Decision to rehire SPD officer who punched handcuffed woman faces new scrutiny in court
The decision to rehire a Seattle police officer who punched a handcuffed woman in 2014 will face a new challenge in King County Superior Court.
In a hearing on Thursday, King County Superior Court Judge Julie Spector granted the city of Seattle's request to review the discipline faced by the SPD officer who punched a handcuffed woman in the face as she sat in the back of his patrol car.
Officer Adley Shepherd was fired by SPD over the 2014 encounter. An arbitrator reinstated him last November, saying he broke department policy but deserved a suspension instead.
According to the city, the reinstatement was “too lenient to deter future violations” of SPD’s policies on use of force. Shepherd’s blow fractured bone around the woman’s right eye, but the city's brief said the arbitrator found that Shepherd "was ‘adamant’ and ‘passionate’ that he had done nothing wrong.” The encounter was captured on patrol-car video, and the woman later settled a civil suit against the city for $195,000.
Shepherd, who attended Thursday’s hearing, told reporters that the handcuffed woman, Miyekko Durden-Bosely, kicked him in the face and was never charged with assault.
“I want justice, I want the whole truth, I want all the facts out there,” Shepherd said. “You know, I really believe in the process, I’m going to keep my faith and the only thing I want is a fair shot.”
The Seattle Police Officers Guild has said that the arbitrator’s decision should be considered binding. SPOG Vice President Sgt. Rich O’Neill called the city’s tactics in seeking the appeal “unprecedented.”
At the hearing, assistant city attorney Sarah Tilstra called Shepherd’s case a “rare circumstance” when the arbitrator’s decision violates public policy.
The arbitrator in Shepherd's case said that city policy allows police to use force on a handcuffed subject only to prevent escape, injury or destruction of property. The arbitrator also cited testimony that Shepherd acted as trained.
In a separate set of proceedings in federal court, U.S. District Judge James Robart has raised the possibility that Shepherd’s reinstatement violates the federal consent decree meant to curb excessive force in the Seattle Police Department.