Seattle police union responds to FBI investigation

KING 5's Heather Graf reports.

The head of the Seattle Police Officers' Guild is now responding to the FBI probe focused on a small group of officers, including him.

Kevin Stuckey strongly denies any wrongdoing or misconduct.  But he says he was blindsided upon learning the FBI investigation was underway.

"I wasn't made aware of any investigation," he said.  "The first time I'd heard of it, it was in the news."

Stuckey also says he hasn't yet been contacted by anyone with the FBI.

"I will wait patiently to see if I get contacted by the FBI.  And if I do, I have no problem answering any questions anyone has of me," he said.

Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole confirmed on Wednesday that she asked the FBI to open a criminal investigation in a "small number" of police officers.

In a statement, she said it has to do with the "management of secondary employment," though she and the FBI declined to discuss specific details of the case.

Secondary employment refers to off-duty officers who are hired to do traffic and safety control at construction sites and parking garages throughout the city.

In the past, several staffing agencies have helped place officers in those lucrative, highly sought after jobs.

Then came an Olympia-based company called Blucadia, which advertises itself as the first and only online marketplace for hiring off-duty officers.

Stuckey says he was stunned to learn that a phone call he made to Blucadia's CEO is being looked into as part of the FBI probe.

"Quite honestly, it couldn't have been more than 60 seconds, maybe 90 seconds, the call couldn't have been more than that," he said.

But the conversation didn't sit well with Blucadia.

"Our CEO received a very intimidating phone call," Blucadia chairman and co-founder David Bluhm told KING 5. "That had very little context other than a lot of verbal abuse and intimidation. That alone was a concern to us."

Blucadia reported the alleged intimidation to SPD leadership. The company believes Stuckey was trying to scare them out of doing business in Seattle.

It's an allegation Stuckey fiercely denies.

"I never threatened anyone," he said. "I was not the most professional, I freely admit that. But I never threatened him. Never discussed his company or his business model or anything that has to do with his business in Seattle."

Stuckey claims that Blucadia's CEO had been sending him "increasingly condescending and rude emails", prior to the phone conversation.  Stuckey says that's why he lost his temper during the call.

Blucadia said SPD had encouraged them to reach out to the Seattle Police Officers Guild. Stuckey's response caught them off guard.

"I regret that I allowed him to push my buttons to the point where I wasn't professional. I regret that. But the conversation needed to be had because to be quite honest, he was rather harassing to me. So I wanted it to stop," said Stuckey.

A few days later, Stuckey says he spoke to SPD Chief Operating Officer Brian Maxey about the phone call.

"I went to him and said, listen I had a bad conversation with someone you're friends with. I said if I embarrassed you because  I had that bad conversation, I apologize, I shouldn't have let him dial me up the way he did, said Stuckey.

Maxey told KING 5 Stuckey did in fact speak to him about the call, shortly after it happened in May.

Stuckey says he never expected the phone call with Blucadia's CEO would become part of an FBI investigation.

"Does the FBI investigate every conversation where people use profanity towards each other? I would think they have something better to do, but I'm not an FBI agent. So perhaps this was really important to them," he said.

For now, Chief O'Toole has promised full transparency with the results and outcome of the investigation, once the FBI has completed its work.

O'Toole has voiced concern in the past over the lack of transparency surrounding officers' off-duty work. The main issue for SPD leadership is that the department is currently unable to track who is working where, for how much, and for how many hours.

That's why SPD endorsed Blucadia as the preferred method of hiring off-duty officers, hoping the company's online marketplace could improve transparency and control.

KING 5 asked Stuckey whether that's something he's worried about.  He says the short answer is no. But he also says the issue would be subject to collective bargain if SPD wanted to mandate the use of Blucadia.

"If this is something they truly want to negotiate, we are more than willing to sit down and negotiate with them. If they want Blucadia to run all off-duty work, if that's truly what the city wants, then when we sit down to negotiations, and they bring it up, we'll negotiate it.  I don't have a problem with it," Stuckey said.

He does have some concerns regarding insurance coverage and the methods Blucadia might use to pay off-duty officers. 

"My job as the president of this organization is to protect the benefits, wages, and working conditions of my members," said Stuckey.

He says that's why he sent an email to his union members, outlining a few things he felt they should know about Blucadia.

"If something happens, I'm talking about an officer getting injured while working off-duty, are you going to cover them with L&I? We have to talk about it. Who's going to cover it?," he said, referring to L&I workers' comp insurance. "Also it's a 1099 situation, which means they're subject to higher taxes at the end of the year. These are things I mentioned to my members to be careful of because that's my job, to look after them in that context."

So why exactly was he so angry with the Blucadia CEO leading up to that much-talked-about phone call?

"It was a day I was home sick and I'd read an email. I'd been ignoring his emails because I didn't want to meet with him. His emails became increasingly condescending and rude," Stuckey said. "There are so many different clearing houses for off-duty work in Seattle and so many individual contractors, I didn't see how having a conversation with him would benefit me and my members in any way, shape, or form."

Blucadia maintains this is all much bigger than that controversial phone call, saying it's about unmanaged off-duty practices that operate outside of department policies and in some cases, the law.

© 2017 KING-TV


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