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April 11, 2021

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Court blocks release of records about Seattle cops in D.C. on Jan. 6

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SEATTLE — A court commissioner granted an emergency order Wednesday temporarily stopping the City of Seattle from disclosing records that would have identified six Seattle police officers who attended the pro-Trump rally in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 before the deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol.

King County Superior Court Commissioner Bradford Moore’s temporary restraining order — sought by the officers in legal pleadings — halts the city’s planned release of investigation and personnel information in response to four public-records requests until March 10, The Seattle Times reported. A judge that day is set to decide whether to grant the officers a permanent injunction.

Had the officers not obtained the order by 5 p.m. Thursday, Assistant City Attorney Carolyn Boies said the city was prepared to release the records on Friday to four individuals, including a local KOMO news reporter, who had requested the records under the state’s Public Records Act.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday seeking the restraining order, all the officers acknowledged they attended a rally Jan. 6 in support of Trump’s false claim that the November election was stolen, as an exercise of “their constitutional rights to free speech.”

But the lawsuit and the officers’ attorney, Kelly Sheridan, said none of the officers participated in the riot at the Capitol afterward, or in any wrongdoing.

When images surfaced on social media of two Seattle officers at the rally two days later, the Seattle Police Department ordered any officer who had attended the event to report their participation. The department and the city’s Office of Police Accountability since have announced that six officers known to have attended the event are being investigated to determine if they engaged in criminal activities or violated department policy.

Chief Adrian Diaz has said he would fire any officer found to have engaged in criminal conduct at the Capitol.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Sheridan argued the officers would be targeted, harassed and suffer irreparable harm to their privacy, safety, reputation and constitutional rights if records revealing their identities were released before the internal investigation is finished.

Moore found that the officers had met at least the threshold for a temporary order, agreeing that release of the records posed potential privacy and constitutional concerns.

Since the officers filed their lawsuit this week, the city has received numerous similar requests, or notices of existing ones, seeking records pertaining to the officers. The Seattle Times previously submitted at least two requests related to officers who attended the rally.

However, Moore limited his order only to the four requests in question, declining Assistant City Attorney Boies’ suggestion to apply it more broadly to cover similar requests.

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