After Sergeant Patrick "K.C." Saulet racked up numerous complaints from the public and his fellow officers about rudeness and excessive force, the King County Sheriff's Office finally decided to do something about him. The department demoted Saulet from sergeant to officer. While the sheriff's office was able to bump Saulet back to patrol for over a year, recent legal wrangling by the King County Police Officers Guild has put Saulet right back in his old job, with back pay, with little more than a harsh warning from an arbitrator.
During his 21 years with the King County Sheriff's Office, Saulet has been disciplined or reprimanded five times for excessive use of force, four times for complaints about his personal conduct and lack of courtesy, once for reckless driving, and once for failing to file a proper report. According to King County law-enforcement sources, Saulet has received approximately 100 complaints over his years in the department—more than any other officer in the department. Because records of unsustained complaints are not publicly available, The Stranger was not able to confirm this directly.
Saulet's recent troubles are related to a 2006 investigation in which Saulet was demoted from his position as a sergeant at the county's Metro Transit unit and sent to work patrol in Marysville after allegedly verbally abusing a suspect. The King County Police Officers Guild objected to the demotion.
Command staff at the sheriff's office has tried to deal with Saulet before. According to a 2001 letter from former sheriff Dave Reichert, Saulet's supervisors recommended firing him after he pulled over a Kent police officer, who was wearing street clothes, and berated him for driving the speed limit in the fast lane. Instead, Reichert decided to suspend Saulet for eight days. In 1998, when Saulet assaulted a man after pulling him over for racing, current sheriff Sue Rahr—then a major in the department—wrote to other commanders, "It is apparent [that] Sgt. Saulet views and treats almost everyone he contacts as a potential threat. ... [Saulet] acts first, assesses later."
In a separate e-mail to another commanding officer two years later, Rahr wrote that "over the years [Saulet] has had a couple [of misconduct complaints] sustained. He clearly has a problem; this is not an isolated incident."
Also in 2000, Saulet was told that he would have to avoid getting any more complaints or be demoted or fired. Saulet was sent to conflict-resolution classes and received positive performance evaluations.
But in 2006, a King County detective reported that Saulet had used the words "faggot" and "fuck" during an arrest for an assault on a Metro bus driver, which ultimately led to Saulet's demotion.
The guild appealed the discipline, claiming that Saulet's inappropriate language did not constitute misconduct, as "the use of profane language by deputies, supervisors, and administrators is part of the culture of the department." In July, the guild (which did not return calls for comment) won the arbitration.
The sheriff's office didn't seem entirely surprised by the outcome.
"Washington is a very tough labor state. It's very difficult for employers to win arbitrations," says King County Sheriff spokesman John Urquhart. "Every time a case goes to arbitration, it's a crapshoot."
As a condition of the arbitration, Saulet will be compensated for lost pay—the county could not provide a specific number—and all records will be purged of references to his demotion.
While Saulet may be back in his old position for now, even arbitrator Sylvia Skratek warned Saulet that he might not get off so easy next time. "There was not sufficient evidence to sustain the findings this time," Skratek wrote. However, "[Saulet] must take to heart the reality that he is on the edge of when enough will be enough."