Claims of excessive force, false arrest, and other police misconduct have been a booming business for a law firm that has defended Seattle police for nearly four decades, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The city has paid more than $6.3 million since 2002 to Stafford Frey Cooper and millions more before that. While Seattle’s payouts to alleged victims of misconduct are lower than some other cities’, critics say the relationship between the city and the firm is too cozy. Michael Schwartz, a plaintiff’s lawyer who has tangled with Stafford Frey, said the practice of using the firm to represent both the city and officers raises questions about whether anyone is representing taxpayers. “Stafford Frey is representing the city and the individual cops in these cases, and I don’t know that the city’s interests are exactly the same as the cops’ in these individual cases,” he said.
Lawyer Paul Richmond, who has represented plaintiffs against the Police Department, says the policy of dealing almost exclusively with Stafford Frey “encourages the worst by the police, if the police believe there is complete impunity in what they do.” Police Department legal adviser Leo Poort hotly disagreed. “I don’t think officers come to work, ever, expecting that they are going to engage in misconduct,” he said.