Complaints to Seattle’s police oversight office have risen dramatically in the first weeks of 2015. But officials say that’s not necessarily an indication of problems at SPD. It just means word about the organization is getting out.
If a Seattle resident has a complaint about an interaction with a police officer, they’re supposed to contact the city’s Office of Professional Accountability.
Only a fraction of those public inquiries are ultimately investigated for possible misconduct and officer discipline.
OPA’s director, Pierce Murphy, is the one who decides whether to investigate a complaint, forward it to an officer’s supervisor or resolve it in some other way.
He said in the last three years, OPA received an average of 97 complaints per month. In January of this year, the number of contacts from the public more than doubled to 203. And the trend continued in the first weeks of February.
Murphy: “I wouldn’t want any officer to be discouraged by that, it’s not an indication of a whole bunch of bad things going on. It’s an indication that the public is hearing about OPA and availing themselves of this avenue and I think that’s absolutely wonderful -- that’s why we’re here.”
Murphy said the higher numbers are a testament to public outreach from his office, as well as the increased national focus on police in the wake of protests in Ferguson, Missouri.