Seattle Police Officer Cynthia Whitlatch has been fired for racial bias and for engaging in a ‘combative approach’. In July of last year, Officer Whitlatch stopped William Wingate, 69, for using a golf club as a cane. Specifically, Officer Whitlatch claimed the golf club could be used as a weapon, and she also falsely claimed that Wingate ‘swung the club at her’. After a lengthy investigation by the Office of Professional Standards, it was determined that Officer Whitlatch’s actions were based upon Wingate’s race and ther her combative approach led to the situation in which Wingate was arrested. It was also determined that her actions were against the department’s guidlines.
Here is a partial transcript of the Disciplinary Action Report,
This discipline is based on your interaction with an individual on July 9,2014 which began while you were on duty, driving a patrol car near Cal Anderson Park. You initiated a Terry stop with the individual based on your stated observation that, as you were driving near a stop sign, you saw a blur of motion out of the corner of your eye and heard a sound you interpreted as metal on metal, and then (as you were in your police vehicle, driving away) you saw a look on his face that you described as “angry, you know, furrowed brow.”
You raised your voice and repeatedly ordered him to drop his golf club, told him the golf club was a weapon, and accused him of swinging the golf club at you, which he adamantly denied. He repeatedly asked you to call someone else, noted that he’d been using the golf club for twenty years, and at no point acted in an aggressive or threatening manner towards you or anyone else. Your behavior towards him during the stop was inappropriately aggressive and unnecessarily escalated the interaction.
Despite his non-threatening behavior, you repeatedly chose confrontational options, continuing to make accusations regarding what you claimed to have seen him do, threatening him with arrest, and holding your nightstick in your hand, further escalating the interaction.
Despite that, and despite never actually seeing him swing a golf club toward your car or hitting a stop sign, you actively participated in moving forward with an arrest for obstruction and even called the prosecutor days later to push for prosecution of the individual.
Whitlatch denied any racial bias or misconduct in the arrest, telling investigators during the review that she wouldn’t have altered any of her actions that day.
Wingate, a retired bus driver and veteran, sued the city and Whitlatch in April, according to the Times. Protesters marched on his behalf while carrying their own golf clubs earlier this year. His lawyers praised the firing of Whitlatch in a statement to KIRO-TV on Tuesday.
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