Seattle PD's accountability office director falls under scrutiny

Seattle PD's accountability office director falls under scrutiny »Play Video
Kathryn Olson
SEATTLE -- Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn's appointee to head up the Seattle Police Department's Office of Professional Accountability may be in trouble.

Sources tell KOMO OPA's director Kathryn Olson is facing a tough reconfirmation battle after KOMO News broke the story of Donald Fuller, who claims he faced criminal charges after complaining about police.

And city leaders confirm the case of alleged retaliation by OPA will be investigated.

Three years ago, Fuller was walking in downtown Seattle when police called him over for allegedly jaywalking.

"(I was) getting ready to step off (the curb)," Fuller said. "That's what they call jaywalking."

That was the beginning of a nightmare for Fuller and of a series of questionable actions by the OPA.

Though OPA's own policies prohibit retaliation, documents uncovered by Seattle attorney James Egan show if Fuller never complained about police, he never would have been charged.

"The OPA are a bunch of bald-faced liars when they say they won't retaliate against complainants," Egan said.

The documents show that both King County and city prosecutors declined to charge Fuller.

But then OPA's own investigator contacted city attorneys and said she "did not agree with their decision" and urged the city attorney "to reconsider."

Two days later, OPA noted the attorney will "file assault, obstructing and resisting arrest charges" against Fuller.

"This sets us back," said Seattle City Council member Bruce Harrell. "This is the kind of activity, if it occurred as the allegations would suggest, this erodes trust."

"People have to be able to trust OPA," said Chris Stearns of the city's Human Rights Commission. "They have to be able to believe that it is safe for them to make a complaint."

But the concerns raised by Fuller's case aren't just about an individual investigator.

"This is a pattern; this is not just some anomaly," Egan said. The attorney cited a memo in which Olson, instead of prohibiting officers from pushing for prosecution, wrote that in the future, charging "recommendations should be ... approved through the OPA chain of command" and "care must be taken to avoid even the appearance that OPA is attempting to influence a prosecution."

Harrell said this will be one of a number of issues addressed during Olson's confirmation process.

"Her job is accountability. It's not one to then retaliate or even pursue criminal charges against someone that came to her office for help," said Harrell.

The Human Rights Commission also plans to look into the incident and testify when Olson's nomination first comes up next week.