Seattle City Attorney Peter Holmes defended the $100,000 payout given to a former Seattle police officer who was fired over her arrest of an elderly African-American man.
The Seattle Times reported Thursday that the Seattle Community Police Commission is seeking a meeting with Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole and City Attorney Pete Holmes and has requested documents related to the payout settlement.
In a statement Thursday, Holmes said he continues to fully support Chief O'Toole's decision to terminate former Officer Cynthia Whitlatch.
"In arbitration, however, the City’s defense was significantly affected by technical and procedural issues under SPOG’s Collective Bargaining Agreement that has long governed—and continues to govern–such proceedings. Most significantly, the union could present a serious argument that all discipline was completely barred because the officer was not notified of the Chief’s disciplinary decision within 180 days of a sworn supervisor’s knowledge of the underlying facts. Although there was room for dispute over this issue, the possibility that Ms. Whitlatch might be reinstated as an SPD Officer by the Disciplinary Review Board, with full back pay, led my office to entertain discussions of compromise with SPOG. Officer Whitlatch and the Guild ultimately agreed to several key provisions:
(1) The disciplinary determination remains in place;
(2) Ms. Whitlatch will not return to SPD; and
(3) Ms. Whitlatch will never seek employment in law enforcement again.
In return Ms. Whitlatch receives partial back pay, sufficient to qualify for early retirement.This compromise highlights two painfully obvious goals for improved police accountability in Seattle:
(1) All Seattle police personnel must remain vigilant in promptly reporting potential misconduct to the Office of Professional Accountability.
(2) As I have reiterated during the course of SPD’s five-year, federally-monitored reform process, the City must regain its ability to manage, discipline, and hold officers accountable without the impediments that have been inserted into collective bargaining agreements over the years. This case demonstrates the vital importance obtaining of new agreements with our police unions that fully embrace reforms achieved through the Consent Decree.”
Whitlatch, an 18-year police veteran, received the settlement after she appealed her firing for biased and overly aggressive policing.
Whitlatch who is white, denied race played a role in her decision to detain then-69-year-old William Wingate in July 2014. Whitlatch accuses Wingate of swinging a golf club toward her patrol car. Wingate maintained he never swung the club.