A Seattle police officer, who punched a handcuffed woman in the face and left the city open to a lawsuit, has been fired.
The officer, an 11-year veteran of the police department, was accused by the victim of assault, false arrest and violating her civil rights in the June 2014 incident. The woman suffered a fractured eye socket after the officer punched her while she was handcuffed. The city agreed to settle for $195,000.
Originally the woman's attorney filed a $1 million claim against the city. When she did not get a response after 60 days, she filed a lawsuit for unspecified damages for pain and suffering, punitive damages, and attorney's fees. The lawsuit named the officer as well as the Seattle Police Department. The lawsuit cited three violations of the woman's civil rights, including the officer's use of excessive force and unreasonable search and seizure, and the department's negligence in training the officer.
Two years ago, the officer, along with several others, were responding to a 911 call regarding threats reportedly made by the woman they believed was intoxicated. The woman was placed in handcuffs and the officer shoved her into the back seat of a patrol car. Before he could close the door, she kicked him in the face with her boot, so he punched her. The incident was captured by a video camera in the officer's patrol car. The woman was held in jail for four days after the incident until the case against her was dismissed.
While in jail, according to the lawsuit, the woman suffered severe pain, partial blindness and a concussion that induced nausea and vomiting. Even months later, she continued to suffer significant pain due to the fracture of her orbital wall.
In a statement released to the public earlier this month, the Seattle chief of police said the incident was investigated separately over the last two years by the Washington State Patrol, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Office of Professional Accountability. During that time, the officer was on paid leave. It was the decision of the chief and the recommendation of the Office of Professional Accountability to fire the officer. In her review of the incident, the police chief noted that the severity of the injury the woman suffered could have been lethal.
“How and when officers use force is a central core of department policy.” Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole wrote in the officer's disciplinary action report. “Your conduct in punching the handcuffed subject was squarely outside of policy and contrary to the department's mission to accomplish law enforcement objectives with minimal reliance on force.”
She went on to write: “Under Department policy, an officer is authorized to use physical force so long as it is reasonable, necessary, and proportional. Under the circumstances here, where the subject was handcuffed, inside a patrol car, and other officers were nearby, your use of force was in clear violation of this policy. Punching this subject in the face was neither reasonable nor necessary as there were ready alternatives to stabilizing the incident.”
If you have been harmed or if a loved one has died as a result of a public servant's misconduct, recklessness or negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. Call the offices of trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian at 800-529-6162 or contact them online. The firm handles cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.