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‘SPD returns man’s golf club’ — Police video shows disturbing 2014 arrest at 12/Pike

SPD's report on the situation puts on a happier face: "SPD Commanders first became aware of the incident in October 2014 after receiving an inquiry from former Washington State Representative Dawn Mason in which she raised questions as to the necessity of the arrest and charges. The 69-year-old man had already accepted a plea offer in this case. Dawn Mason worked with Chief Kathleen O’Toole and Deputy Chief Carmen Best to broker an organized discussion between residents and police about this case specifically as well as the relationship between the department and the community in general."
SPD’s report on the July 2014 incident puts on a happier face: “SPD Commanders first became aware of the incident in October 2014 after receiving an inquiry from former Washington State Representative Dawn Mason in which she raised questions as to the necessity of the arrest and charges. The 69-year-old man had already accepted a plea offer in this case.
Dawn Mason worked with Chief Kathleen O’Toole and Deputy Chief Carmen Best to broker an organized discussion between residents and police about this case specifically as well as the relationship between the department and the community in general.”

Tuesday, in advance of “a media outlet” reporting on video released “as a result of a public disclosure request,” SPD posted this update its Blotter blog with a line you don’t see every day in police announcements: “Deputy Chief Best personally met with the man, returned his golf club, and offered an apology for his arrest.”

Wednesday, The Stranger’s Ansel Herz reported on this video of Officer Cynthia Whitlach’s July 2014 arrest at 12th and Pike of William Wingate, a black, 70-year-old veteran who happens to take very long walks while carrying a golf club as a kind of multi-purpose walking stick:

On the video, Officer Whitlach can be heard insisting that the recording would show Wingate swinging his golf club at her and hitting a stop sign with it. According to the SPD, there exists no video to back up this claim. (SPD did not make Whitlach available for comment.)

“The allegation that he swung at the police car,” said city council member Bruce Harrell, who subsequently got involved in the case, “wasn’t corroborated by any other facts and was not caught on any video. What was caught on video was him minding his own business with the golf club at his side.”

Whitlach, standing behind her car, shouts at Wingate to drop his golf club 17 times, and claims that “it is a weapon.”

“You just swung that golf club at me,” Whitlach yells.

“No, I did not!” exclaims Wingate.

“Right back there,” Whitlach says back. “It was on audio and video tape.”

Wingate ended up in jail and charged with unlawful use of a weapon for the incident on the same block as East Precinct’s 12th and Pine headquarters. According to muni court records, he agreed to a conditional continuance. In September, a judge dismissed the case at the “satisfactory completion” of the agreement.

CHS has posted our recordings of East Precinct radio traffic from the minutes before and after the arrest. While in the video the officer describes seeing Wingate swing his club at her as she drove by 11th and Pike, you’ll note (around the 18-minute mark) that she never verbally reports any incident preceding the stop:

The Seattle Police Department insists racial bias played no role in the incident, the Stranger reports, adding that Wingate has filed a claim with the city for damages.

SPD says the officer was disciplined in the incident with counseling, a course of action that must be formally approved by the chain of command including East Precinct’s Capt. Pierre Davis who is also black. “The officer who made the arrest received counseling from her supervisor, a course of action that the department believes to be an appropriate resolution,” SPD writes.

UPDATE 9:00 PM: SPD Chief Kathleen O’Toole has issued a response to the incident and says Capt. Davis has been “directed” to report on the decision to discipline Officer Whitlatch with counseling:

Today I heard many concerns from community members about the conduct of an SPD officer assigned to the East Precinct. These concerns are related to two incidents that occurred during the summer of 2014, one of which was detailed previously by our department. I have directed East Precinct commander Captain Pierre Davis to prepare a comprehensive report, to include his assessment of the officer’s performance and any supervisory measures that were taken to address her actions in these incidents.

In the statement, O’Toole references “two incidents” involving Whitlach from the summer 2014. It’s not yet clear what other incident she is referring to.

UPDATE 1/29/15 8:55 AM: A spokesperson for SPD has clarified that the second Whitlatch incident being investigated involves social media posts in a matter that was investigated by the Office of Professional Accountability but ultimately referred to Whitlatch’s supervisor. Here is one example of a post allegedly attributable to Whitlatch:

UPDATE 1/29/15 2:55 PM: O’Toole has issued another statement saying she is “disappointed” by Whitlatch’s Facebook posts and has ordered the officer to be removed from public patrol during the department’s review of her actions and the discipline her superiors decided was warranted in the cases:

Until yesterday I was unaware of Officer Whitlatch’s Facebook posts. I was shocked and disappointed to read her comments. We are working to reform the Seattle Police Department, and behavior of this nature seriously undermines our efforts. Today, I have taken these immediate steps:

  • I have ordered a comprehensive review of the cases involving this officer
  • I have transferred the officer to an administrative assignment, pending the outcome of the investigations, where she will have no interaction with the public.
  • I have communicated with Office of Professional Accountability Director Pierce Murphy, who is launching an independent investigation.

I was hired because of my track record for reform and my commitment to bias-free policing. I knew this would be a difficult job, but days like this make me even more determined. I will continue to work with Mayor Ed Murray, the City Council, the Department of Justice, the Monitoring Team, SPD members, the Community Police Commission and the greater Seattle community to move this organization forward.

Together we will address our challenges head-on, we will accomplish our goals, and we will be stronger in the end.

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35 thoughts on “‘SPD returns man’s golf club’ — Police video shows disturbing 2014 arrest at 12/Pike

  1. Gee, why is it a lot of Americans don’t trust our Police. Hmmmm.

    And what good will cameras do if they are allowed to lie and get away with it.

      • Nope, and I’ve worked with lots of good ones. But the police are a bad INSTITUTION in this way, that this kind of thing happens day and and day out and the offending officer rarely gets any more than “counseling” or a short suspension (with pay) before an “independent inquiry” finds no evidence of wrongdoing or what have you. Not all police have to be bad for us to be concerned and disgusted by the code blue that surrounds the ones that are.

        I’ve trusted plenty of police officers, but trust “the police”? No way.

      • So tired of this BS. Of course not every single police officer is “bad”, but there is zero accountability of the ones that are in fact, bad. The general public can moan all they want as they get locked up and murdered by these people but what can we do?

        If someone pulled this kind of race or anything-based move in any other industry, how would that employee be handled? I know I would be fired in an instant for something like this, but the boys(and girls) in blue protect their own, right or and often wrong.

      • Any “good cop” who protects a “bad cop”, either by failing to stand up to them and challenge their actions, or by actively engaging in a culture that insulates them from the consequences of their actions, is, by definition, a “bad cop”.

  2. Is the arresting officer the African American policewoman in the photo? Not that it really matters, but it would definitely put a different spin on this story.

  3. Wow this is so offensive in so many ways my emotions can’t process it. How does this officer still have a job?? How can SPOG continue to deny that the department has any problems??

    • At what point did he provide any probable cause that he was or could be committing a crime? Why does anyone need to bow down to blatant HARASSMENT. All actions on camera were well within his rights. He’s a fucking old man! Why are they harassing a elderly veteran!

  4. Wouldnt have mattered. She was going to arrest him anyway. Getting him to put the club down was for Officer safety but he was cooked already.

  5. Dear jseattle, Thank you very much for running this article. Saw some news re: this in the stranger and thank you for picking it up too.

  6. I watched the video….Mr. Wingate was clearly doing nothing wrong and the officer should lose her job over her ridiculous harassment. However, I think most of these incidents could be avoided if citizens simply followed police directions, even if they are unreasonable. This is also true of Michael Brown in Ferguson…in that case, he ignored a lawful request from police that he stop walking in the middle of the street. If he had complied, he would be alive today.

    • Bob–What you fail to realize or choose to ignore is that as citizens we have the right to say no to an unreasonable request from law enforcement if you believe you have done NOTHING WRONG. Watching that video it’s very easy to see how quickly she would have escalated this to drawing her weapon when there’s a really good chance HE COULDN’T HEAR WHAT SHE WAS SAYING BECUASE OF THE NOISE.
      Yes there should be respect for the law, but the action of a few who are enforcing it in an arbitrary and cruel manner and then not receiving any type of sanctions for their actions are ensuring that the public is losing their respect for all law enforcement …

      • I agree that citizens have the legal right to not comply with an unreasonable request from a police officer. All I’m saying is that course of action is just not very prudent, and inevitably leads to an escalation of what should be only a minor incident.

        And, as I said, the officer should lose her job.

  7. No way to defend this over reaction, but there’s a reason for everything, and this may be it, and I certainly hope I’m not the one responsible, but there was a homeless guy in front of our apartment a while back menacing people with a golf club, swinging it around when anyone came close so people had to cross the street and couldn’t get in or out the front door of our building, so I called 911 and explained to the dispatch lady what was going on, and I’ll never forget the response “…I’m sorry sir but its not a crime in the city of Seattle to swing a golf club in public…” Well needless to say I unloaded on her and and a supervisor and got someone sent out, so I wonder if that might have gotten entered in some watch list or something that they were supposed to be on the look out for… If so, that’s bummer for all concerned…

  8. Maybe he’s off screen to her left crossing the crosswalk when she makes a left at 11th and Pike? If so, why didn’t she stop then?

    • Exactly. One theory is that, as she turned left onto 11th, her view of the intersection was partially blocked by the delivery truck in the middle of the street, and that Mr. Wingate may in fact have had legal right-of-way if he was in the crosswalk, in which case Officer Whitlach may actually have come close to hitting him. That MAY have elicited a response along the lines of what she accused him of, but even if so, she may just as easily have been in the wrong for failure to yield to a pedestrian.

      It’s all speculation of course, and we’ll never know what really happened, since the video doesn’t capture anything of consequence at the location where the incident allegedly took place. However, given Whitlach’s online screeds, it’s pretty clear she’s got a big chip on her shoulder when it comes to race relations, which doesn’t exactly cause most reasonable people to lend her the benefit of the doubt in this instance.

      • If she had beef with him waving his club around while he was crossing at 11th and Pike, that would have likely been the best place/time for her to stop. Not 5 minutes later, after a leisurely stroll around the block.

  9. As long as police investigate their own there will be no accountability. We need an independent council in charge of investigating the police when situations like this arise. Until that happens there will be no reform.

    • Correct. And you can’t expect local District Attorneys to find any fault either: they depend on the police force in order to do their jobs. The system is broken. The police force should not set their own policy. They should be accountable to an outside group accountable to the public.

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  12. Well fuck me- a comprehensive review AND an “independent” investigation? This O’Toole broad is quite the reformer.

    I’m starting to think there are going to be some real consequences for this dangerous, corrupt, and admittedly racist Seattle cop in store any day now.

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