SPD fires East Precinct cop in Capitol Hill ‘golf club’ arrest

William Wingate in a 2015 march protesting his arrest (Image: CHS)

William Wingate in a 2015 march protesting his arrest (Image: CHS)

Whitlatch's dash cam video helped bring issues around the arrest to light

Whitlatch’s dash cam video helped bring issues around the arrest to light

The Seattle Police Department announced Tuesday that officer Cynthia Whitlatch has been fired for “sustained policy violations involving bias, abuse of police discretion, and escalation of a contact” for her July 2014 arrest of William Wingate, a black, 70-year-old veteran who happens to take very long walks while carrying a golf club:

Officer Cynthia Whitlatch was served today with a termination notice for sustained policy violations involving bias, abuse of police discretion, and escalation of a contact on July 9, 2014.

The termination order is available here (PDF). The Chief of Police’s letter to Mayor Murray and Council President Burgess regarding the sustained findings can be found here (PDF).

Earlier this summer, the Office of Professional Accountability recommended that Whitlatch be terminated for her handling of the arrest.

In the 2014 incident, 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. Whitlatch claimed Wingate had threatened her with the club and was hitting a stop sign. 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. In January 2015, SPD tried to put a happier spin on the incident by announcing an apology and the return of Wingate’s club. But as video of the incident emerged, a much different picture of the arrest was formed. Protest and lawsuits would follow.

Whitlatch’s behavior on social media also drew scrutiny and criticism.

Meanwhile, a civil lawsuit brought on behalf of Wingate is still in the courts with a trial date set for next spring.

“I can’t understand why. I (have) never done anything to this woman,” Wingate told the crowd at a January 2015 rally. “I hope something comes of this.”

Whitlatch is an 18-year veteran of the SPD force. While Whitlatch’s chain of command including then East Precinct commander Capt. Pierre Davis supervised the situation around the arrest and subsequent investigation, no other SPD employees have faced discipline for their parts in the incident.

“This particular case-involving bias, abuse of police discretion, and escalation of a contact that should have been resolved without any confrontation-is of great concern to the Seattle community and the Seattle Police Department,” Chief of Police Kathleen O’Toole writes in her letter to the mayor and the City Council regarding the sustained findings. O’Toole said restoring community trust in SPD through carrying out orders of the federal consent decree — a DOJ mandated process to overhaul the department in the wake of several excessive force violations by SPD officers — was one of her first goals when she took over the department last year.

O’Toole’s termination order includes a strong criticism of Whitlatch’s perception of race and her decision to arrest Wingate:

During your interviews with OPA, you indicated that your perception of the race, sex, and age of others influenced how you interacted with and reacted to events regarding this individual and, more generally, events in the workplace. You discussed your view that the individual’s age and sex contributed to his reaction towards you as a female officer, and stated that you would not be investigated were you not white. Without prompting, you described how you viewed the resolution of his charges as an example of racial bias because “guess who” – a black judge and black chief were not, in your view, supporting white officers. Even during your Loudermill hearing, you continued to blame minorities for your perceived mistreatment on account of your race (white). Your perceptions of race and other protected categories appear to be so deeply seated that they likely impacted the authoritarian manner in which you treated this man and your refusal to deviate from that approach towards an individual whose actions did not warrant such treatment.

Despite the termination decision, SPD continues to face scrutiny over “use of force” incidents and the department’s record for avoiding serious discipline of its investigated officers.

O’Toole’s letter and the termination order are below.

Termination Order

Letter

UPDATE 9/22/2015 11:15 AMSeattle Police Officers Guild president Ron Smith has been in meetings every time we’ve called to talk with him but SPOG has finally posted what appears to be a statement on the Whitlatch firing:

We are committed to the welfare of our members, defense of the mutually negotiated CBA, benefits mutually negotiated and the due process rights of all of our members! Our members stand day and night between good and evil… Thank you to those Seattleites who support the Seattle Police Department!!!!

UPDATE 9/22/15 12:15 PM: SPOG has clarified that its statement was “not attributed to any one thing.”

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21 thoughts on “SPD fires East Precinct cop in Capitol Hill ‘golf club’ arrest

  1. I’m a little disappointed it took14 months to reach this conclusion, but the result is justified. Police Officers must be above reproach. Former Officer Whitlatch actions were unbecoming of an Officer. Kudos to Chief O’Toole for not standing behind the blue wall, but instead standing with the citizens.

  2. Its a shame it took so long to make this happen but glad it finally did. She’s wasted a lot of valuable time, resources and money by her wrongdoing.

  3. Yea, and this is why we are struggling for police to properly police our neighborhood. When I a police officer approaches me and asks me to “Put down the golf club” I’m not going to stand there and just argue with him or her.

    Again, this is why we are struggling to keep our neighborhoods under control. Every Tom, Dick and Harry can behave however they want and not comply with public safety. Ugh. Add to that the racial component. We’re never going to clean up this city.

    • Did you read anything in the article at all? Here, let me quote the quote for you:

      Even during your Loudermill hearing, you continued to blame minorities for your perceived mistreatment on account of your race (white). Your perceptions of race and other protected categories appear to be so deeply seated that they likely impacted the authoritarian manner in which you treated this man and your refusal to deviate from that approach towards an individual whose actions did not warrant such treatment.

      This person should not be a police officer, and I am glad they are fired.

      Perhaps it’s you, who think the Police are above the law, is the problem?

    • you are welcome to leave. i’m sure there are plenty of po’ dunk, one-horse towns out there that have facist police forces whose boot you can live under. don’t let the door smack you in the ass on the way out.

    • What? I can’t even read the last response. Regardless, I understand her confronting the race issue. Race politics are tough now a days. But when a cop, regardless of their race, gender or sexual identity asks you to put down whatever your holding you need to do so. For me (and this is why I won’t be an officer) if you are disobeying than I would perceive that as a threat. That’s because if places where switched I would obey the officer.

      Again, this is why police can’t DO THEIR JOB! But I guess if we are going to hide behind race and fear than this will be the status quo.

      BTW, regardless of your gender, race and or sexual orientation; if an officer asks you to drop you weapon. Just do it. Don’t argue with the officer. Innocent or not. They are dealing with some really rough people and they don’t know you. Just obey and respect the work they do. I feel lucky that I don’t have to deal with the people they do.

    • “Do whatever a cop tells you to do” is not a law. The guy was well within his rights to ask her what the hell she was talking about.

  4. Now, it’s time to do something about the rest of the people involved in this abuse:

    Benjamin E. Archer #6938, who provided backup at the time of the incident
    Chris Coles #6940, who wrote the incident report
    Joe L. Lam #4767, who screened the arrest and approved the incident report
    Lam’s supervisor, who undoubtedly knows that Lam allows his subordinates to engage in fraud and abuse
    All other SPD employees who have supervised Whitlatch, particularly he or she who allowed Whitlatch to train other cops for 13 years
    All other partners who observed Whitlatch’s on-the-job behavior, such as the one who stood by while she harassed the Metro bus driver who asked her to move her car from the bus lane
    The OPA investigators who reviewed complaints about the Wingate incident, the complaint about Whitlatch’s racist publications, and any other complaints about Whitlatch, resulting in completely ineffective outcomes
    Those staff who, upon finding a shitstorm brewing, seemingly neglected to present Chief O’Toole with a complete history of Whitlatch’s employment history, complaints, and investigations.
    Chief Kathleen O’Toole, who neglected to demand the aforementioned history of Whitlatch
    Mayor Ed Murray, who stepped into office and kicked some of SPD’s best people to the curb simply because they were associated with former Mayor Mike McGinn, and who appointed a former SPOG vice president as interim chief
    Murray’s advisers on police matters, who like Murray, apparently know and/or care more about playing politics than about the internal workings of our police department

  5. It’s about time. The incident was quite awhile ago, and meanwhile Whitlatch has been sitting at home collecting her full pay. Justice should have been much quicker!

  6. Can we see the package that she left with by any chance? The reason I’m curious is it looks like O’Toole and SPD did everything in their power to protect this woman and the other cops involved, purposely stalling as long as they could in the hopes that the commotion would die down and she could quietly be put back on patrol once public outrage was directed elsewhere. Only when that didn’t happen and the pressure stayed on was Whitlatch finally dehired. I think this blog, The Stranger, and any other publications that kept this in the news deserve some credit for that outcome.

    I’m really curious if she left with a full pension, six figure severance package, etc. Given how deep the corruption there seems to run I also wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if O’Toole promised to get her a job at another department and redact all the negative remarks in her employment at some future point, or just provide a positive reference by saying she was the victim in all this and is actually a good cop. If we see her in uniform patrolling Bellevue or Renton in the future we can be assured that didn’t happen in spite of her record, but in recompense for taking the fall for this because SPD had no other choice.

  7. WHAT ABOUT THE KILLER OF DISABLED ELDERLY NATIVE AMERICAN JOHN T. WILLIAMS??? HAVE THEY BEEN IDENTIFIED, ARRESTED AND CHARGED. IF SO WHEN IS THE TRIAL DATE??? I UNDERSTAND ARMED GOVERNMENT AGENT IAN BIRK (NOT ORGANIZED CRIME OPERATIVE IAN “UNCLE IKE’S” EISENBERG) IS A “PERSON OF INTEREST”??? Omari Tahir-Garrett, VIETNAM VETERAN, WORLD TRAVELER, HISTORY / ANTI COLONIAL SOCIAL STUDIES TEACHER AND CANDIDATE FOR SEATTLE CITY COUNCIL (2018)

    WEBSITE: OmariForCityCouncil
    WEBSITE: AFRICATOWN / CHINATOWN NEWS DIGEST
    WEBSITE: prison2president