SEATTLE -- Seattle Police Chief John Diaz has decided not to fire veteran gang Detective Shandy Cobane over a racially charged incident that happened more than a year ago and has plagued Diaz’s short tenure as Seattle’s top cop.
However, late Thursday the victim of that incident threatened a lawsuit against the City of Seattle for $750,000 and attorney fees.
Cobane and a female officer, Mary Woollum, were caught on tape in April 2010, stomping on a young Latino man, Martin Monetti, who was laying on the ground surrounded by officers. But, it was Cobane’s language that came under fire. Cobane can be heard telling the suspect he is going to “beat the (expletive) Mexican piss out of you, homey. You feel me?”
Cobane will be suspended for 30 days without pay and will lose his prestigious position in the gang unit. He will be required to reach out to the Latino community. He will also be speaking out to young officers about why the use of racial language is inappropriate. Cobane has also signed a last chance agreement and will do nothing to appeal the discipline.
Monetti was being held during a felony robbery investigation, but later released and no charges were ever filed against him.
If the city does not pay Monetti's claim within the near future, he will then be able to file a lawsuit.
Going forward, Diaz warned Thursday that any officer using such language will be fired.
"The line has been drawn here. I thought I'd made it clear. Now it is very clear. There will be a presumption of termination in the future," said Diaz.
Diaz said he struggled with his decision, both as a Latino and as police chief, which is one reason why it took so long. Diaz said he didn't believe a termination would hold up on appeal. He admitted, when questioned by reporters, that he would have fired Cobane if he thought it would stick.
An emotional Cobane spoke after Diaz. He was clearly relieved and vowed to do all he can to be a model officer in the future.
"I am grateful for a second chance. I promised Chief Diaz that I will not only do everything he has asked, but I will exceed those expectations," said Cobane.
Before this incident, Cobane had been a model officer with no complaints on his record and several commendations.
Last September, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg announced Cobane would not be charged with a hate crime, because what he said did not meet the legal definition of malicious harassment. In December, the Seattle City Attorney also declined to file charges, saying the force used was reasonable under state laws because the officers were trying to gain compliance from a suspect who wasn’t following police commands during a felony investigation.
Before the incident, Cobane has had an unblemished 17 year career with SPD. He was twice selected as officer of the year in his precinct. He worked under John Diaz, when the chief was Captain of the East Precinct.
The Seattle Police Officers Guild has defended Cobane, saying the video was misunderstood. Guild President Rich O’Neill told KING 5 during an earlier interview that Cobane was stepping on the man’s hand to keep him from moving his arms under his body where he might have had a weapon. A machete had been displayed during the earlier robbery.
Cobane has been on desk duty for more than a year while the case was investigated, first by prosecutors and then by the Seattle Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability.
On March 3, KING 5 learned that the internal investigation was finished and that the recommended discipline was a day suspension and a transfer out of the gang unit. Sources told KING 5 that during a high level meeting, Diaz made it clear he wanted to fire Cobane, but a legal advisor told him that the detective would likely get his job back on appeal .
Cobane has been waiting for the chief’s decision since he met with John Diaz personally on March 24, for what’s called a “Loudermill Hearing.” The Loudermill Hearing mandates that public employees have a right to be heard before discipline is handed down.