When Seattle police arrest someone for “obstructing a public officer,” chances are nearly dead even they’re arresting an African-American in a city that’s predominantly white, says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Once arrested, the accused could spend a night in jail, but the odds are as good as a coin toss — that the prosecutors will drop the case, often as a result of a review the next morning. African-Americans are arrested for the sole crime of obstructing eight times as often as whites when population is taken into account, a Post-Intelligencer investigation of six years of municipal court records found.
“What this says to me is that it is an abuse of police power,” said defense lawyer Sunil Abraham. “You should not be arresting people unless you can make a case against them.” While also voicing concern, city officials defended police and advised against jumping to conclusions.”It’s terribly unfortunate that African-Americans are being arrested (for obstruction) at a higher rate,” said City Attorney Tom Carr. “But be careful what you conclude. To jump to the next step and say Seattle police are targeting African-Americans, that’s a huge jump. I haven’t seen that, absolutely not.” Deputy Police Chief Clark Kimerer said, “There’s one criteria that Seattle police officers use when making an arrest, period: Is there probable cause to establish they committed a crime?” Still, some officers described the gross misdemeanor as “contempt of cop,” indicating a charge used primarily for retaliatory purposes.