SEATTLE -- The Office of Professional Accountability has found that a Seattle police officer made a false statement to her sergeant when she accused a TV news crew of searching a suspect's car.
The OPA published its findings on its website Tuesday following a half-year investigation of Sgt. Lora Alcantara.
"Credibility and trust in what police officers say is a bedrock of policing in a democratic society," said OPA Director Pierce Murphy. "Systems depend, juries depend, and judges depend on being able to trust what officers say."
Despite the fact that it sustained the complaint against her, Chief Kathleen O'Toole cannot impose any discipline due to the collective bargaining agreement between the city and the Seattle Police Officer's Guild.
KING 5 discovered the accusation last spring, in reviewing in-car video footage of Sgt. Alcantara. Alcantara was already reprimanded for using a racial slur during a police chase that day in February of 2013.
We first noticed the problem with Alcantara's account of what happened after viewing her dash cam video from a police chase.
The video shows, during the search, Alcantara came across a TV news crew, who had stopped by an unoccupied vehicle.
She went to look at the car, which can't be seen by the dashboard camera. The officer has a brief exchange with the reporter as she drives away.
Alcantara eventually came back to the TV crew and a white sedan which was now in the camera's view.
You can see the reporter, Essex Porter, looking into the window of the car and then he goes to catch up with his live truck.
Alcantara can be seen eventually walking to the driver side, opening the door, and briefly looking through the car. But she later told her sergeant off-camera that it was the TV crew who searched the car.
"The news crew was here going through the car," she can be heard saying. "They opened up that door."
But the only person the video showed going through the car is Alcantara.
We obtained Alcantara's written report from that day, where she gave a different version of the story.
She writes "News reporter Essex Porter was next to the suspect vehicle near the passenger door as if he was opening it. I yelled to Essex is the car unoccupied, did you see who got out of it. Essex did not know if the car was empty. For officer safety, I cleared the vehicle to make sure no one was inside the vehicle it was clear."
Even though she appeared to give two different accounts of what happened, her written report at least is more consistent with the dash cam video.
The TV crew has told KING 5 and the OPA that they never searched the car.