UPDATE: The prosecutor's office is disputing some of this information. The response can be seen at this link.
King County, WA – Some law enforcement officers in King County feel like the prosecutor has declared open season on them after his office announced it would no longer prosecute assaults on officers that were the result of a suspect resisting arrest.
King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg’s position on assaults on law enforcement officers in his county was revealed after his office failed to charge a drunk woman who kicked an officer in the crotch, KTTH reported.
The 20-year-old suspect was wearing leather boots when she administered the kick.
She was arrested, but was ultimately not charged with assaulting the officer, according to KTTH.
Satterberg’s office told KTTH via email that they will only charge assault in the third degree (assault on a police officer), “if the assault can best be described as an intentional attack on the officer and the officer has an injury or experiences significant pain as a result of the assault.”
This brings up the problem with the prosecutor’s definition of “intentional,” and King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht called him out on it.
“From my reading of the deputy’s report, I would say it would seem like it was an intentional kick at the deputy,” Sheriff Johanknecht said. “And that I truly believe him when he says he was in pain about that. You know there’s all kinds of things that come into play here, as you know, as to filing guidelines and all those other things … but I believe the deputy was hurt, not enough to, thank goodness, be hospitalized. But a lot of pain.”
But the prosecutor’s office pointed to the fact they believed the suspect was inebriated at the time of the incident.
“Certainly, the suspect’s mental state did not diminish the pain the officer involved experienced as a result of her actions, but it does affect our ability to prove an intentional assault,” a spokesman for Satterberg’s office told KTTH.
The spokesman pointed to the charging guidelines and said the prosecutor’s office was following the standards.
“That [standard] is wrong on so many levels and makes it open season on LEO’s. It’s infuriating,” one deputy told KTTH.
The sheriff said she doesn’t think the policy is well-known to the public.
“I think the general public would be surprised by how the filing standards describe that from the prosecutor’s office,” Sheriff Johanknecht told KTTH. “Again, to be clear, I’m not trying to be critical of Mr. Satterberg’s office. I’m just coming from the law enforcement slant of this… you know, we do go out of the way in training to try to avoid physical contact with people… There are just times when you have to place your hands on people and when they resist, it is very frustrating. Very frustrating for me, very frustrating for my deputies.”
She said more law enforcement officers will be injured if a suspect knows that they won’t be charged with assault when they resist arrest.
The sheriff said the county prosecutor needed “to rethink this” and expressed a desire to work with Satterberg to come to a consensus.
Sheriff Johanknecht hoped “there’s opportunity to compromise on some of these things since every law enforcement agency deals with this more regularly each and every day.”