On April 17th, the Seattle Police Department’s gang unit responded to a 911 call made by a man who claimed that he was robbed by four Latino men with a machete. One of those officers who responded to the call detained a Latino male suspect, threatened to “beat the [expletive] Mexican piss out” of him, and kicked him in the head. The suspect was later released after police confirmed that he had nothing to do with the alleged robbery.
A video that a freelance photographer caught of incident is starting to garner widespread attention. Watch it:
Since the video aired on a local Fox News station last Thursday, the violating officer who was filmed kicking the Latino suspect in the head, Detective Shandy Cobane, has since issued a tearful apology. The victim has yet to emerge to file a complaint, possibly because he is undocumented and unaware of his rights.
Disturbingly, a local civil rights group told the local Fox News station that such incidents happen “much more than people realize.” The most recent data from the Office of Professional Accountability shows that 12 percent of all Seattle police contacts from last year — 176 complaints — involved allegations of “serious misconduct” which led to full investigations. Excessive force is the most common complaint, but those complaints have also declined since 2007. Nonetheless, offenses committed against undocumented immigrants are likely to go unreported.
After signing Arizona’s controversial immigration bill into law, Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) expressed confidence that her state’s police officers are “up to the task” of enforcing the law “evenly, and without regard to skin color, accent, or social status.” While most police officers are honest law enforcement officials with good intentions, slip-ups like those occurring in a city like Seattle (which prohibits its police in most cases from asking about a person’s immigration status) portend dangerous ramifications for Arizona (where all police will essentially be required to determine whether someone is illegally present in the country before they have even been connected to a crime). Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has been pursuing undocumented immigrants since before the bill was even written, is already under investigation by both the Department of Justice and the FBI, in addition to facing over 2,700 lawsuits.
The FBI will conduct a preliminary inquiry into the Seattle incident by request of the U.S. Department of Justice.