Every major city has attempted to improve – in a "let's not actually address the problem" sort of way – community-police relations in recent years by establishing some sort of ostensibly civilian review or oversight board. In theory, this provides a layer of accountability over law enforcement who otherwise seem to act with impunity. In practice, these organizations are loaded up with carefully selected, inevitably very old or very white (preferably both) people whose reflex is to make excuses for police no matter what they do. When your Review and Accountability Board judges that every police-involved shooting is justified, it doesn't take people long to figure out that it might not be a source of independent oversight after all.
Seattle offers us an outstanding example of the phenomenon when its review board ruled not merely that the Seattle PD killing of 20 year old Tommy Le was justified because police "thought" he was holding a knife (it was a pen) but also that even if they HAD realized he was holding a pen it would have been justified anyway because a pen “can be used as an improvised weapon. Aimed at vulnerable parts of the body, like the face or throat, it can cause serious bodily injury if used to stab someone.”
The report similarly concluded that Le was advancing on the officers – a linchpin of their case for having used lethal force against him – without addressing the autopsy report indicating he was shot in the back twice.
Le clearly was on drugs when confronted – he was screaming and referring to himself as "The Creator" – so it's not inconceivable that he might have been hard to handle. But if police cannot handle a stoned kid holding a pen with anything short of shooting him three times, then that is a remarkable indictment of how bad the Seattle Police are at their jobs. It's certainly not a justification for their actions.
The review board's statement is exceptional here. It doesn't stop, as it could have, at whitewashing the shooting. Everyone expects that when police departments and their apologists investigate themselves they will conclude inevitably that the officers "feared for their safety" and thus had no choice but to shoot the suspect however many times they felt appropriate. But they go on to state that even if a set of circumstances that did not exist had existed, the shooting still would have been justified. The officers asserted all along that they believed he was holding a knife. Hey that's great, but even if you guys knew fully well that it was a pen you can still plug the kid because, hey, a pen can be a super dangerous weapon too, in certain scenarios we've seen in movies.
It's useful signaling to the police to let them know just how far the institutions that allegedly oversee them will go to cover for them.