NAACP wants Seattle officer charged with hate crime

NAACP wants Seattle officer charged with hate crime »Play Video
NAACP Seattle Chapter President James Bible speaks at a news conference on Tuesday, May 11, 2010.
SEATTLE -- The NAACP has asked the King County prosecutor to charge a Seattle police officer with a hate crime.

At a news conference Tuesday, leaders of the civil rights organization in Seattle said racial hatred was evident in a video that shows an officer using a slur and kicking a suspect's head and hand.

It also shows another officer stomping on the man's leg. The man was taken down as a robbery suspect but later released when officers realized they had the wrong man.

James Bible, president of the Seattle chapter of the NAACP, said the officer's actions are fall clearly within the state's hate crime statute.

"We have no choice but to request that charges be filed against the detective in this particular case that made racial slurs as he hit and kicked a man that was face down on his stomach," Bible said.

He said the organization is also concerned about other officers seen on the video who stood by as the man was kicked.

"We are concerned that the blue wall of silence is alive and well at the expense of the people," Bible said.

The NAACP was joined at the news conference by representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Latina/o Bar Association of Washington, American Muslims of Puget Sound and the Latina Political Action committee.

The FBI is conducting a preliminary inquiry of the April 17 incident recorded by a freelance videographer. Special Agent Fred Gutt says an inquiry is routine where there may be a possible civil rights violation.

Detective Shandy Cobane, who is seen on the video kicking the man in the head, has said he regrets his actions that night.

"I chose words as part of my conversations with that young man that were offensive and unprofessional," Cobane said.

The 15-year veteran of the department was in tears as he offered a public apology over the weekend.

"At no time did I ever dream that I would do anything that would bring such negative notoriety to my department," Cobane said. "Sadly, I did."

The Seattle Police Department on Tuesday said their internal investigation into the incident has been given "immediate priority" by interim Chief John Diaz, and the department will cooperate with the FBI inquiry.

Cobane and Officer Mary Woollum, who is seen on the stomping on the leg of the same man Cobane kicked, have been administratively reassigned while the investigation proceeds.

"Somebody who's sitting behind a desk getting paid after this is appalling and insulting to our community," said Gabriela Quintana with Latino PAC of Washington.

The statement went on to say that "the use of any slurs based upon race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation by employees of the Seattle Police Department are absolutely not tolerated and is against department policy."

Prosecutors say they won't make any decision about possible criminal charges until Seattle Police have completed their investigation.