The Justice Department is reviewing the Seattle Police Department to determine whether its officers have engaged in a pattern of unnecessary force, particularly against minorities, reports the Seattle Times. The federal action responds to a request by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and 34 other community groups that asked the Justice Department to investigate police use of force in several recent high-profile incidents, including the fatal shooting of John T. Williams.
U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan met last week with officials from the Police Department and the office of Mayor Mike McGinn, representatives of the City Council and some of the community groups pushing for the investigation. Durkan, who has been deeply involved in use-of-force issues concerning the Police Department for nearly a decade, said she is concerned enough “to take the additional step to see if there is a systemic issue that needs to be examined and changed.” She said, “Any time you start to see a number of complaints, you're obliged to ask whether there might be a  cultural problem. Smoke does not always mean there is fire. Our obligation is to determine whether there is a fire.” Reported confrontations include an officer kicking and threatening to beat the “Mexican piss” out of a prone Latino man; the repeated kicking of an African-American teen during an arrest inside a convenience store; and the pummeling of an African-American man in a police lobby.