Sheriff Fires Cop Who Threatened to Arrest Me for Taking His Photo

King County Sheriff John Urquhart Cited Unconstitutional Behavior, Dishonesty During an Internal Review, and a History of Misconduct

Sheriff Fires Cop Who Threatened to Arrest Me for Taking His Photo

Robert Ullman

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By last summer, Deputy Patrick "K.C." Saulet already had more misconduct complaints against him than any other officer in the King County Sheriff's Office. But Saulet's actions on a downtown street corner in late July now appear to be the final, self-inflicted blow in his 27-year career. Saulet abused his authority by threatening to arrest me for photographing several officers, which is a legal activity, and then lied about it to investigators, says King County sheriff John Urquhart. The sheriff's punishment: termination.

"You have a constitutional right to photograph the police," Sheriff Urquhart asserted in a phone interview. Threatening to arrest a citizen for legally taking photos of cops while on public property, he added, "is a constitutional violation, as far as I am concerned."

The incident occurred on a Tuesday evening in the International District. The short version: Several cops had been surrounding a man sitting on a planter box. I hopped off my bicycle and started taking photos from a distance when Saulet rushed over to say I'd be arrested if I didn't leave. He claimed, wrongly, that I was standing on private property. Even though his statement didn't sound right to me—I was standing in a Metro transit plaza—I backed up until I stood unambiguously on the City of Seattle's sidewalk. But Saulet insisted that was illegal, too, and that I would be arrested unless I left the block. I filed a complaint with King County against Saulet and another complaint with the Seattle Police Department against a nearby SPD officer (who threatened to come into The Stranger's offices and harass me at work for asking questions).

Both departments have been plagued with misconduct controversies. The US Department of Justice found in 2012 that the SPD routinely used excessive force and showed troubling practices with racial minorities; a King County audit of the sheriff's office that same year found misconduct complaints were being brushed aside. Both departments assumed new leadership last year. But with officers still acting like these two, was reform actually happening on the streets, or just on paper? In a sense, my complaints were small tests of how such matters are being handled now, after organizational shake-ups.

After a six-month investigation, Sheriff Urquhart issued a disciplinary letter to Saulet. One paragraph of the sheriff's letter summarized the results:

Suffice it to say, in my judgment, the evidence shows that (i) you abused your authority in your dealings with Mr. Holden on July 30, and (ii) thereafter, rather than be accountable, you attempted to recast events in a light more favorable to you. Stated broadly, for example, you claim you interacted with Mr. Holden in a civil, professional manner that was nothing more than "social contact"; you did little more than tell him for his benefit that he couldn't ride on Metro property because doing so is a $66 infraction; [you claim that two other deputies] Shook and Mikulcik told him the same thing; and you once calmly pointed him in a direction you were suggesting he leave. But the evidence is that you approached Mr. Holden because you took exception with him lawfully exercising his right to take photographs of you and your colleagues while lawfully standing on public property; you were agitated and confrontational; you essentially "squared off" with him; you expressly and/or implicitly threatened to arrest him if he did not leave immediately in the specific direction you pointed, not once but five times (misidentifying public property as private property in the process); and Shook and Mikulcik deny the statement you attribute to them.

"Your ill-advised actions also play to some of the most basic fears among some citizens," Urquhart's discipline letter continues, "which is that a police officer may indiscriminately exercise his or her power in violation of their rights." He explains citizens fear that "in the event of a complaint, the officer will just deny the allegations and 'circle the wagons' with his or her fellow officers with the expectation they will take care of their own. In a matter of minutes, your actions violated the trust that we, as a department, spend years trying to build and maintain." The sheriff upheld seven counts of misconduct against Saulet in this matter alone, including dishonesty, abuse of authority, and violating rules regarding photography of police officers.

Saulet and his union fought the decision, arguing that the investigation was a "witch hunt," that Saulet did nothing wrong, and that "none of the witness statements are consistent."

"This is an overstatement," Urquhart responds in his discipline letter to Saulet. "There are some inconsistencies to be sure, but no more or less than is typical of most police investigations: The most comprehensive and fundamental conflict was between Mr. Holden's statement and yours, and the other statements provided substantially more support for him than you on key points." The union made the "witch hunt" claim based on the observation that there was a particularly large investigation file; Urquhart says the file's size "reflects the thoroughness of the investigation. If the department in general, or I or the investigator in particular, were 'hunting' for a reason to take action against you, we would not have made such a substantial effort to collect and carefully review all relevant circumstances, including any and all that might have wholly or partly exculpated you or otherwise mitigate the circumstances."

Saulet and his union may try to appeal to an arbiter, but, as of press time, Urquhart says they have not. The union has successfully fought disciplining Saulet before. In his history with the King County Sheriff's Office, there have been approximately 120 allegations against him and 21 cases of sustained misconduct. The sheriff's letter says Saulet underwent three performance-improvement plans, two training sessions, two multi-visit sessions with a social psychologist, coaching sessions with supervisors, and 80 hours of time off without pay. Saulet was demoted from sergeant to deputy for another incident last August, part of what the sheriff called Saulet's "larger pattern" of misconduct.

Urquhart told me that I was "treated no differently than other people" who file complaints. He says I wasn't given special treatment because I'm a journalist. Urquhart has fired two other deputies accused of misconduct within the last year.

I take no pleasure in seeing Saulet fired, although it is nice to see that Urquhart takes complaints seriously—more seriously than SPD does, in my experience. The Seattle officer was punished with a one-day unpaid suspension. "Frankly, the effect of trust by the public was equally damaged by both officers in your encounter last summer. Why is the punishment of magnitudes difference?" says James Egan, a lawyer who has represented clients in misconduct cases against both the city and county. It may be because Officer Marion, the SPD officer, didn't have Saulet's documented history of misconduct. But there are other differences between the two agencies. Unlike the county, the SPD has no appeal process. Pierce Murphy, who runs SPD's discipline division, said last month that the only recourse for a complainant unhappy with a discipline decision is to sue the city in court. It also took three weeks after suspending Officer Marion for the SPD to provide records from their investigation, while King County delivered its Saulet investigation record to me the day after discipline was announced.

These complaints that I filed were not about me. Growing up in Seattle, I believe that certain cops regularly submit civilians (particularly racial minorities) to abusive treatment, much more abusive than what I faced trying to take photos of a couple of cops. Often, citizens who've been mistreated don't complain, and when they do, the record shows, bad cops are often wholly or partially exonerated, even when they're guilty. Now more than ever, with both police forces undergoing reform, citizens should complain if they encounter hostile, unconstitutional, or violent policing. Sheriff Urquhart has been in office only a little over a year, and it's refreshing to see him weeding out officers who break the rules. Most cops are not problem cops. Most work hard and keep us safe. Abusive cops ruin those good cops' reputations.

Urquhart took his discipline of this particular deputy a step further: He reported Saulet to the state's Criminal Justice Training Commission for acts of "dishonesty," he says. That gives officials the option of discrediting Saulet as an officer in Washington State.


Comments (26) RSS

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Well if you don't take pleasure in seeing this bully shit-canned, I sure do. Huzzah!
Posted by Seattle ENTP on February 4, 2014 at 6:35 PM · Report this
Claypatch 2
This is very good news. Huzzah indeed.
Posted by Claypatch on February 4, 2014 at 10:27 PM · Report this
so what. you got someone fired. arent you proud of yourself. you made something out of nothing. some poor working class guy diesnt want your fuckin camera in his face so leave him the fuck alone. dont attack him. bitch to the place he works. then attack him again in your newspaper. you pricks are always looking for a story. what you shouldve donewas right this man an apology. we all have the right to our privacy. and you should respect that. you fuckin prick. outta be ashamed of yourself. if you stuck that camera in my face i'd give you something to write about
Posted by Matt Naumann on February 4, 2014 at 11:34 PM · Report this
lolorhone 4
Look up the word privacy, Naumann. Doesn't apply here. That's the point (well that and abuse of power).
Posted by lolorhone on February 5, 2014 at 1:04 AM · Report this
Matt must be a bad cop himself, but who doesn't recognize that? Just another punk cop.

The bully punk cop (Saulet) got what he deserved. The other one, only a tap on the wrist...this time :) His days are numbered and rightfully so.

Good job Stranger
Posted by Watching from PDX on February 5, 2014 at 5:48 AM · Report this
gfs 6
Score one for the (not so) average Joe.
Posted by gfs on February 5, 2014 at 6:48 AM · Report this
You'd better hope he isn't wrathful...or psychotic.
Posted by RESPIN on February 5, 2014 at 8:13 AM · Report this
Congratulations, Mr. Holden! What a fine example you are to show the world a single person CAN make a difference. I applaud you from the nasty encounter and through all the hard work it took to get this amazing result. I hope police officer John Marion takes notice and can somehow redeem himself into an officer worthy of the badge. Thanks also to Sheriff John Urquhart for not taking the easy road and allowing this behavior to continue. Cheers.
Posted by smohamed on February 5, 2014 at 10:04 AM · Report this
Poor guy. Everybody deserves a 121st chance.
Posted by Phil M http:// on February 5, 2014 at 11:55 AM · Report this
Ohhh Naumann is a badass that knows how to get things done! Someday when his momma throws him out of her house and he can no longer play Call of Duty for 18 hours a day he will go out into the world and try to find a job. I'm betting he wants to be a cop!
Posted by Slightly Amused on February 5, 2014 at 2:44 PM · Report this
Good Job and thanks!
Posted by woofy on February 5, 2014 at 3:13 PM · Report this
@3. How he's taking the photographic evidence of your assault and battery to the police and having you arrested for felony assault & battery and filing civil charges against you for monetary compensation for destruction to personal property and aggravated injuries?
Posted by odelik on February 5, 2014 at 3:40 PM · Report this
Kudos, Dominic, and King County Sheriff John Urquhart, for standing up to SPD corruption and weeding out really bad apples such as Patrick "K.C." Saulet. I'm quite certain that the good, morally decent, hard working and truly law-abiding police officers of Seattle and elsewhere thank you, too, and are equally relieved to see Saulet go.
Although he doesn't have a long history of misconduct like Saulet, here's hoping that SPD deputy John Marion cleans up his act, too.

I find it disquieting, however, to read that it takes the SPD three weeks to provide investigation records when King County could get the same job done in one day.
Posted by auntie grizelda on February 5, 2014 at 11:00 PM · Report this
Amazing that it took so long for this scumbag to be shown the door. Sadly he´ll likely fight the judgement and I wouldn´t be surprised if he´s reinstated. Worse case scenario: he retires early with a gold-plated pension.
Posted by mad13 on February 5, 2014 at 11:53 PM · Report this
Seattlebcc 15
Maybe its a good thing and maybe it isnt. In the long run, cant help be feel that all parties shot themselves in the foot. I mean, first, ive taken pictures of the police before, but I was considerate enough to ask first. Second, in a pinch, when thugs are selling drugs on your street corner, raping your kids or beating up or murdering your friends, do you want someone like Deputy Patrick "K.C." Saulet who may be rough around the edges, but with a little extra training could be effective, helping you or some like Dominic Holden, who will be happy to snap the picture, then cry because the police arent doing enough to prevent crime.
Posted by Seattlebcc on February 6, 2014 at 5:14 AM · Report this
Now he's free to follow you around snapping pics Dom.,or whatever.
Posted by bakatya on February 6, 2014 at 11:44 AM · Report this
Godzilla1916 17
Well done. Well done indeed.
Posted by Godzilla1916 on February 6, 2014 at 1:06 PM · Report this
Saulet and his evil twin BOTH have issues. Watch the cop at 2:15 in this video at the Bank of America protest run up on me and attempt to instigate a problem.…

As a former law enforcement attorney I respect the badge and honor the good ones; the bad ones need to get gone. Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish but let's hope he doesn't pop up somewhere else.... stay tuned for the sequel because there wil be one....

Christopher King, J.D.
Posted by KingCast on February 6, 2014 at 5:03 PM · Report this
19 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
20 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
And meanwhile this does what when Judge Rosen released a cop on a misdemeanor when on camera shown assaulting a man. And the Police Guild that has done herculean efforts to prevent cops from carrying hand cams and body cameras like in California to film all encounters so it makes citizen cameras superfluous. Most cops now park far enough away to not film and turn off their microphones. So does this do anything to ensure that we are all protected. Slap yourself across the face rather than the back. Do something useful punk.
Posted by GlamGal on February 7, 2014 at 6:09 AM · Report this
This is what sorry low life wanna be fagot ass so called journalist write about.Nothing.Will do Anything for a story. Probably suck a dick! You act like this man physically assaulted you. As many White police officers in Seattle that go around Whoopin ass and get patted on the back! Where is the story on that?? That's what I thought....
Posted by Peez on February 11, 2014 at 4:39 PM · Report this
Wow are you and John Urquhart having sexual relations? Seems pretty harsh for just telling you to "leave transit property".
Posted by Peez on February 11, 2014 at 5:05 PM · Report this
Punk ass white boy. You have nothing better to do than to ride your bike fucking with people. Fuck you, you fagott ass bitch!!!!
Posted by Teezy on February 11, 2014 at 5:05 PM · Report this
This doesn't make any sense, a man loses his job because some asshole wants to bother him while he's doing his job!.... smh!
Posted by 404ATLGA on February 11, 2014 at 6:02 PM · Report this
Frankly, I feel more afraid of police than I do protected. I am a middle class female, live in a nice neighborhood and fortunately do not have to come in contact with them. My husband and I have 6 kids between us, and 3 are young adult males. one white, two brown. Our white son was just assaulted on the bus by metro police. He is a tall thin (frail, frankly) kid. He was thrown on the ground so hard that they knocked out his tooth, severely bruised his face from temple to chin, all which rendered him unconscious. He was given no medical attention after they arrested him. This was all in result of a verbal conflict. They broke his phone in half, relieved him of his belongings, kept 50 bucks of his money, and other valuables that they decided to keep. I fear for my other two sons to get pulled over, or have any sort of contact with the Seattle Police. I, for one, am elated that this cop has been let go. If you can't deal with the stress of the job, find something different. You signed up to protect the public, not to take out their frustrations on human beings.
Posted by Gabs on July 22, 2014 at 2:40 PM · Report this

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