Seattle asst. police chief cleared in WSP misconduct investigation


by KING 5 News and Associated Press

Posted on May 8, 2012 at 11:48 AM

Updated Tuesday, May 8 at 5:49 PM

SEATTLE -- King County prosecutors said they won't file criminal charges against Seattle Assistant Police Chief Mike Sanford, who was under investigation for allegations of official misconduct.

Sanford, 51, is leading the department’s response to a Department of Justice probe into alleged civil rights violations by Seattle police. Sanford also commands the Patrol Operations Bureau, which oversees all five police precincts, and has been with the department since 1984.

The investigation into Sanford started last month when some officers went to the Justice Department to complain of improprieties. From there, the Justice Department asked the Washington State Patrol to investigate, which it did.  King County’s prosecutor announced Tuesday there was nothing in the accusations that warranted charges.

A Seattle Police Department news conference late Tuesday also made it clear Sanford will not face charges on allegations of possible wrongdoing.

“From the standpoint of alleged criminal conduct, they were unfounded,” said Dep. Chief Clark Kimerer, Seattle Police Department.

Last month April, WSP agreed to investigate three different allegations of possible wrongdoing:

  • Sanford allegedly used his influence during a traffic accident that involved his daughter
  • He allegedly used his influence again when it came to the selection of materials to be used in a promotional exam
  • And he allegedly used his influence to solicit donations from SPD employees in support of the Special Olympics.

WSP investigated and submitted their findings to the King County Prosecutor’s Office on Monday. On Tuesday, Chief Criminal Deputy Mark Larson wrote in a letter to State Patrol Chief John Batiste that the patrol "uncovered no evidence to support a conclusion that there was a criminal law violation."

“Chief Sanford will now be investigated by the Office of Accountability, as part of our standard policy and procedures,” said Kimerer.

While the standard administrative review is under way, Sanford will continue to work in his same role and will continue to lead a major reform effort in the Seattle Police Department.

Late Tuesday, the Seattle Police Officer's Guild issued a press release expressing disapproval of The Seattle Times' coverage of the story.

"The Seattle Police Officer’s Guild is appalled by the latest round of tabloid journalism attacks released today by the Seattle Times reporters," said Sergeant Rich O’Neill, guild president. "At about 11:30am the Seattle Times web site produced a headline story, “SPD Assistant Chief Faces Misconduct Investigation.”  Less than two hours later the Times changed its headline to read “Seattle Assistant Chief Cleared of Criminal Wrongdoing, One may attribute this type of journalism to just a slow news day, but there is much more to this situation."

KING 5's Liza Javier, Travis Pittman and Natalie Swaby contributed to this report.
King County Prosecutor's follow-up letter to WSP (5/8/12)