Fired Seattle police officer Cynthia Whitlatch still wants her job back.
Last September, Whitlatch became the only officer in the modern history of the SPD to be terminated for racial bias, after she arrested an elderly African-American man in 2014 as he walked down the street with a golf club he used as a cane.
Her union was expected to appeal the firing, but the details of the appeal were unknown until now.
SPD Director of Transparency and Privacy Mary Perry confirmed Whitlatch and the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) are appealing her termination to the Discipline Review Board, which is one of two avenues of appeal created by the union's contract with the city. The board is a three-member body stacked two-to-one with police officers.
If reformers had had their way, the Discipline Review Board would have been abolished by now. The department's federal monitor and the Community Police Commission have called for it to be eliminated. In 2009, the board overturned the firing of an officer who slammed a teenager's head into a patrol car seat. (The recently-rejected SPOG contract offer didn't get rid of the body, though it would have reduced the board to a single arbitrator.)
"Giving peer officers a voice in discipline is just offensive," said Sam Walker, a nationally-recognized policing expert who has studied police union contracts.
What's the basis for Whitlatch's appeal? It's not clear. SPOG and Whitlatch did not respond to requests for comment.
But the guild has argued in the past that an alleged violation of a time limit on misconduct investigations—another part of its contract with the city—prevents the department from imposing any discipline on Whitlatch.
The guild has also filed grievances alleging the department failed to give Whitlatch initial notice of an investigation into her conduct within five days of receiving a complaint, as prescribed by the contract. The department denied that grievance because the notice was, in fact, sent one day after the complaint came in.
An arbitrator has been chosen for the Whitlatch appeal. Under the Discipline Review Board scheme, the arbitrator chairs the panel and is chosen from a pool of arbitrators previously agreed upon by all parties. An officer from police management and an officer from the rank-and-file will join the arbitrator to decide Whitlatch's fate.
The hearing will take place behind closed doors and is scheduled for the second week of November. "Both sides are preparing for the hearing," said SPD's Perry.
A federal lawsuit alleging racial discrimination filed by William Wingate, the elderly military veteran who Whitlatch arrested, is set to go to trial on October 31.
This post has been updated.