2022 Police Auditor Report raises questions over lack of findings from complaints, ‘clinical’ language

Lack of validity findings on complaints vs. police officers


The draft 2022 Police Auditor Report did not sit well with Olympia's Social Justice and Equity (SJEC) commissioners as they questioned the findings, specifically the lack of validity findings in the 68 use of force and 23 misconduct complaints against police officers and Olympia Police Department (OPD) employees.

On Monday, the SJEC reviewed the draft 2022 Police Auditor Report, completed on April 24.

Police Auditor Tara Parker is scheduled to present the report at the city council meeting on Tuesday, June 6.

Assistant City Manager Debbie Sullivan said the city had asked the commissioners to review the draft report. "There was no structured way for the community to get input into this report. So the [city council] asked you to do this."

The SJEC serves as a community-based oversight of the council-appointed police auditor.

Auditor report summary

In 2022, OPD received 53,355 calls for service and made 3,348 arrests, with 2% of the arrests using force.

Between January 1 and December 31, 2022, the auditor reviewed 68 incidents involving the use of force by OPD members and two incidents involving Olympia Jail staff.

"All of those matters were audited and found to be thorough, objective, free of bias, and consistent with OPD policies," the report stated.

The auditor also reviewed 23 investigations filed regarding allegations of misconduct by OPD employees, with nineteen of those complaints filed by community members, and four of the investigations were initiated by the police department.

The auditor's review found it "thorough, objective, free of bias, and consistent with OPD policies."

The auditor also reviewed OPD training, including de-escalation, protecting First Amendments Rights, and crowd management. The auditor found this training "thorough, unbiased, and consistent with the department's policies."

Commissioners' feedback

During the discussion, Commissioner Robin Rosen-Evans noted that none of the 68 complaints of use of force or 23 misconduct complaints were ever sustained (misconduct substantiated) or never sustained or found to have no validity. If a complaint is sustained, then misconduct is substantiated.

"You had a number of incidents, and none of them were sustained. I found that to be a little troubling," Rosen-Evans commented.

The commissioner also asked if the data included officers who were repeat offenders or complained against more than once and was the complaint filed by a specific or marginalized group in the community.

Rosen-Evans commented that there was too much authority concentrated on the police auditor. She raised a concern that the police auditor did not find any questionable conduct in the investigation of the cases.

"They did the investigation. They followed OPD process procedure,” Rosen-Evans pointed out. “They did the right paperwork. The officer was cleared. I found that to be problematic."

Questionable phrasing, ‘clinical’ and separating actions from subject

Commissioner Marianne Ozmun-Wells also raised her concern about the report finding no bias, which she said was questionable.

"I'm curious about what the bias assessment tool is,” asked Ozmun-Wells. “How are they gauging for bias? How are officers participating in bias assessments and bias mitigation individually? How is that being assessed and implemented at the department level?

Before the meeting, Sullivan received written comments and questions from five commissioners, who reviewed the draft report.

Sullivan added there were questions about impartiality and comments about the level of "sustain" where an officer may not have violated the law.

She said there were comments around language, the data, demographics, and findings.

Sullivan cited one of the comments stating that the language was very formal and "clinical," and the narrative is not a human-centric approach. 

"The report states, three incidents involve the deployment of conducive energy weapons, as opposed to saying, three officers use tasers to subdue the subject," said Sullivan, citing the example given in the comments from one of the commissioners.

At the meeting, Commissioner Wesley Nguyen commented that the report's language should be read and understood by laymen. "It needs to be less 'lawyer-ish'."

Ozmun-Wells was also apprehensive about language use and how it can detach individuals from their actions. "If we say that a subject shot the officer with a taser, then we should say the officer shot the subject with a taser."

Ozmun-Wells paralleled the situation with rape culture, where if someone says, "the victim was intoxicated and was presumably assaulted behind a dumpster," it separated the actions of the person committing the act.

Most comments Sullivan received were around complaints, investigative findings, corrective action, data and demographics, use of force, body-worn cameras, and training.

Clarity and proactiveness

The written comments also raise concerns about the use of force incidents involving individuals in crisis, mental health issues, or substance use situations.

According to Sullivan, the comments suggest that additional education or better training for police officers could have resulted in a more appropriate situation. There was also a question if there is a set of criteria that the police officers use to determine a course of action.

A comment also suggested proactive and systemic counseling and coaching for officers.

Sullivan said people want more information on how and why OPD uses force and the level of training. "What are the de-escalation methods? How are they used and why?"

Sullivan informed the commissioners that OPD deputy chief Sam Costello would discuss more using force on the SEJC retreat on Saturday.


7 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • bobkat

    > ".... the language was very formal and "clinical," and the narrative is not a human-centric approach." <

    That's because if the document was to ever be used against the involved officer(s) the language used in court would be very "formal" and clinically spelled out in "legalese." Official reports written for review and/or possible use by the courts, are never composed in "street lingo." If the commissioners need the reports interepreted or spelled out for them, perhaps they should either hire, or be supplied with, someone who can perform this task for them.

    Wednesday, May 24 Report this

  • RetiredPoliceChief

    Sometimes agencies just get it right, as exemplified by President Obama's defense of the IRS, when he said that there was “not even a smidgen of corruption” behind the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups.

    Wednesday, May 24 Report this

  • JW

    bobkat hits it right on the head.

    Wednesday, May 24 Report this

  • Yeti1981

    We're just slowly drifting into the reality of what was portrayed in the movie Idiocracy.

    Wednesday, May 24 Report this

  • GaunyCW

    It is sad to hear that our community has unqualified people sitting on public panels. Apparently, none are familiar with what a audit is. An audit is a review of policy. An audit is to ensure that you are doing what you say you're doing through your policies. If there is a problem with policy, that is a separate issue and one for elected officials to address. I applaud our Olympia Police Department for their transparency and for receiving such a high rating on their audit. The high rating on the audit supports the assertion that the agency is transparent, and they are doing what they say they are doing in their policy. I find the comments of this commission's biased and ignorant.

    Wednesday, May 24 Report this

  • JasonS

    I'm disappointed but not surprised at how many willfully ignorant comments were made yesterday in response to this article. Asking for the same human-centric sentence structure to be applied to police officers' actions which are applied to suspects' actions is not "street lingo". If it is said that a "suspect stabbed the officer with a knife" and not "a sharp object was deployed", then it should likewise be stated that an "officer used a taser against the suspect" and not "conducive energy weapons were deployed". It's not too much to ask for fair and equitable subject-verb sentence structure.

    Thursday, May 25 Report this

  • HappyOlympian

    2% of arrests involved the use of force. A bit more than once per week. Sounds like OPD has become an exemplar of restraint. Great job, OPD!

    Thursday, May 25 Report this