JASON RANTZ

SPD management breaks with OPA, supports cop in ice ax case

May 6, 2018, 8:39 PM | Updated: May 7, 2018, 10:29 am
Legislature, seattle, licensed, policing, ERPO...
(File, Associated Press)
(File, Associated Press)

Concern is growing that the Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) wants to make a political statement of the actions of Seattle Police Officer Nick Guzley. But while the OPA recommended disciplining Guzley, the Seattle Police Department command is standing firmly behind their officer.

If you’re unfamiliar with the case, it’s pretty simple: a man stole an ice ax from the REI in Seattle, threatened employees with it before taking to the streets, frequently raising the ax over his head as if he would swing it. After repeated demands to put the ax down – and after the cops followed him for blocks – Guzley disarmed the man by rushing up behind him and putting him in a bear hug. It sounds like someone else on scene was going to do what Guzley ended up doing; you can hear a colleague saying, “Nick, hold up, no.”

For this, Guzley faces an investigation for failing to de-escalate.

Many sources I’ve spoken to wonder why the OPA is so involved in a situation where, at best, had nothing to do with use-of-force. One SPD source explained that OPA is “getting bogged down with the minutia.”

Meanwhile, the fear by some is that OPA is taking a position to placate progressive activists who have long complained that the SPD is too quick to use force. Though, in this case, it was non-lethal force: an actual bear hug where no one was injured, against a man who seemed ready to use the ax to injure or kill.

And a well-placed SPD source is concerned with the news narrative that management isn’t standing with Guzley, but “we are”, he told me.

“This has been characterized as a ‘management isn’t supporting the troops story’ but management is [supporting him],” the source explained. “We don’t think that Guzzley did anything wrong. We disagree with OPA.”

Seattle Police Officers Guild president Kevin Stuckey confirmed this.

“His chain of command wrote a letter saying they didn’t think this was misconduct,” Stuckey told me. “We’ll present this all to Chief Carmen Best [this week]. We’ve got a lot of positive feedback from the community. A lot of people don’t see this as misconduct.”

In fact, a leading, national expert in use-of-force has volunteered his time to present on behalf of Guzley.

Chief Best will review the OPA recommendation and the evidence, and make her recommendations. The prevailing belief is the chief will reject the OPA recommendation.

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
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SPD management breaks with OPA, supports cop in ice ax case