Veteran Seattle cop accused of using excessive force

Veteran Seattle cop accused of using excessive force
SEATTLE -- A veteran Seattle police officer is under investigation for allegations of use of excessive force and unprofessionalism.

According to Seattle police, officer Clayton Powell, a 19-year veteran of the force, is being investigated for his conduct during a police response to a report of a drive-by pellet gun shooting in South Seattle on Thursday night.

Police did not release details of the incident, which occurred in the 3700 block of S. Othello St. while officers were tracking down leads.

However, video of the incident obtained by KOMO News shows a heated argument that involved Powell shoving a man. The pushed man and a nearby crowd then demand to know why he was pushed, and the man appears to spit in Powell's face. Powell then pushes the man again as the other officers try to control the angry crowd.

A few moments later, the man is seen handcuffed and held against the hood of a squad car. Powell continues to talk to the man, but also appears to either touch him or hit him again. A loud thump is heard on the video.

The department launched the internal investigation after other officers who were present during the incident alerted their supervisor.

"The officers at the scene wasted no time in letting their supervisor know," said Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, adding news of the incident had reached the acting chief within 90 minutes. Both Seattle Police Chief John Diaz and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn were out of town.

Powell has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Whitcomb said the department's leaders are pleased the other officers followed procedure and reported the incident immediately.

"What they saw from a fellow colleague was behavior that appeared excessive and unnecessary, and unprofessional, and they didn't tolerate it," he said.

The cuffed man was arrested and taken to the South Precinct. He has since been evaluated for injuries and released. He was not charged.

Anyone with information on the case is urged to call Office of Professional Accountability investigator Sgt. Yvonne Tovar at 206-684-8792.

News of the incident came just days after the city of Seattle and the U.S. Department of Justice announced a plan to reform the Seattle Police Department. Seattle officials agreed to an independent monitor and court oversight of the city's police department following a damning report that found officers routinely used excessive force.

The Justice Department launched its civil rights investigation early last year after the fatal shooting of homeless Native American woodcarver John T. Williams and other incidents involving force used against minority suspects. In December, a DOJ report found officers were too quick to reach for weapons, such as flashlights and batons, even when arresting people for minor offenses.

The deal also calls for a special commission, appointed by the mayor, to concentrate on use of force issues.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office had no comment on the latest incident.