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Watchdog group: Conduct of SPD officer during August incident ‘unacceptable’

(Seattle Police)

Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability (OPA) released its findings related to an incident last August, where an officer drove his unmarked SUV onto a crowded sidewalk where protesters were gathered, and was then seen on video calling a fleeing protester a “roach.”

Watchdog group received over 19,000 complaints against SPD in 2020

The officer — identified last September by KUOW as SPD Sgt. Michael Tietjen — was seen accelerating through an intersection and onto a sidewalk without his lights or sirens on in videos posted to social media.

Tietjen is then seen speaking to protesters near the scene, telling them he had driven onto the sidewalk to “catch a bad guy,” and that the suspect had “ran like a roach.” He then went on to say that he “used to love Seattle,” but now “it’s pretty [expletive] dirty.” When asked by the protester why he still worked for SPD, he answered, “because they pay me like 200 grand a year to babysit you people.”

Three officers at the scene — including Tietjen — told the OPA that they were “attempting to arrest individuals shining strobe lights into their vehicles,” and that Tietjen had driven onto the sidewalk to “get as close as possible to make arrests prior to the individuals running away.”

One of the other responding officers was also recorded on body camera video footage telling a protester to “get a job,” that they “look[ed] homeless,” and that they were a “coward.” The OPA deemed that behavior “entirely inappropriate” in one of its sustained findings.

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While the OPA noted that it was “very concerned” with an incident it labeled an “extremely close call,” it ruled that Tietjen did not commit assault by driving up onto the sidewalk. That said, it also sustained allegations that he failed to “preserve and safety over apprehending a criminal,” and that his actions were “improper and inconsistent” with department policy.

Additionally, it ruled that Tietjen’s comments to protesters at the scene were “unacceptable,” particularly given his status as a police sergeant.

Disciplinary action regarding the OPA’s sustained findings in the incident is pending.

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