A Seattle police officer who was caught on her dash cam accusing a 69-year-old African American man of using a golf club as a weapon was fired on Tuesday.
Officer Cynthia Whitlatch was fired "for sustained policy violations involving bias, abuse of police discretion, and escalation of a contact on July 9, 2014."
William Wingate was walking about a block from the East Precinct just a little over a year ago when he crossed paths with Whitlatch. Much of the incident was recorded on video. Whitlatch had claimed Wingate swung his golf club at her. Wingate told the officer he uses the club as a cane.
The disciplinary report states that in the police report Whitlatch assisted with "incorrectly states that you observed the man try to hit your car with a golf club."
The report states that Whitlatch's behavior towards Wingate during the stop was "inappropriately aggressive and unnecessarily escalated the interaction."
"You never asked the individual any questions during the Terry stop to determine if he had, in fact, swung the golf club towards you and/or into a stop sign. Despite that, and despite never actually seeing him swing a golf club toward your car or hitting a stop sign, you actively participated in moving forward with an arrest for obstruction and even called the prosecutor days later to push for prosecution of the individual."
In the report, Chief Kathleen O'Toole wrote that she was troubled by Whitlatch's comments about the race of a judge and deputy chief involved in expunging Wingate's criminal record related to Whitlatch's arrest of him.
"You expressed a strong belief that these actions were taken because the judge and deputy chief are black, and that race drove the decision-making of a high ranking Department official and a long-serving Municipal Court Judge, not the legitimate factual and legal analysis by thoughtful and dedicated public servants,' O'Toole wrote. "Such statements further indicate that your biased views prevent you from being able to honestly reflect on your own job performance and successfully receive constructive criticism of your policing techniques because you view the critiques as racially motivated."
O'Toole went on to say "I gave serious consideration to a lengthy suspension and disciplinary transfer to a unit that does not interact with the public, as well as removal from the sergeant's promotional registry. However, your inability to understand, even in hindsight, that your behavior was unnecessarily aggressive, an abuse of discretion, and negatively impacted the community's confidence in this police service, offers me no pathway to confidence that your behavior will improve or change. Without this ability to learn from your mistakes, understand how you can improve and do better, and recognize your own errors, you are unable to effectively function as an officer."
Seattle Police Officer Guild President Ron Smith says the firing does not fall in line with the contract between the union and the city.
"I am just really disappointed that Chief O'Toole has caved into the political pressure to make this decision," said Smith. "The city violated the agreement. It says no discipline when the investigation is not completed in 180 days."
Smith says a sworn supervisor received complaints about the Terry stop in September 2014, but it took more than 320 days for Officer Whitlatch to receive the disciplinary action. The city attorney's office says the investigation was done appropriately. There could be a tussle over the timeline in the future, but for now the Chief's report about Officer Whitlatch finishes up with four words: "Your employment is terminated."