Sunday, August 28, 2011

Rubber Stamping Battle Continues

Seattle police have found that drunken-driving arrests were routinely rubber-stamped or falsely certified without approval by a supervisor, prompting one defendant to ask a judge to dismiss his case or suppress the arresting officer's testimony.

The department launched an internal investigation in March after an audit revealed the mishandling of dozens of driving-under-the-influence (DUI) cases.

A sergeant who allegedly permitted the improper screening remains under investigation
But the department has found that two members of the DUI Unit, Jonathon Huber and Jonathan Young Jr., routinely used the sergeant's signature stamp without having their arrests approved by him as required by policy, according to an internal-investigation report obtained by The Seattle Times.

A third officer, John Velliquette Jr., put written statements in his reports indicating his sergeant had screened his arrests, even though the sergeant had not actually reviewed the cases, the June 22 report said.

Witnesses indicated the sergeant told the officers he had "preapproved" their arrests and offered his signature stamp, according to the report.

The three officers were cleared of misconduct allegations involving honesty and arrest procedures after the department's Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) heard testimony that the practice had been going on for 20 to 25 years and that most law-enforcement agencies do not require DUI arrest screening because most suspects are released after processing.

Witnesses also said the stamp was used to satisfy data requirements and not to deceive.

According to the report, the OPA also considered DUI officers the department's "experts in the identification, arrest, processing and courtroom presentation of evidence" and that "it is unnecessary to have a [sometimes] less knowledgeable sergeant reviewing their reports."

Although the allegations were not upheld, all three officers were ordered to undergo supervisory counseling and training for violating the department's arrest-screening policy. They were put on desk duty when the investigation began, but they have been returned to DUI patrols.

The OPA originally found Velliquette had been dishonest and gone further than the other officers by submitting written information that was false. But Deputy Chief Nick Metz determined supervisory intervention was more appropriate. OPA Director Kathryn Olson concurred.

Supervisory intervention means that while there may have been a violation of policy, it was not a willful violation that amounted to misconduct, according to the department.

Seattle police declined to disclose the names of the officers or details of the internal investigation under a public-disclosure request filed by The Times, citing its policy of not releasing that information in cases where officers have been cleared of wrongdoing. If charged with a DUI, contact you Seattle DUI Lawyers at SQ Attorneys immediately.

If you or a loved one is faced with a DUI charge in Western Washington, you deserve the assistance of a reputable and qualified Seattle DUI attorney who will relentlessly defend your case. You deserve a Seattle DUI lawyer who has an intimate understanding of Washington DUI laws and the legal issues that could win your case. You deserve a Seattle DUI attorney who is not afraid to stand up against the prosecution and aggressively fight for your rights and interests. SQ Attorneys is the right Western Washington DUI law firm for the job. Call for a free initial consultation – (206) 441.0900 (Seattle); (425) 998-8384 (Eastside) – it will be the best decision you make all day.

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