By Ruth Bayang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Nearly nine months after Kert Lin became the target of hateful verbal attacks and his frustration with the Seattle Police Department (SPD)’s lack of a response, the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) has found that both the responding officer and that officer’s supervisor violated SPD policies.
On May 12, 2020, Lin was in the parking lot of Home Depot on 2701 Utah Avenue South, just outside the International District, when a man in a truck yelled, “Chink, open your eyes, go back to China!”
Lin called 911 to report the incident. The responding officer, who wore a body camera and was recording, can be heard telling Lin, “It doesn’t sound like a crime occurred. It sounds like he’s being a jerk… But if there’s not a crime committed, we can’t detain and take enforcement action.”
This incident came weeks after then-Police Chief Carmen Best released a video, urging people to call 911 over racist name-calling, saying there is “zero tolerance for hate crimes against Asian Americans.” Lin told the Northwest Asian Weekly that Best’s message was not being taken to heart by the rank and file.
After speaking to Lin, the responding officer (referred in the OPA report as ‘Named Employee #1’ NE#1) went over the radio and stated that there was “no crime.” The officer did call Lin several hours later to take a report over the phone. Lin told the OPA that he did not feel that the officer was empathic.
OPA also said Lin spoke to multiple SPD employees, including the Bias Crime Coordinator and then-Deputy Chief of Police Adrian Diaz (now the Chief).
“The Bias Crime Coordinator confirmed that NE#1 should have completed a report and was trained to do so. He said that the then-Deputy Chief also indicated that this incident was not handled correctly,” the OPA report said.
The responding officer received a written reprimand and his supervising sergeant resigned before any disciplinary actions were handed down.
SPD Policy 15.120-POL-3 specifically instructs officers to document all bias crimes and bias incidents on an offense report. Relevant to this case, the policy defines a “bias incident” as: “Offensive derogatory comments directed at a person’s sexual orientation, race, or other protected status which cause fear and/or concern in the targeted community during a non-criminal incident.”
The responding officer confirmed to the OPA that he attended training on how to handle bias incidents in the months prior, and confirmed that he understood the substance of that training.
By failing to generate a report at the outset which is unambiguously stated in policy, the OPA said the damage was already done.
“By his inaction and failure to correctly characterize the requirements of a policy, he significantly diminished the Complainant’s confidence in the outcome in this investigation and in his actions, and it further gave the perception that this incident was being minimized.
It goes on to say, “Moreover, even when the decision was made to complete the report, NE#1 did not do it correctly. His report had a number of shortcomings that went directly to requirements in the policy, including: mischaracterizing the incident—initially calling is a dispute and only later classifying it as a bias incident; failing to list the Complainant as victim, when this was clearly the case; and failing to list the suspect as the suspect.
While perhaps not his intent, this provided further evidence of his mishandling of this incident and gave support to the Complainant’s assertion that NE#1 minimized what he experienced.”
In a previous interview, Lin told the Northwest Asian Weekly, “I want accountability… not just from SPD leadership, not the head of Hate Crimes, but from everyone who wears a badge, who patrols… on every level of society, this was ignored from that individual racist, to the corporation, to local police, to your regular bystander… not one person did anything about this. That’s what struck me as hurtful… it feels like I was nobody.”
Ruth can be reached at email@example.com.