SEATTLE – A Seattle police officer faces discipline when he should receive a commendation for how he handled the arrest of a man with an ice ax.
The incident was captured on body cameras. Amazingly, it was one of the officer’s own supervisors who made the complaint for “failure to de-escalate” to the Office of Police Accountability, reported KIRO7.
According to the police report, the suspect stole the ice ax from REI on Aug. 8, 2017. Moreover, investigators say the man threatened an employee who tried to stop him from leaving the store. Employees called 911 and officers responded.
With the added element of “force or fear,” the crime escalated from a simple theft to a robbery. And Seattle officers located the threatening man armed with the deadly weapon.
The entire incident played out as body cameras recorded. (Scroll down to review video.) The officers found the man walking down the street carrying the ax. At one point the video shows the man holding up the ice ax.
As a result, officers can be heard on the video telling him to drop the ice ax. Nevertheless, the suspect does not comply. Hence, as the armed individual walks down the street, officers are heard on camera warning other people to move out of the way. Yet the man keeps walking.
The video shows a police officer drive up and get out of his vehicle. The officer is identified as Nick Guzley.
Consequently, at one point he rushes in and puts his arms around the suspect, in a bear hug, to get him under control.
This was a bold move given an overwhelming majority of police officers would agree that deadly force could have been justified had the suspect demonstrated offensive behavior with the ax.
Sadly, Officer Guzley is not being commended for his courage. Yet rather discouragingly, he’s the subject of internal scrutiny.
Hence, the Office of Police Accountability conducted an investigation, KIRO7 reported. At the conclusion of their inquiry, they made a proposal for discipline. The recommendation is for Guzley to be suspended for two days without pay.
The ultimate punishment is up to Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best. Officer Guzley will get to make his case to Chief Best on May 11th.
However, in a case of political correctness run amok, Seattle police were directed last year to refer to suspects as community members when completing use of force reports. Therefore, what appears to be completely ludicrous to most beat cops—pending punishment for this heroic act—may be feasible in this organization.
The suspect, uhhh, community member, James Ray Smith, 46, was charged with robbery and ultimately convicted.
Smith has an extensive criminal history with convictions for burglary, unlawful possession of a firearm, theft, assault and harassment, according to court records. The Department of Corrections says Smith is incarcerated at the Washington Corrections Center.
While sitting in his prison cell, perhaps he should draft a letter thanking Officer Guzley for sparing his life.
Actually, last year when LET learned the term “community member” was going to be used in lieu of “suspect” in use of force reports, we came up with additional terms for consideration. We suggested that an incarcerated suspect be known as a “community member in time out.” Therefore, while Smith is in “time out,” he will have plenty of time to write thank you notes to all the officers who showed restraint allowing him to live to see another day.
Kevin Stuckey, president of the Officers Guild, said, “Officer Guzley got him to the ground, put him in custody, and did so without having the man tased, or any other use of force given.”
“Right now they (officers) are pretty upset,” Stuckey continued. “Because that is the de-escalation, that they followed the man for several blocks, and an incident that an officer could be praised for, he is condemned.”
An argument can be made that merely following the armed man for blocks—without using force such as a Taser—allowed the suspect to escalate the circumstances to an unacceptable level, and de-escalation was no longer an option as citizens became increasingly endangered.
Body Cam Video
Finally, we understand that complete details might be missing from the public record, but with known facts the supervisor recommending discipline has earned a “dunce cap” for the day.
Actually, we are trying to avoid being too harsh, but we think he or she should be reported to the Office of Police Accountability for suggesting actions that could have led to great bodily injury to the officers or nearby citizens.
However, the OPA has apparently agreed with the supervisor, so it might be time for cops in Seattle to find a new line of work before they get axed by their own administration.
What are your thoughts?