The Office of Police Accountability (OPA) has opened an investigation into Seattle Police Officer Mark Rawlins after he threw a handcuffed, 58-year-old Black man to the ground last September at the King County Jail. Jail supervisors reported Rawlins for his actions, noting the man needed to be taken to hospital after the incident.

Footage from inside the jail shows the pre-booking sally port area at about 4 pm on September 8, 2023. Rawlins walks into the area with the man in handcuffs. The video has no audio, but Rawlins appears to direct the man to stand in front of a small window, presumably to wait for jail staff to check him in. After about a minute, the man starts moving around, remaining generally in the same area, as he and Rawlins appear to talk. 

Rawlins starts to move closer to the man, who then backs away a step from the officer. Rawlins appears to direct the man to a bench at the far end of the room, but the man doesn’t move. Rawlins grabs for the man’s arm, and the man appears to pull his arm away, which prompts Rawlins to grab the man by the shirt and push him toward the bench. Once near the bench, Rawlins seems to try to turn the man to the side before flinging him to the ground. 

(Note: The date stamp on the footage follows a date, month, year format. Jail reports clearly recorded the date as September 8, 2023.)

Jail staff reports say (and video footage appears to show) the man landed on his back and “was in handcuffs and unable to break his fall.” Rawlins then steps back from the man, who remains on the ground. Jail corrections officers enter after a few seconds.

According to the jail’s incident report, the man told staff his back hurt, and he asked them not to touch him. He also said he hit his head on the wall when Rawlins swung him to the ground, and jail staff noted a mark on the back of the man’s head.

When a jail sergeant told Rawlins that both the man in custody and a jail correctional officer had said Rawlins pushed the man, Rawlins “repeatedly asked to talk with the officer.” In the initial complaint to the OPA, jail Major Michael Taylor mentioned saying Rawlins “attempted to confront the witnessing staff but the booking sergeant prevented it.” 

The OPA opened up an investigation into Rawlins for use of force, professionalism, as well as integrity and ethics. When the Seattle Police Department (SPD) determines whether a use of force requires more investigation, they consider whether the person was already restrained or in custody.

SPD officers using force against people in handcuffs in the past has cost officers their jobs and the City hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawsuits. In February 2023, a judge dismissed a wrongful termination lawsuit by former Seattle Police Officer Adley Shepherd, who SPD fired for punching a handcuffed woman in 2014. In another case, Seattle veteran police officer Zsolt Dornay cost the City more than $160,000 after he tackled a man who was handcuffed in a cell in 2015.

The OPA has investigated Rawlins in eight different cases since he joined the police department in 2017, including a case where he cut into the tents of unhoused people, and another where he and three other officers failed to Mirandize a 13-year-old before trying to bully them into falsely confessing to a burglary. In 2022, Rawlins made about $177,000, with a base salary of $119,000 and about $58,000 in overtime pay.

SPD said the department does not comment on open OPA investigations. 

Editor's note: Story updated to include response from SPD.