Thursday, February 24, 2011

"He's Wrong. King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg Should Not Have Let Killer Cop Ian Birk Off the Hook"

Cienna Madrid (The Stranger):
Some lawyers agree with the protesters. They say Birk could, and should, be charged with murder. They argue that Satterberg is reading the law wrong.

"Officer Birk could have been prosecuted under the current law," says Lisa Daugaard, a King County public defender. "I respectfully disagree with [Satterberg's] reading of the statute."
But Daugaard, the public defender, says that Satterberg is reading the law wrong: "The statute doesn't talk about a 'good faith belief' in general. It talks about good faith that the action—the use of force—was justified under the statute."

In other words, believing you're doing the right thing isn't enough if you're an armed cop. You still have to be following the law, and the law says force is justifiable when an officer reasonably believes the person they're apprehending "has attempted to commit, is committing, or is attempting to commit a felony."

Birk never claimed that Williams was committing a felony. Birk contacted Williams because he saw Williams crossing a busy street while holding a knife and that struck him as "suspicious." But walking down the street with a woodcarving knife isn't a felony. Neither is acting suspicious.

Satterberg ties in the felony requirement by arguing that Birk believed he was going to be attacked by Williams, and attacking an officer with a knife is a felony. But Birk's peers and commanders at the Seattle Police Department (SPD) refute this argument. After a lengthy internal investigation, a seven- member board unanimously concluded that Williams wasn't an immediate threat to Birk—that Williams's actions did not justify a use of deadly force, said Deputy Chief Clark Kimerer, who headed an internal Firearms Review Board investigation. "Williams had not even moved into a position where he could've gone into a straight line, a position of attack," Kimerer said. Their report condemns Birk's flagrant disregard for training protocol and found that "it would have been a reasonable alternative to allow the suspect to escape without resorting to the use of a firearm." MORE...
H/t to Revel Smith.

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