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Seattle police, machine learning, protests, complaints
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Accountability group received over 19,000 complaints against SPD from protests in 2020

Protesters and police in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood in 2020. (Getty Images)

Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability (OPA) released an expansive report last week, detailing the thousands of complaints the oversight body received in 2020 stemming from protests that took place after the death of George Floyd.

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According to the OPA, there were over 19,000 complaints filed against police action at demonstrations in 2020, resulting in 143 investigations. In total, 40% of all sworn Seattle Police Department employees had at least one complaint filed against them, as well as 12% of civilian employees. Over 600 SPD employees received at least one complaint; 252 employees received more than one complaint, 71 received three, 29 received four, and five received seven or more individual complaints.

Those complaints led to the OPA sustaining one or more allegations in 18% of investigations across 64 cases, comprising 68 separate SPD employees. In total, 22% of the OPA’s findings resulted in recommendations for either additional training or disciplinary action.

That saw the oversight body meting out 25 written reprimands, 15 suspensions, and 12 oral reprimands. Fifteen SPD officers were suspended, while three SPD employees were terminated as a direct result of an OPA investigation. Another four were terminated prior to a disciplinary ruling.

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In the wake of those findings, there was a 70% decrease in appeals by officers between 2019 and 2020, with just eight last year, compared to 26 the year prior, and 28 in 2018. That said, the OPA said that it is “unable to opine on the reason for the change or whether it will persist in future years.”

The OPA has yet to complete all of its investigations stemming from last year’s protests, largely due to an unprecedented flood of body camera footage in need of thorough review. It expects to finish those investigations by “the middle of 2021.”

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