space that say being disrespectful is okay, or worse, justified because of what OTHER people do, or do not do. It’s embarrassing and a huge part of our problem as a people. Of course law enforcement has to be dealt with. And so do our youth and their behaviors. let’s not reduce this to a false dichotomy of one or the other. It’s both at the same time.

  18. June 15, 2010 2:55 pm

    OPA can only make recommendations for accountability. it’s up to the Chief to actually punish an officer.

  19. Jirius permalink
    June 15, 2010 3:54 pm

    I agree with your comments 100%. Stupid is just stupid. The cop may have overreacted, but who knows. I was not there and I was not the one being pushed. It could have been a lot worse. Thank God it wasn’t. I hope the ladies learn something!

  20. Warren permalink
    June 15, 2010 9:01 pm

    People keep talking about a cop hitting a young lady in the face. I don’t see a young lady getting hit in the face by a cop. If I did see a young lady in that video, I suspect that she wouldn’t have been hit in the face.

    Because young ladies don’t assault cops.

    The guy is one person, surrounded by people who one can presume are not going to help him if all of that group decide to go after him. The cop isn’t necessarily all that large, and the usual tactic of just tossing the subject on the ground isn’t going to look any better, and it would wind up with him straddling the gal. Not pretty. I don’t blame the cop a bit.

  21. Ollie permalink
    June 16, 2010 12:02 am

    Pepper Spray would have actually been a harsher mode of defense. She would have had to see the medic, whereas with the punch she wasn’t hurt

  22. June 16, 2010 3:20 am

    All this officer knew was that 2 girls ignored him, were hostile towards him, then started a physical altercation with him. He doesn’t know if they are armed with any weapons, or if any of the many bystanders may also become hostile. Issues of Black and white or male and female are irrelevant when you decide to attack an officer, and he needs to defend himself and quickly deescalate a situation.

    The punch was justified and, after seeing the video, I believe the girls are lucky they didn’t receive worse. The punch also didn’t stop the girl from resisting, or her friend from attacking the officer from behind (who was only stopped by another bystander who pulled her off of the officer and away). If you want to be treated like young women, act like one. These girls decided to act like hoodlums and were reacted to as such.

    My primary question after watching this video (and the one which alleged “black leaders” are negligent and hypocritical in their failure to address) is WHY IN THE WORLD DO THESE GIRLS FEEL COMFORTABLE ATTACKING A POLICE OFFICER?

    After listening to one of the girl’s mothers trash the officer while excusing her daughter, is it any wonder that one of them has a prior conviction for assaulting an officer? Focusing on the reaction of the officer instead of the actions of the girls only validates and encourages their behavior. The continual “Crying Wolf” by alleged Black leaders/organizations makes it harder to effectively address the legitimate issues that exist and perpetuates many of the biggest challenges that we face as a Black community.

    I’m just wondering when we, collectively as a Black community, are going to finally say enough is enough, stand up for the good of our community, and demand as much responsibility and accountability from ourselves as we do from others.

  23. Enoughalready permalink
    June 16, 2010 12:26 pm

    And once again we as a people, African Americans, choose to ignore the elephant in the room. We are so hyper-focused on our rights being violated or being slighted because of our color that we fail to address the real problem that stems from our own community. Now don’t get me wrong, racism is real, racism exists and there continues to be disparity, prejudices, disproportionality and just plain hate heaped upon our community. Bad things do happen to nice people, innocent folks are targeted, But I am not talking about that. I am referring to the obvious deficit in displays of respect, the self righteous arrogance, and inability to articulate without vulgarity that is continually displayed by our young people. Again I must say not all African American youth portray these negative behaviors, but it appears that an outsized group does and it is condone and supported in their homes.
    From the traffic circle incident, to the bus tunnel brawl to the overpass outrage, our young ladies in particular are falling into a pattern of self destruction, self hate and violence that has little to do with any real or intentional racist motive against them, and they are dragging the African American young men into the mess like happy puppies. Each of the above incidents were instigated by young females with arrogant ideals of themselves, lack of regard for others, no respect for authority, foul and impudent mouths and histories of displaying previous out of control behavior. What does this say about their parents? What does this say about the way they are being raised and what are they seeing in their homes that condones and teaches these antisocial behaviors? If one were to look deeper into the backgrounds of each of these children, I am sure there would be a history of adults with arrogant attitudes, lack of concern for others, rude behavior and the inability to take responsibility for their own behavior let alone teach their offspring how to take responsibility for theirs. I bet you could interview teachers, counselors, neighbors and friends who could tell you stories about the behaviors of these girls. Behavior that they all knew was just handwriting on the wall about their future. I bet stories could be told about the adults in the lives of these children having similar incidents and run-ins with authority and their own displays of drama and projection of their junk onto others. But none of these adults who know the story behind the story were willing to stand up and help these young ladies make a right turn and find other ways to deal with their frustrations. Shame on all of you, shame on all of us. These girls and this trouble have been brewing for some time this behavior is not new and we all know that, but have failed to step up because we don’t want to deal with the wrath of the parents who in essence need help themselves.
    We need to stop playing with our own minds and admit that nice young ladies with even a small amount of respectable home guidance, life preparation and at least one role model of a true lady in front of them, generally are not caught up in situations like this. Nice girls do jaywalk, but when stopped by the police to be reprimanded they do not ensue in a cascade of cuss words and resistance to their just dues. Nice girls do get picked on by others, but they do not pretend to be a victim when their own hands have stirred the pot of violent retribution. Nice girls may have to stand up for themselves if a threat is perceived, but they do not instigate a scene that results in the death of a man that was simply watering his flowers, sending yet another African American male to prison.
    I personally am sick of seeing these children and their incidents defended and touted about as race issues. The NAACP has reduced itself to becoming a slapstick comedy that no one will take serious any more. They have become an agency that has apparently forgotten the real reason it was established in the first place. I would like my old NAACP back, fight for the people that are being denied jobs or housing based on color, fight for the positions of power that never come our way, fight for the education we are still denied, leave the Hallmark cards alone, stop inventing or being led into trivial incidents for media coverage, get back to the business most important, the business touted in your name, THE ADVANCEMENT OF PEOPLE OF COLOR! That will only happen when we peel back the layers of deception and admit that our children are failing to get the support, guidance, love, structure and reprimands that they really need. We are scared to address the issue because there will definitely be back lash, but as Bill Cosby said, “We Have Got To Do Better!” It is no longer solely the fault of the system or the white man. We have to stop playing religion in church and take the time to help the parents learn how to be parents, help the children learn how to behave in school so they can learn the academic skills, stop with the excuses, come together and let’s do the real work. I bet the children of the leaders speaking out know how to cross the street, I bet their children know how to address an adult or an officer, I bet their children are not out roving around downtown looking for trouble, I bet their children have strong academic skills, and how did that happen? Because someone, namely their parents took the time and energy to groom and prepare them to meet life challenges and not create them, someone spent time modeling how to conduct themselves and how to fight for justice without creating your own injustice. Can we figure out a way to do that for all our children? I think this is a much more honorable task than wasting press time on misunderstood Hallmark cards or defending children who light the fire under their own pots.
    Rogue cops will still exist, prejudices will still exists, racism will still exists, but we can, working together groom our children in such a way that they become one less victim.

  24. andrew permalink
    June 16, 2010 2:33 pm

    I should think that a civil servant is just that, civil. Yes the girls probably were interfering with a policeman’s duty and should be convicted of that. The police officer was not defending himself and should be held to a higher standard than those teenage girls. What he did affects the way people view officers every where in this country, separating and polarizing everyday citizens and law enforcement agencies , and there supporters. Trust is weaning toward the people we should be able to trust,our officers. In Boston a few years ago a teenage girl standing on the street was shot with nonlethal pellet and killed she was an innocent victim and suffered at the hands of the police from excessive force. It was an image nightmare for Boston Police. This has been a common practice over the years. Police brutality is being shown more often is because of the mobile devices we all use now. Most officers aren’t guilty of this but when one does something wrong, as this one has, all police suffer the indignity . The people video taping this and the angry crowd represents the distrust toward police in general. Now does this latest video help the perception of police? The excessive use of force and a improper measure of response is what I see in the video . After all when It’s said and done who cares about the girls or the individual in uniform. The big loser here is, respect for our officers, country and it stewards. Also I would like to say I can’t stand it when those rude teenage girls walk across the street as slow as they please turning up their noses and making everyone on the road wait for them to get out of the way. I’m sure I would have liked to punch them too but I KNOW BETTER !!!!

  25. stacia permalink
    June 16, 2010 5:23 pm

    It is inexcusable under any circumstances. I am TIRED of hearing about the “backstory of the youth” as if this could make it “ok” somehow to hurt a child. I am TIRED of people complaining about jaywalking in the Southend where anyone with any sense can SEE there is a visible difference in crosswalk availablility. I am TIRED of living in a city that calls itself progressive and is about as racist as I have ever seen(and then earnestly telling you it isn’t about race at all).


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