Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Public Data Ferret On KOMO 1000: Police Misconduct In Seattle

by May 19th, 2010

Today during my regular weekly radio segment on Seattle-based KOMO 1000 about the work of the Public Data Ferret project, I spoke with “Nine2Noon” show co-anchors Brian Calvert and Nancy Barrick about a report from the Seattle Police Department’s independent watchdog office on police misconduct in 2009. Police misconduct – and excessive force – are hot topics here lately after a recent incident now being investigated. Here’s the original Ferret write-up of the 2009 police misconduct report report, which along with other finds of ours from government sites is indexed by jurisdiction and subject at our Public Data Ferret database. Here’s the audio of today’s Ferret radio. The full transcript follows.


Brian Calvert: “We all remember the stories, and perhaps you’ve seen that disturbing video involving police – and it’s brought accountability to the forefront of our minds – but how many complaints do police departments get every year? Matt Rosenberg of where you can use their feature the Public Data Ferret, joins us on the line. Matt, tell us more, about the report you found regarding the Seattle Police Department, and the number of complaints that they seem to get on a yearly basis.”

Matt Rosenberg: “You bet Brian. Good morning to you and Nancy. Critics of course are raising concerns now that this recent incident is far from isolated, and that’s where it becomes useful to step back and look at the best available data we’ve got. The Seattle Police Department has a watchdog unit called the Office Of Professional Accountability, and they actually recently presented a report to a City Council committee on complaints in 2009. Now overall there were about 1,400 inquiries made, but most of those were just for information or referrals. There were 198 investigations that were closed last year and there were 24 that were upheld. Now, you gotta step back and understand, I think, listeners, that there are 450,000 contacts each year between police and the public and about 23,000 arrests. Now of these sustained cases last year, none of them were for use of force. There were about 105 out of the 198 cases closed, that were actually investigations into excessive use of force, and none of those were upheld. And in 2008, there were two excessive force cases in Seattle that were sustained, or found valid, but no others since 1999.”

Nancy Barrick: “Matt, as you checked out the Office Of Professional Accountability’s Web site, I guess it was, and looked at the reports, is that information pretty easy to understand, so if you’re just a common member of the public and decided to check that out, would you gain some interesting information from that?”

Matt Rosenberg: Yeah, absolutely, this is not too esoteric or difficult to fathom at all; you’ve got to go through the report, but they make it pretty clear and they break it out with charts and graphs, and – it should be noted – the OPA gets out into the community and gives presentations to people and groups about this whole complaint process and how they can participate. But, you know, I think without diminishing the real concerns that we have about the recent incident – and the questions about the officers who stood by without intervening – any allegations about a broader pattern of excessive force by Seattle Police will have to be validated by OPA investigations, and those findings simply don’t exist right now.”

Brian Calvert: “Interesting. Matt, thank you for the insight this morning. Matt Rosenberg. And if you want to find out more about this report, maybe links to get to this report, you can go to and use their feature The Public Data Ferret.”

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