Officer involved in violent arrest gets promotion
Seattle Times staff reporter
The Seattle police supervisor whose questionable judgment was singled out by internal investigators and the police chief as leading to a violent arrest outside a Capitol Hill nightclub in 2005 has been promoted, police officials confirmed on Wednesday.
The actions of Sgt. Gregory W. Sackman outside the War Room on the night of the arrest "threatened 'the safety of the community ... and fellow officers,' " wrote a police captain in charge of an internal investigation, and led to the arrest of Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes.
Alley-Barnes was grabbed by the genitals, punched and then taken to the ground and kicked by officers. The 29-year-old artist has filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit against the city.
Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske promoted Sackman to lieutenant last week. He will fill a job funded by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense dealing with biological threats, said Deputy Chief Clark Kimerer.
Of all of the officers involved in the April 13, 2005, incident, only Sackman was singled out for discipline by both the internal-affairs captain and the civilian director of the Office of Professional Accountability (OPA).
Capt. Neil Low wrote in his report that Sackman's "social interaction skills and judgment have been called into question."
Sam Pailca, then-director of the OPA, wrote in her report that Sackman's "failure to provide adequate supervision" led to the confrontation with Alley-Barnes.
Kerlikowske, in an interview with The Seattle Times on Tuesday, said his review of the Alley-Barnes incident — which he called a "horrible case" — left "no question in my mind that I felt that the supervisor had far more blame in this entire incident."
"I just have to leave it at that," he said.
The chief recently has been criticized over the issue of officer discipline. A civilian review board raised questions over instances in which he failed to follow the recommendations of the OPA director. In the Alley-Barnes case, Pailca said two other officers should be disciplined for using excessive force. The chief exonerated them.
In his new job, Sackman will not be out on the streets, Kimerer said.
"One of the issues of promotion is assignment," the deputy chief said. "We might have had other thoughts had this been a position that put him in charge of officers on the street."
"The chief had very serious concerns about what happened up there," Kimerer said.
Kimerer said that Sackman — who returns to work July 9 following a six-month deployment to Afghanistan with the Army — scored well on the lieutenant's test. His military expertise made him uniquely qualified for the Homeland Security-funded position.
Attempts to contact Sackman on Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Sackman was not disciplined for his actions during the Alley-Barnes arrest because the department let expire a 180-day contractual deadline for discipline.
Kerlikowske blamed the expiration of that deadline on the OPA. Pailca earlier this week declined comment on the case.
Sackman received a letter in his personnel file, written by Kimerer, which stated that his actions on Capitol Hill that night "failed to take into consideration one of the Department's fundamental duties, which is to protect life, property and the peace."
Witness statements say Sackman confronted a litterer outside the War Room. The man picked up the piece of paper and apologized. Sackman decided to detain the man. When Alley-Barnes reportedly questioned whether Sackman's actions were racially motivated, the sergeant called for help.
He directed the first officers on the scene to arrest Alley-Barnes, and four officers took him to the sidewalk and repeatedly kicked and punched him. Sounds of the arrest were recorded on a patrol car's dash camera, and Alley-Barnes can be heard begging the officers to quit kicking him.
The incident escalated and involved dozens of officers and bar patrons. Four people were arrested and officers used pepper spray to control some in the crowd.
Criminal charges against Alley-Barnes were dismissed after the department failed to turn the dash-camera tape over to defense attorneys. A judge also cited inflammatory statements made by officers.
Fred Diamondstone, Alley-Barnes' attorney, said he found the promotion "interesting news. And interesting timing."
Seattle Times reporter Christine Clarridge contributed to this report.
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