‘Excessive force’ complaint filed over Seattle cops’ actions on video

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Screen grab of dash-cam video shows Seattle police officer getting ready to punch man who SPD says bit the cop’s finger.

SEATTLE — An “excessive force” complaint has been filed with the Seattle Police Department over the arrest of an 18-year-old man in December 2010 in which Seattle police officers are seen on dash-cam video throwing the man onto the hood of a car and one punches the man in the face.

The Seattle Police Department said the man had bit the officer’s finger hard enough to break the skin and the officer punched  him to get him to release the finger.

The incident started, according to police, because the man, Isaac Ocak, had left a car running outside of a department store in Westwood Village in West Seattle and a patrol officer was concerned it might be a robbery or a shoplifting incident in progress. As the patrol officer was investigating the car, an irritated Ocak returned and asked what the officers were doing.

Officers discovered Ocak did not own the car.

“Put yourselves in the officers’ shoes,” Seattle police Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said. “Out doing police work. Suspicious car. You make a stop.”

During a news conference, Seattle police also explained that Ocak had a criminal history and was flagged as an assault risk.

“As officers tried to contact the registered owner of the vehicle, the man repeatedly refused to follow officers’ directions to keep his hands on the hood of a patrol car,” Whitcomb said. “Because of the man’s potential risk to officers, police opted to handcuff him out of an abundance of caution, to ensure their own safety as they continued their investigation.

“The man, however, was not interested in being handcuffed, and struggled with officers, pushing away from them as they tried to get his hands behind his back. During the struggle, the man bit down on an officer’s gloved finger. In response, the officer struck the man, who then released his bite,” Whitcomb said.

Ocak’s attorney, James Egan, said, “This is not proper police procedure. This served absolutely no purpose at all for them to throw him on to the hood of the car.”

But Whitcomb said, “The initial stop was constitutional and that the force that was used in the course of the arrest was reasonable and necessary to take the person into custody.”

Ocak was booked into the King County Jail for assaulting an officer, but the King County Prosecutor’s Office declined to file charges. The Seattle City Attorney’s Office filed charges, but later dismissed them.

“The SPD chain of command reviewed the force response in this case. A second review of the force response was conducted by Assistant Chief Jim Pugel, who agreed that the force response was reasonable, necessary and within department policy,” Whitcomb said.

But on Friday, after Ocak’s lawyer filed a complaint and the video was released, the SPD’s Office of Professional Accountability agreed to conduct a separate review of this case.

Professor William Bailey teaches pretrial procedure at the University of Washington. After seeing the video footage, he saw both sides.

“If they have enough probable cause to take him into custody,” Bailey said of the officers, “then just do it. There was a toying back and forth that did not seem professional.”

But Bailey also said Ocak should have been more cooperative. “When you are placed under arrest, you have to cooperate,” Bailey said.

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    • Joe

      The pig huh?? People like you are why retards like him think they can do whatever they like then say they were abused. If the POLICE ask you to put your hands behind your back to put cuffs on you for what seems like no reason, what's the harm in doing what they say for the time being?? Let me guess, you must think the guy has the right to fight to POLICE and bite a cop because they want to cuff him without probable cause yet his criminal record lists him as a risk. Are you really that stupid? If the POLICE say to do something just do it. Why do morons like him and obviously you with your threats towards POLICE, think they and you can do whatever you like? I say the guy got what he deserved. He was not following orders, bite a POLICE officer and resisted having cuffs put on him. If he was innocent, why struggle? He has a criminal record, was in a car that did not belong to him, and sent up red flags for POLICE to investigate by leaving a car running in front of a store. All the idiot had to do was be calm and do what was asked of him if he was truly innocent. You are the type of person M.J. Churlin to cry excessive force but complain when the not enough is done when someone you care about is a victim of a crime. I applaud what was done. It is just a shame people like him and you do not learn from his mistakes.

      • Moe

        I think he didn't get what he deserved the prosecutors dropped the charges on the guy for assaulting the police. He should have been prosecuted and at that time everything would have come out in court and if the officer was in the wrong (which he was not) it would have been addressed. This thug and his thug lawyers are just trying to take advantage of a situation that he started by not complying with orders and not being respectful in the first place. When people think they can sue and call police brutality at the drop of a dime it gives criminals the upper hand. Just remember M.J Churlin when your in trouble or need help text a friend don't be a hypocrite and call for the police since you want them dead for doing their job. Dumbass

      • Brad

        Ever hear of the 4th Amendment. Funny how the charges were dropped to on this guy. So if the charges were dropped, what crime did he do? If no crime then why was he arrested. DUMB POLICE. BAD BUST. Fight real crime, not some guy who parked his car that has lots of keys on his keychain.

    • Jim

      Churlin, You should spend a week riding in a patrol car and see the crap a LEO has to put up with.
      Police don't hold " street court " any longer and in a lot of ways that's a shame.

  • Joe

    Why is it that people think they have a right to fight the police? If the guy was innocent, all he had to do is comply. He sent up red flags and the police tried to be safe and just cuff the guy since he had a criminal record that was flagged as dangerous. Once the situation was cleared up, he would have been let go. Yet he had to resist officers and then bit one. So many people say it was excessive force. What about being bit? Why is it not okay to use more physical force on a person that uses more physical force? I do agree there have been valid cases of excessive force but when a person is fighting police, why can't the police use physical force to subdue a violent criminal? If arm locks are not effective, what they are supposed to just wrestle with the person in hopes that person will give up? Too much is put into the guy getting punch and not why he got punch! The tape clearly shows the guy had equal opportunity to let the cuff be temporarily put on and decided to fight. He then bit the officer and got punched in an effort to release the bite hold which was effective. The criminal at that point was not subsequently beat. He was finally subdued with adequate force. The officer did what was necessary in this case to relinquish a bite on his finger. Just do what is asked of you people and the police will have no need to detain you or cuff you. It is simple as that. Do not break the law and the police will not have cause to even look your way.

  • Malo

    Zoom in to the Screen Shot, Look closely! No finger in the “suspects” mouth. In fact, the Officer is holding the “suspects” lower jaw in perpetration to strike the suspect. Now look at the position of the Officers Right arm, cocked back. Not to mention the look of anger and hatred on the Officers face. No doubt the charges were dropped. I don’t agree with resisting if the stop was lawful, however, assault from an Officer is not acceptable either.

  • Vivo

    CHURLIN, JOE AND MOE ARE BOTH WRONG. Malo Right!!!!!!! For some reason the charges where dropped…. Very unprofessional the officers indeed….. Harassing the kid in that way…They caused the whole misunderstanding in the first place….

  • Concerned

    You do and should have the right to fight the police. They aren't anything special. The old "suspicious" line is an old standard they say to justify doing whatever they want. Rise up! Police harass you, punch the shit out of them.

  • David

    well i guess my comment was too much truth, yup the truth the whole truth and nothin but the truth, and for some reason was deleted and there was no vulgur statements. OK lets see if this piece of truth slipps by..lol Do Police use unecessary excessive force like in this case? Was this case excessive force? The answer is yes to both, and here is the proof! When a mental patitent in a mental facility bites an orderly or a doctor do they knuckle up and start beating him? No they taze him? Do they break out the night stick and hit him? Do the get the gun and shoot him in the back when hes walkin away. The answer is of corse NOT! Its comes with the job, find a better way to deal with it.

  • Aaron

    Not funny David, that cop was being a PRICK, in my opinion! His "I don't have to be nice to you" comment is just not necessary and completely backs up my point.I 'd totally sue the hell out of the department and get rich and laugh all the way to the bank. Just because they are police, they still need to be professional and that conduct is just outrageous and cannot be tolerated. This officer's conduct is NOT KOSHER, totally unprofessional and outrageous. What the hell is that cop's problem, what a jerk. He should be fired on the spot and have his license removed to never be eligible to be a police "CROOKED" officer again. Freakin CORRUPT SPD, if you ever mess with me like that, I'll SUE THE HELL OUT OF YOU!!!

  • tinag206

    How many more times does Seattle Police have to get caught beating someone on film before they actually kill someone?? The Seattle Police Department is again out of control!! The Seattle Police Department needs a serious clean up starting from top ranking officers to this idiot that beats up an 18 year old West Seattle kid for leaving his car running. Sgt. Whitcome should lose his job for defending this rogue cop. You are just covering up for another out of control officer. All Seattle Police officers should be ashamed of their co workers actions. They should also be ashamed of how their superiors attempting a cover this disgusting act. It is on film and we see it clearly and Seattle Police Department excuses are insulting to the Seattle Public.