The Black Law Enforcement Association of Washington has charged the Seattle Police Department and the Seattle City Attorney of racial discrimination. The group notes that black Seattle police officer was charged with fourth degree assault after stomping on a handcuffed man in December. However, two white police officers who stomped on a latino man and threatened to beat the “mexican piss” out of him were not charged.
Officer Garth Haynes, an African-American, was off-duty when he left to confront a woman who took his jacket. It is reported that Haynes identified himself as a police officer. Shortly afterwards, a trio of white males jumped Haynes, presumably thinking he was trying to attack the woman.
Video from a dashcam shows Haynes kicking one of the handcuffed suspects in the head as he lay on the ground.
In the similar incident involving white police officer Mary Wollum and Detective Shandy Cobane, they were caught on camera stomping a Latino man, also on the ground, who was a suspect in an armed robbery investigation. Cobane used racial language against the man and Wollum can be seen stomping on the back of his leg.
A police investigation into the incident subsequently followed and Cobane was demoted from gang detective to patrol officer. He was also suspended for 30 days without pay. The Seattle Times reports Wollum was also disciplined.
“The Black Law Enforcement Association of Washington does not condone or support the behavior of officers in a situation where the use of force is used inappropriately,” wrote association president Carlos Bratcher to NBC’s Seattle affiliate KING 5. The Association asserts that the police officer’s in both incidents were in the wrong, as their victims were under control and in police custody at that time, and say the law should be applied equally.
“This decision by the City Attorney’s Office is demonstrative of the disparate treatment that African Americans encounter routinely in the criminal justice system in this country,” said Bratcher.
The Seattle Police Guild has also voiced outrage over the charge against Haynes. The Guild says Haynes received a concussion as a result of the attack and racial comments by the trio of white men might have made it a hate crime.
The City Attorney’s Office has conducted a case-by-case review of each incident involving it’s officers. If Haynes is convicted, he could receive a $5,000 fine and a year in jail.
“Yeah, he should be charged, but don’t charge the black guy and not charge the white guy who did the exact same thing,” Bratcher said.