Documents raise red flags about embattled SPD officer

Documents raise red flags about embattled SPD officer »Play Video
Clayton Powell, left, from a confrontation captured on video.
SEATTLE -- A Seattle police officer already under investigation for excessive force and misconduct has had problems in his past.

A Problem Solvers investigation revealed new details about Clayton Powell's days as a police recruit. Documents from Powell's personnel file say mistakes, excessive force and bad language kept him off the force for a time, yet Powell is under currently under investigation for some of the exact same conduct.

The investigation into Powell started after an early August confrontation at Holly Park. The Office of Professional Accountability is reviewing video and statements after SPD officials say Powell responded to a drive-by shooting call. Video shows the officer yelling at members of the crowd and shoving an onlooker after being spit upon.

After that incident, Sergeant Sean Whitcomb said Powell was being investigated for "excessive force and unprofessionalism."

In another video that has been online since May, Powell is seen once again using foul language to make a point. The department is aware of the video.

The Problem Solvers obtained Powell's personnel file to see if these were isolated incidents. While his discipline record is clean, several documents raised more questions about how Powell became an officer in the first place.

According to department and training memos, Powell first attended the training academy in the latter half of 1992. He failed field tests three separate times.

At the time, trainers raised red flags about Powell grabbing suspects and having "an inability to process information." Another memo raised worry about Powell's use of force in mock scenarios, and that his actions could open the department to legal liability.

After the third failed test, the training staff, with SPD support, actually changed the requirements for Powell. His written test requirements would be deleted and he would get ten more mock scenarios to try to pass. He couldn't do it.

A memo shows that Powell failed his first five retests and the instructor didn't want to continue. The trainer said Powell previously used profanity in class that was "expressly prohibited."He wrote that Powell was given "an extraordinary opportunity and failed to take advantage of it."

Documents show Powell resigned and became a parking enforcement officer in 1993.

He returned to the academy in 1994, passed his tests, and has been working with SPD ever since. A career that started with concerns and is now under investigation.

SPD and the training academy were not able to comment for this story.

Powell is still under paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the OPA investigation.