This week’s award for The Most Arrogant Police Department in the Country goes to the boys in blue from Seattle, who are not even pretending to care about saving taxpayers’ money in lawsuits over public records.
Internal documents obtained by attorney James Egan revealed that even though they know they will probably lose a public records battle with KOMO News, they would rather dish hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements rather than just provide the information.
Adding to that arrogance, Egan recently requested several dash cam videos that could have proved his client’s claims, but police responded by suing him on the basis he was prying into the private lives of officers.
Documents Egan obtained show the department may be fighting a losing battle by trying to keep such records secret. He uncovered a city graph that shows since 2007, the city has made a growing number of payouts for failure to release public records.
“That was a surprise,” Egan said, “That was a shocker.”
The department has already paid out more than $100,000, and this year it expects the amount to nearly triple with a projected loss of at least $300,000.
“That’s money flying out of my pocket as a taxpayer,” Egan said.
Egan also discovered an email from the city attorney’s office about a lawsuit filed by KOMO News. We sued last fall after SPD refused a request for police videos. The email indicates the city believes its chances of winning the case after court appeals are less than 50 percent.
The Seattle Police Department last year paid $60,000 to Eric Rachner, a Seattle public records activist and west coast version of Florida’s Joel Chandler.
Rachner joined up with Phil Mocek, another activist I’ve written about who has battled it out with authorities over photographing TSA checkpoints and federal buildings, and created the Seattle Police Video Project, which they hope one day serve as a database to citizens wanting to view police dash cam videos.
As arrogant as the Seattle Police Department has proven to be, Seattle activists have proven to be just as stubborn.
Take David Packman, for example, who was wrongly accused of assault in 2006 by Seattle police and jailed for more than a month.
Today, Packman operates Injustice Everywhere, a site in which he tracks police misconduct daily as well as provides statistical analysis.
Not surprisingly, the Seattle Police Department makes regular appearances on his news feed.