Deputy is target of 22 internal investigations

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by LINDA BYRON / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @LByronK5

KING5.com

Posted on November 2, 2011 at 9:59 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 3 at 12:09 PM

King County Sheriff’s Deputy Kevin Savage was hired in 2006 after working as a police officer in Southern California for 12 years. An extensive review of his file indicates that he’s racked up more than two dozen misconduct violations in just the past two years as a sheriff’s deputy here.

The first documented complaint involved what should have been a minor incident at an apartment complex in Skyway, a community near Renton that’s patrolled by the King County Sheriff’s Office.  It was August 2009 and Savage was looking into a report that kids were throwing things off a balcony.

According to internal documents obtained by KING 5, Savage illegally entered the apartment, swore at the young children inside, and forcefully arrested their mother without probable cause.

Sheriff Sue Rahr issued a scathing memo telling Savage that his actions sent the message that “police officers are unprofessional and bullies who threaten people into cooperating.” She ordered a three day suspension.

The next month, more accusations of unprofessional conduct surfaced from deputies who said that Savage would criticize and berate them in front of citizens. Savage received “corrective counseling” and a warning: “You will need to understand and apply how we do police work here.”

Time on Vashon

In early 2010, Deputy Savage was assigned to patrol Vashon Island. It’s a remote district and he had no supervision because there is no sergeant located on the island. 

Deputy Savage quickly developed a reputation. He was seen buying wine at a gas station and grocery store while in uniform and on duty.  He was often seen playing pool in a bar in the center of town while in uniform and on duty.  According to internal reports, Savage said it was his way of doing community policing, and he kept doing it even after being ordered to stop.

“Many, many people on the island who had contact with him found him to be intimidating, often inappropriate,” said Vashon attorney Steve Mueller. Mueller started looking into Savage after taking on the case of a woman who’d been arrested for assault outside a Vashon restaurant.

Witnesses disputed police accounts of the arrest and Mueller says Savage went about tracking them down. 

Here’s how Mueller describes those interactions:

“At three o’clock in the morning, the deputy went to one witness’s house…more or less demanding that she come outside and meet with him.”

“Savage began to demand that the witness change her testimony, that what she was saying about what had happened was not correct.”

Mueller says Savage then “took out his baton, lunged at her, scared the bejesus out of her.”

Jared, who lives on Vashon Island, but asked that his last name not be used, said he got a late night visit from Savage too, and pressure that continued for months.

“It was definitely blatant.  After calling me a liar, he then told me that I would be found guilty in a court of law for perjury for lying,” Jared said.

Jared said he switched his car registration into his wife’s name, to avoid being pulled over. 

“I could have become a target for more harassment,” he said.

Vashon residents complained that they were being policed by a bully with a badge, and Savage was moved.  It would take months to sort out the mess he left behind.

In the end, a top commander ruled that Savage had committed misconduct 18 times while on Vashon Island and recommended a 20-day suspension.  The sheriff cut that down to just 5 days.

More complaints roll in

Meantime, Savage was patrolling Skyway, White Center and South King County racking up new complaints along the way.

According to one internal investigation conducted in March 2011, Savage was accused of making inappropriate comments about sex and drugs to a 15-year-old girl.   Law enforcement sources tell KING 5 there is an internal investigation currently underway involving another case, in which Savage reportedly told a teenage girl that he could sexually assault her with a pen and she could do nothing to stop him.

A review of Deputy Savage’s file, obtained through public disclosure requests, shows that in just two years, he has been the target of 17 internal investigations and has had 26 findings of misconduct, ranging from “conduct unbecoming” to “insubordination” to inappropriate “use of authority.”   There are four additional internal investigations currently underway according to the Sheriff’s Office. 

Deputy Savage did not return phone calls and knocks on his door went unanswered.

King County Sheriff Sue Rahr would not discuss Deputy Savage or why he’s received so little discipline.  The Sheriff’s spokesman, John Urquhart, said that Rahr is waiting until after she meets with Savage next week to discuss discipline connected to internal investigations that are still open.  

Savage was put on administrative leave in June. For the past four months, he’s been off work, but getting paid his regular salary of $ 7139.66 per month.

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