Seattle Office of Police Accountability Director Andrew Myerberg released body camera footage (see video below) and an official report (see PDF link above) justifying the pepper spraying of an 8 year old black girl by Seattle Police officers back in May. His justification is that because the girl was among a group of mostly peaceful protesters that the SPD was justified in their actions because some people in the group would not move when directed and one of them grabbed an officer’s baton. The body cam footage verifies that there was a group of protesters, that the group was mostly peaceful, and one of them did grab an officer’s baton, but that does not justify macing the 8 year old girl whose only crime was standing near some unruly protesters.
To find an officer guilty of excessive force the force used must be objectively unreasonable for an officer based on what the officer knew at the time. The officer said he or she, whose name has not been released, did not notice the little girl, so according to OPA the officer is not responsible. To the OPA’s credit it would be hard to prove that the officer was aware of the girl’s exact location in the crowd when the spraying began based on this footage, but there is enough to tell that the SPD was just spraying away with no regard for the crowd as a whole and did not stop spraying after it became obvious that the girl was among the victims. We believe that their failure to stop spraying immediately demonstrated a reckless disregard for the girl’s safety and should constitute deliberate indifference under the law. Unfortunately, the government will almost never pursue one of their own in criminal court based on a claim of deliberate indifference, but a showing of deliberate indifference is still enough to overcome qualified immunity in civil court. We believe that Mr. Myerberg failed that little girl by not at least trying to hold the officers accountable for their indifference.
In our opinion the officers were not morally justified to start spraying in the first place because they attacked an entire group for the actions of just a few members. They attack groups of mostly peaceful people just like this one on a regular basis. The perpetrators of these attacks do not care about hurting innocent people. They only care about protecting themselves and harming the person they consider the aggressor. It literally does not matter who is in the crowd. If one member of the group makes an officer feel threatened, the officer usually feels justified attacking the entire group. The job of the police is to protect people like that little girl even if it means having to put up with a little abuse from the citizenry.
Published at Sat, 19 Sep 2020 23:15:49 +0000