SPD working to polish image as DOJ review moves forward

SPD working to polish image as DOJ review moves forward »Play Video
SEATTLE -- As the U.S. Department of Justice began meeting with local groups, the Seattle Police Department launched an effort to clean up its image.

The changes are most apparent in the East Precinct where community outreach is taking on a new priority.

The roll call room at the precinct got a recent makeover to highlight the contributions of the officers who serve there.

Lt. Joel Guay wants to do the same upgrades for his department's reputation, which has come under fire in the past year.

"We need to talk a little more about what we are doing right," he said.

In recent months Seattle police have been captured on tape in several controversial incidents.

The most recent incident involves an off-duty officer kicking a handcuffed man in the head.

Just around the corner from the East Precinct is a poster of John T. Williams. His death at the hands of an officer sparked the kind of community outrage that Seattle police are now trying to undo.

The Department of Justice is investigating the Williams shooting, as well as other incidents, including an incident in which a robbery suspect who was kicked by an undercover officer.

Federal officials met with several local groups, including the ACLU and the NAACP, on Tuesday.

Guay says the controversial cases need to be reviewed, but points out how good examples of police work get overlooked.

"There's a whole lot of other stories that I think have been lost or buried in the focus that you or the media in general have taken," he said.

As a counterbalance, the East Precinct is pumping information to its community partners.

Ed Prince at Seattle Neighborhood Group gets regular updates, which he forwards on to a wide range of community contacts.

"I think people find it tremendously helpful, because it's information that you may not have otherwise," he said.

The East Precinct highlighted a recent burglary arrest to show neighbors that their involvement helped close the case that much sooner.

"When we're able to tell them that, 'Hey, we got the guy. The burglar that had been in your neighborhood -- we arrested him.' I think that goes a long way to reducing fear," Guay said.

Seattle police are trying to improve transparency department-wide.

The hope is to reverse the erosion of trust that prompted the DOJ's investigation.