Seattle Police Department

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Seattle Police Department
Logo/Patch of the Seattle Police Department
Logo/Patch of the Seattle Police Department
MottoService, Pride, Dedication
Agency overview
EmployeesSworn Officers – 1,325 deployable Civilian Employees - 631
Annual budget$410m (2020)[1]
Jurisdictional structure
Operations jurisdictionWashington, U.S.
Seattle in King County.png
Seattle Police jurisdiction
Size142.5 square miles (369 km2)
Legal jurisdictionCity of Seattle
General nature
Operational structure
HeadquartersSeattle, Washington, U.S.
Police Officersc. 1,325[2]
Agency executive
Seattle Police Website

The Seattle Police Department (SPD) is the principal law enforcement agency of the city of Seattle, Washington, United States, except for the campus of the University of Washington, which is under the responsibility of its own police department. The SPD is nationally accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.

Law enforcement in Seattle began with the election of John T. Jordan as town marshal in 1870.[3] The SPD was officially organized on June 2, 1869. Today it has a number of specialty units including SWAT, bike patrol, harbor patrol, motorcycles, mounted patrols, and a variety of detective units;[4] it had a staff of around 1,800 as of 2011.[5] Fifty-eight officers have died in the line of duty since the SPD's establishment.[6]

The SPD has been under federal oversight since 2012, when policy and procedural reforms were instituted after a United States Department of Justice investigation found that SPD officers routinely used excessive force.[7]

Patrolmen are represented by the Seattle Police Officers' Guild in labor negotiations.[8]

Command structure[edit]

  • Chief of Police: Adrian Z. Diaz (acting)[9][10]
  • Deputy Chief: [needs update]
  • Chief Operating Officer: Mark Baird
  • Assistant Chief–Patrol Operations Bureau: Thomas Mahaffey
  • Assistant Chief–Criminal Investigations Bureau: Deanna Nollette
  • Assistant Chief–Professional Standards Bureau: Lesley Cordner
  • Assistant Chief–Collaborative Policing: Steve Hirjak
  • Assistant Chief–Special Operations Bureau: Eric Greening
  • Assistant Chief: Bryan Grenon
  • Assistant Chief–Homeland Security: Captain Bryan Grenon
  • Executive Director–Legal Affairs: Attorney Rebecca Boatright
  • Executive Director–Administration: CAO Valarie Anderson
  • Executive Director–Budget and Finance: Executive Director Angela Socci
  • Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives: Chief Strategic Advisor Christopher Fisher

Rank structure and insignia[edit]

Rank structure and insignia[11] [12]
Title Insignia
Chief of Police
4 Gold Stars.svg
Deputy Chief
3 Gold Stars.svg
Assistant Chief
2 Gold Stars.svg
Captain insignia gold.svg
Sergeant Major*
SCHP - Sergeant.png
Detective No insignia
Police Officer No insignia

Sergeant Major Arnold "Arny" McGinnis(retired in 2012) is the only known SPD member to hold the rank.*


After three years in patrol, officers can become candidates to transfer to a wide variety of specialty units and are also eligible to attend a weeklong detective school. After five years as a police officer, they can take a promotional examination. Every other year, civil service tests are administered for promotions. Tests are given for the rank of sergeant, lieutenant, and captain. Assistant and Deputy chiefs are appointed by the chief from the management ranks. Officers may be promoted to sergeant after five years of experience with the Department and passing the sergeant's exam. Lieutenants must have at least three years' experience as sergeants, and captains must have at least three years' experience as lieutenants. A bachelor's degree may substitute for one year of experience but can only be used for one promotional exam.[13]


Regular patrol officers in uniform at Seattle Hempfest

The department was established in the 1880s after a lynching and a number of race riots. By 1896, there were 43 police officers.[14]

The state of Washington prohibited alcohol in 1916. Police Lieutenant Roy Olmstead began a bootlegging operation. In March 1920 he was arrested by Federal probations agents and was fired from his job with the department. He went on to run a very profitable operation. He enjoyed a very good reputation for his integrity as a rum-runner and was active in the community. He was convicted in 1921 with twenty others in an early case that used telephone wiretaps. He was released in 1931 and pardoned by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935.

In June 1924, Bertha Landes served as acting mayor while Edwin J. Brown was out of the city to attend the marathon Democratic National Convention. In a newspaper story Police Chief William Severyns said that the department had at least a hundred corrupt officers. Mayor Landes ordered the chief to fire one hundred officers. He refused. Landes fired him. Mayor Brown rushed back to the city to reverse Mayor Landes' actions.[14]

In 1926, Chief Severyns described to the Seattle Union Record police brutality that included questioning suspects in a rowboat in Lake Washington with a heavy weight tied around their necks.[14]

In July 1935, the city council held hearings on the many gambling and prostitution dens in the city. The police chief claimed he had no knowledge of such activities in the city. Councilman Fred Hamley walked with the chief onto Fourth Avenue to an establishment that featured a roulette wheel and handed him an ax. The chief remained in office.[14]

In the autumn of 1947, police Chief George Eastman reassigned the police captain in charge of suppressing illegal alcohol sales after complaints such establishments were running openly. The chief took no steps to otherwise discipline the man.[14]

In November 1969, police Chief Frank Ramon retired after accusations that he had tried to stifle an investigation into gambling and government corruption.[15]

A Seattle Police car on patrol near 2nd Ave downtown.

On June 21, 1974, a Seattle Police helicopter on its way to a shooting collided with a Cessna plane near Boeing Field. Both officers on board and both civilians in the plane were killed.[16]

In 1987, the Seattle Police Department created the modern mountain bike patrol units, paving the way for cities across North America to follow.[17]

In 2011, the United States Justice Department found that the department had engaged in a pattern of constitutional violations in its use of force.[18]

In 2012, the rank of "Sergeant Major" was created and bestowed upon then-Sergeant Arnold "Arny" McGinnis. Sergeant Major McGinnis started working at the Seattle Police Department in 1962, holding the rank of police officer. He retired in July 2012 at the age of 75, reaching fifty years of service to the city of Seattle. He is the only member of the SPD known to hold the rank.[19]

On May 19, 2014, Kathleen O'Toole was nominated to serve as Chief of the Seattle Police Department and was officially appointed on June 23, 2014.[20]

2020 George Floyd protests[edit]

Seattle riot police block a road on Capitol Hill during the George Floyd protests on June 25, 2020

On Sunday May 31, 2020, the department blockaded the streets around the East Precinct which was located at the intersection of 12th Ave E and E Pine. They did this before a protest march approached the precinct. The march moved on after a short while. On Monday June 1 a much larger group of thousands marched from Westlake Plaza to the intersection of 11th Ave E and E Pine where the street was blockaded. This day the march did not move on. After several hours the police ordered the group to disperse. When they did not they tear gassed the protestors.[21] A similar gathering formed the next night. This was also ordered to disperse and tear gassed. On June 3, Mayor Jenny Durkan lifted the curfew that had been in effect since May 30. On June 5, Mayor Durkan banned the use of tear gas for 30 days without the approval of the Police Chief.[22] On Saturday June 6, the police again used pepper spray and non-tear gas explosives to try to disperse demonstrators. Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant said “The police had come prepared to inflict violence without provocation.” By this time protestors had coalesced around demands of defunding of the police department by at least 50 percent, an expansion of investments in black and brown communities, and releasing all protestors.[23] Nightly protests continued until June 7 when the crowd was again dispersed by flash bangs and tear gas, which the police said was in response to protesters throwing projectiles at officers.[24] On Monday June 8 the police boarded up the precinct and withdrew from the building. Later that night residents declared "Free Capitol Hill".[25]

On June 17, 2020, King County Labor Council delegates voted to expel the Seattle Police Officers Guild from the organization, following a demand pushed by many protesters.[26]

On August 11, 2020, it was announced that Police Chief Carmen Best would retire, effective September 2, 2020. Deputy Chief Adrian Z. Diaz will succeed Best in an interim capacity until a permanent replacement is selected.[27][28]

Controversies and misconduct[edit]

Before 2000[edit]

In June 1901, Police Chief William L. Meredith was forced to resign by a by Seattle City Council investigation that found to have taken bribes and allowed illegal gambling operations to flourish. Meredith then ambushed one of his accusers in a local drugstore with a shotgun and pistol. It went badly for him and he was killed by John Considine, his intended victim.[29]

In 1911, Police Chief Charles W Wappenstein was ousted by a reform-minded mayor. He was convicted on state charges related to bribery, prostitution, and other vices. In December 1913, Governor Ernest Lister granted him a pardon. He died in 1931.[30]

In January 1967, the Seattle Times ran a series of stories revealing a long-standing and widespread culture of corruption in the police department. Gambling dens, illegal bars and gay clubs were forced to pay protection to the local patrolman who kept half and passed to his sergeant who in turn kept half and passed the remainder along.[31]

Former homicide detective, Earl “Sonny” Davis, was accused of stealing at least $11,400 on Oct. 1, 1996, from the belongings of an elderly man, Bodegard Mitchell, who was fatally shot by police during a standoff at a South Seattle apartment. Davis' ex-partner, Cloyd Steiger, testified he saw Davis pocket a bundle of cash - which Steiger initially believed to be about $100 - while the two were searching the apartment for evidence. Steiger further testified Davis asked him if he had a problem with taking money, referred to it as a "squad thing".[32]

In 1999, Seattle hosted the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference. The Seattle Police Department was criticized for failing to properly prepare for protest activity involving over 100,000 protesters that disrupted the conference. While the majority of protestors were not violent, some assaulted delegates and police, and destroyed property. The protest soon devolved into a riot. In response, SPD used chemical agents and less-lethal weapons in an attempt to restore order. News footage of this response and of the rioting was broadcast worldwide. No protesters or police officers were injured seriously enough during the riot to require hospitalization. Chief Norm Stamper resigned amid the scrutiny of police response to the event.[33]


In 2001, riots broke out downtown during the Mardi Gras celebrations. The riots resulted in one death, more than 70 hospitalizations, and 21 arrests. The Seattle Police Officers' Guild membership voted overwhelmingly "no confidence" in Chief Gil Kerlikowske for his failure to take appropriate leadership action during the incident.

On May 22, 2009, SPD officer and hostage negotiator Eugene Schubeck shot Nathaniel Caylor in the face. Police were responding to a report that Caylor was suicidal and had locked himself in his apartment with his son. Caylor was speaking to Schubeck from his patio, and was shot when he attempted to re-enter his apartment. In June 2015, the resulting use-of-force lawsuit was settled for $1.975 million, the largest such settlement in the city's history.[34]


In August 2010, SPD officer Ian Birk shot and killed Native American woodcarver John T. Williams.[35][36][37] Subsequent grand jury findings on the level of threat posed by Williams were inconclusive but an internal review of the shooting by the SPD's Firearms Review Commission found the shooting "unjustified" and cited Birk's tactical mishandling of the confrontation as being responsible for Williams' death.[38][39] Birk resigned from the department, though prosecutor Dan Satterberg declined to file charges, prompting a protest by Williams' family and supporters.[40]

In 2010, detectives from SPD's Gang Unit ordered two Latino men suspected of committing a crime to lie on the ground, where they were kicked and verbally assaulted; the incident was captured on a bystander's cellphone video.[41][42] The police let the men go soon afterwards; the video prompted protests over racial tensions and a police department internal investigation. Several officers were suspended without pay and/or demoted, but not criminally charged. A civil lawsuit by one of the two men has been filed. It was settled later in 2012 for $100,000.[43]

In December 2011, the SPD was subject to a U.S. Department of Justice investigation that found officers had violated the 14th Amendment and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The DOJ found that SPD officers engaged in a pattern of excessive use of force that violated the Constitution as well as Federal law. Furthermore, the regular invocation of the Garrity v. New Jersey protection was found to have reduced the department's ability to supervise the use of force and hinder investigations. A spokesman for the SPD indicated they will fully comply with the DOJ inquiry to avoid a federal lawsuit.[44] In late July 2012, the city and Department of Justice reached a settlement that included improved oversight, training and reporting.[45]

On 6 October 2012, Officer Eric Faust beat a man he was attempting to detain. In September 2013, as a result of an internal investigation, the department suspended Faust for eight days without pay.[46]

On 13 July 2013, the department fired Lieutenant Donnie Lowe due to misconduct characterized as domestic violence and dishonesty.[47]

On 30 July 2013, Officer John Marion, threatened a reporter who was observing a number of policemen making an arrest. An internal investigation of Marion's behavior confirmed his actions. He was given a single day of unpaid suspension.[48][49]

In August 2013, the city agreed to pay two brothers $38,500 for a case of abuse. The two men claimed they were targeted by Officer Michael Waters because he was upset at how they had treated him at a local bar. According to the claim, Waters and his partner used the pretext of looking for two bank robbers to humiliate and assault the two men. Although the city agreed to settle the matter, neither officer was punished and they continue on the force.[50]

In January 2014, Detective David Blackmer plead guilty to stalking his mistress after she threatened to reveal their relationship to his wife. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail. An internal police investigation was then launched to determine whether he should be fired.[51]

In July 2014, Officer Cynthia Whitlatch arrested William Wingate, a black pedestrian who had a golf club that he was using as a cane. She falsely claimed that Wingate had swung his cane at her and he was charged with obstruction and harassment and spent a night in jail. When video showed he had done nothing to provoke the officer, the police department apologized in January 2015.[52] Whitlatch was later fired by Chief O'Toole.[53]

In November 2016, Officer Adley Shepherd was fired after he punched a drunk, handcuffed woman who kicked him while he was putting her into the back of his police car. An arbitrator on the Disciplinary Review Board later attempted to reduce the firing to a 15-day suspension, but was overruled by a King County Superior Court judge.[54] The case was again appealed to the Court of Appeals which upheld the previous ruling, writing that the arbitrator's decision to overturn Shepherd's firing "sends a message to officers that a violation of a clear and specific policy is not that serious if the officer is dealing with a difficult subject, losing patience, or passionate in believing that he or she did nothing wrong — however mistaken that belief may be."[55]

In March 2017, a duffel bag in the South Precinct was found containing a handgun reported stolen in 1990.[56]

In May 2018, Officer Matthew Kerby drove to a West Seattle house in search of a man who allegedly drove away from a minor collision. When he found that the man was not home, he falsely told a woman at the home that the man had been involved in a hit-and-run in which a woman involved might not survive. This led to a chain of events which culminated in the man's suicide in June of that year. Kerby was later suspended for six days without pay.[57]

In July 2018, officers Kenneth Martin and Tabitha Sexton were fired after an October 2017 incident in which they shot 27 rounds into a fleeing car in Eastlake.[58]

In October 2018, Sergeant Frank Poblocki was demoted to officer after he sat for 40 minutes outside the workplace of a man who cursed him and called him names. Witnesses say he referred to this behavior as community policing.[59]

In February 2019, the city agreed to pay Alonzo Price-Holt $100,001, as well as $58,989 in attorney fees, to settle a federal lawsuit that alleged excessive use of force by Officer Zsolt Dornay. Footage from the holding cell shows Officer Dornay tackling Price-Holt, who had his hands handcuffed behind his back. Dornay was also given 30 days of unpaid leave as a result of the incident.[60] Dornay had previously been convicted of drunk driving.[61]


In January 2020, Officer Duane Goodman was fired for his Instagram posts, which a report by the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) described as using "extreme profane language" and posts that ranted against "illegal immigration" and "appeared to endorse violence" against Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The department contacted the U.S. Secret Service, who interviewed Goodman, after he captioned an image of a package bomb with the message, "I don't condone sending package bombs but god it would be nice for Killary and Anti-cop Obama to finally STFU! Maybe Obama will stop lying and claiming the good economy is from him."[62][63]

In February 2020, Officer Todd Novisedlak was fired after an investigation by the OPA which cited his physically abusing his ex-girlfriend, his marijuana use, and his repeatedly making discriminatory and derogatory remarks against others based on race, sexual orientation, and gender.[64] This follows a 2015 court case, settled by the city, in which a man was jailed for a week after a kidnapping victim "positively identified" a license photograph, shown to her by Novisedlak, of a man with the same name as one of the suspects.[65]

In the same month, it was reported that Lieutenant Sina Ebinger, who led the city's Navigation Team, used the city contractor which clears encampments to remove personal garbage from her home.[66] An investigation by the Office of Police Accountability found that in addition to using city resources for personal benefit, she told investigators several different versions of her story and deleted her entire text and browsing history and phone log. After the OPA findings were released, she retired from the department in lieu of termination.[67]

In May 2020, during the George Floyd protests in Washington state, while Seattle police were attempting to detain looters, a white suspect was restrained with an officer's knee on his neck for 13 seconds while bystanders urged the officer to stop. This continued until a second officer intervened to push the first officer's knee to the suspect's back. This was documented on video. George Floyd himself had died after being restrained with a knee on his neck during an arrest.[68] According to The Huffington Post, further video footage showed that the same Seattle officer had just used his knee on the neck of another white looting suspect.[69]

In June 2020, a Federal Judge in Seattle ordered local police to stop using tear gas, pepper spray, stun grenade, "rubber bullets", and other force against non-violent protestors, finding that the Seattle Police had used excessive force against demonstrators, violating their right to free speech.[70]

An investigation by the South Seattle Emerald in July 2020 found that at least eight SPD officers violated department policy and possibly election law by registering to vote at their precinct address, as opposed to their residential address.[71] After the OPA investigation concluded, five officers (including the Seattle Police Officers Guild president Mike Solan) received written reprimands or 1 day suspensions.[72]

Police union president Mike Solan faced calls for him to resign after falsely claiming that the attack on the national Capitol was at least partially the fault of Black Lives Matter and other left-wing activists in early January 2021.[8] At least two SPD officers who attended the riot or the preceding rally were placed on administrative leave.[73] SPD officers Alexander Everett and Caitlin Rochelle, a married couple, were later fired after an OPA investigation found that they trespassed onto Capitol grounds during the attack.[74][75]


A majority of SPD officers carry various models and calibers of Glock pistols.

Various Glock models used by SPD are the Glock Model 17 9mm, Glock Model 22 .40 S&W, and the Glock Model 21 .45 ACP being among the ones used. The Glock Model 19 9 mm and Model 23 .40 are also used. Other weapons can be used for special assignments include Beretta, Sig Sauer, Heckler & Koch, among others of approved calibers.[76]

AR-15's and shotguns are also issued to patrol officers after additional required qualification(s).

Specialty units including SWAT utilize select fire suppressed rifles (typically an AR variant), HK MP5 SMG's, shotguns and sniper weapon systems.

Bike Unit[edit]

The SPD's Bike Unit was the first mountain bike unit in the United States.[17]

In 2005, the department started testing the use of BlackBerry PDAs with bike patrol officers. These PDAs allowed officers on the streets access to police records when the use of regular mobile data computer is not available.[77]

Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum[edit]

The Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum was a museum in the city's Pioneer Square neighborhood. Founded in 1997, it was dedicated to the history of the Seattle Police Department and of law enforcement in the Seattle metropolitan area. It claimed to be the largest police museum in the western United States until its closure in 2017.[78]

See also[edit]


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  6. ^ "Officer down". The Officer Down Memorial Page.
  7. ^ "Year 3 of SPD oversight: Are new policies making a difference?". Seattle Times. 2015.
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  9. ^ "Command Structure", Seattle Police Department, archived from the original on August 14, 2020
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  13. ^ "West CPT Team – Seattle Police Department".
  14. ^ a b c d e Bayle, Christopher (2015). Seattle Justice. Seattle: Sasquatch Books. ISBN 978-1-63217-030-9.
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  17. ^ a b "LEBA".
  18. ^ SPD officer suspended for escalating confrontation, excessive force, by Steve Miletich, 10 September 2013, Seattle Times
  19. ^ Casey McNerthney (June 27, 2012). "After nearly 50 years, Seattle cop still on patrol". Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
  20. ^ "Former Boston Police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole picked to run Seattle Police Department".
  21. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
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  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ Chase Burns, Rich Smith and Jasmyne KeimigCasey McNerthney (June 9, 2020). "The Dawn of "Free Capitol Hill"". The Stranger.
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  42. ^ Jonah Spangenthal-Lee (May 7, 2010). "I'm going to beat the fucking Mexican piss out of you, homey! You feel me?". PubliCola. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
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  46. ^ SPD officer suspended for escalating confrontation, excessive force; Police chief's discipline addresses the type of issues raised by the Department of Justice when it found Seattle officers too often resort to excessive force, by Steve Miletich, 10 September 2013, Seattle Times
  47. ^ PD fires high-ranking officer with troubled history; Donnie Lowe, a veteran Seattle Police officer with a troubled history, was fired on Friday, by Mike Carter, 13 July 2013, Seattle Times
  48. ^ ad Cop Gets "Punished" with Day Off; SPD Says Officer's "Completely Unprofessional" Threats Against Me—Caught on Tape—Deserve a Relaxing One-Day Suspension, by Dominic Holden, 15 January 2014, The Stranger
  49. ^ Holden, Dominic. "Hostile Policing". The Stranger.
  50. ^ City to pay $38,500 to two brothers who accused SPD officer of vendetta, by Steve Miletich 6 August 2013, Seattle Times
  51. ^ Seattle detective gets 90 days for cyberstalking, by the Associated Press, 8 January 2014, Seattle Times
  52. ^ Izadi, Elahe (January 29, 2015). "Video shows Seattle cop arresting elderly black man using golf club as cane". Washington Post. Retrieved January 31, 2015.
  53. ^ Miletich, Steve. "Seattle police chief fires cop who arrested man carrying golf club". Seattle Times. Retrieved September 16, 2015.
  54. ^ Kamb, Lewis (August 16, 2019). "Judge reverses arbitrator's rule reinstating Seattle police officer who punched handcuffed suspect". The Seattle Times. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  55. ^ Kiefer, Paul (April 6, 2021). "Court Upholds Firing of SPD Officer Who Punched Handcuffed Woman". South Seattle Emerald. Retrieved April 14, 2021.
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  65. ^ Carter, Mike (October 29, 2015). "Seattle will pay $35K to man wrongly identified in kidnapping, assault". The Seattle Times. Retrieved March 3, 2020.
  66. ^ "Police Lieutenant Had Navigation Team Haul Her Personal Trash". PubliCola. February 19, 2020. Retrieved April 16, 2021.
  67. ^ Barnett, Erica (April 16, 2021). "Police Officer Who Made City's Encampment Cleanup Crew Haul Her Trash "Retires" in Lieu of Firing". PubliCola.
  68. ^ Sorace, Stephen (June 2, 2020). "Seattle cop removes fellow officer's knee from neck of man detained amid looting, video shows". Fox News. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
  69. ^ Mazza, Ed (June 1, 2020). "Police Caught On Camera Pressing Knee Into Neck During Seattle Arrest". The Huffington Post. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
  70. ^ Seipel, Brooke (June 12, 2020). "Federal judge orders Seattle police to halt use of tear gas, pepper spray on protesters". TheHill. Retrieved June 13, 2020.
  71. ^ Bick, Carolyn (July 21, 2020). "Some SPD Officers Appear to Have Violated Election Law by Registering Precincts as Voting Addresses". South Seattle Emerald. Retrieved June 24, 2021.
  72. ^ Bick, Carolyn (July 21, 2020). "Some SPD Officers Appear to Have Violated Election Law by Registering Precincts as Voting Addresses". South Seattle Emerald. Retrieved June 24, 2021.
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  74. ^ Kamb, Lewis; Carter, Mike (July 8, 2021). "Two Seattle officers trespassed on U.S. Capitol grounds during riot and should be fired, investigation finds". The Seattle Times. Retrieved July 9, 2021.
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  76. ^
  77. ^ "Page Not Available" (PDF).
  78. ^ Berger, Knute. "Bertha may have dealt a blow to Seattle's police museum | Crosscut". Retrieved June 30, 2020.

External links[edit]