Seattle, WA – After an extended investigation, dash cam footage was recently released, thanks to the work of a police accountability activist, showing an 11-year veteran cop violently assaulting a 21-year old homeless man.
On the evening of Saturday, January 3, Seattle police officer, Clark Dickson was dispatched as a backup officer to a homeless encampment, where officers were checking for men with outstanding warrants. After officers had arrested one man without incident, they approached 21-year-old Christopher Tavai.
The officers walk Tavai to the front of their vehicle and begin to question him about his identity. Dickson immediately postures himself in front of the homeless in an intimidating fashion and after a brief conversation Dickson, seemingly for no reason, rears back and proceeds to viciously punch the unsuspecting man directly in the face. He attempted to justify this assault by claiming that Tavai had spit on him.
In the video, Tavai can be seen leaning his head in a slightly downward angle just prior to the punch. However, an investigation conducted by the department’s civilian-led accountability arm, which included a detailed analysis of the video, couldn’t definitively prove that the homeless man ever spit in the first place.
A second video, which has not been edited for time, can be found here.
Even though he had committed no crime, Tavai was arrested and booked on charges of assault. The county attorney’s office later declined to file any formal charges against him.
Over a month after the incident, South Precinct Chief David Proudfoot watched the video and ordered an investigation. The Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) investigation took several months and found Dickson’s behavior escalated the situation.
“Stare down” behavior combined with the body posturing, tone and tenor of the words exchanged between the Named Employee [Dickson] and subject escalated the interaction. While not rising to the level of a taunt, the conduct lead to the Named Employee being close enough to the subject to be spat on. The resulting punch was immediate and occurred even before the partner officer began reacting to the spit. Timing of his reaction suggests that the Named Employee’s actions were pre-meditated.
The OPA recommended Dickson be suspended for two days without pay and undergo retraining. However, Dickson’s superiors downgraded his suspension to a single day without pay, which he served just last month.
Two months after one of his officers was caught on video attacking an innocent man, Chief Proudfoot was demoted and moved to a training unit, as reported by the South Seattle Emerald.
Sadly as we see all too often, many officers seem more interested in acting like paid bullies than public servants. Just one month after Christopher Tavai was assaulted, 19-year-old Antonio Moore was punched in the face by yet another officer who then lied to try and cover up his actions.
The savage violence enacted by so many “peace officers” is in no way limited in its scope of victims. Just this year, police have been caught on video beating teenagers, pregnant women, and even their own k-9’s.
How many more horrifying police brutality videos will it take for people to stop looking towards the system that has created this problem to solve the problem?