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Thursday, May 15, 2014

So Long, Assholes!

Posted by on Thu, May 15, 2014 at 3:30 PM

The Seattle Police Department's media relations unit has lost two officers who were—in my humble opinion—a couple of total jackasses. Detective Jeff Kappel and Detective Mark Jamieson (but mostly Kappel) were truculent, defensive, and opaque. If they bothered to pick up the phone, they withheld information like it was their job. Kappel had been a lapdog to the right-wing-union-beloved, totally-bumbling interim chief, Harry Bailey, who will be replaced by a permanent chief soon. In a statement released yesterday, the SPD wished the pair the "best of luck" after transferring them to the criminal investigations unit.

Nobody will miss them.

The biggest problem at the SPD for the last five years—besides needlessly beating people, which led to a federal court order to cut out the excessive use of force—was the SPD being opaque when it needed to be transparent. Calling the media office was like playing roulette: Sometimes you'd get the outstanding Sergeant Sean Whitcomb, who would pull up incident reports, put you in touch with the right officers, and find answers to your questions. And sometimes you'd get one of these two clowns, who acted like they were professionally playing 20 questions. That problem got worse a few months ago when Sergeant Whitcomb was put on ice during a bullshit personnel dispute between himself and the right-wing cop union president, so Whitcomb wasn't even in the media office—instead it was like Russian roulette with six bullets in the chamber.

A toxic media bureau is not not just a problem for insidery reporters who deal with spokespeople (and I've heard lots of reporters lament Kappel, in particular). A poorly run SPD media office means that the general public gets news stories that are incomplete, skewed, and otherwise tarnished because the spokespeople refuse make the department transparent. Sometimes the media office created a total clusterfuck on major criminal cases. In the last few years, that eroded public trust when the SPD needed it most.

But things are turning around—Whitcomb is back this week and these guys are gone. This is the first bright sign of turnaround under the Murray Administration. Kappel and Jamieson have been replaced with Officer Patrick Michaud and Officer Drew Fowler. Welcome, guys.

UPDATE: Sergeant Whitcomb just called, and, because he is a consummate gentleman, he stood up for the two cops who are leaving his division. Referencing this post, he said, "I would object to the tone, and I value the contributions that Mark and Jeff have provided."


Comments (22) RSS

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MacCrocodile 1
Oh, for a second, I thought that headline was your abrupt resignation. The real story will do fine.
Posted by MacCrocodile on May 15, 2014 at 3:38 PM · Report this
seattleeco 2
I worked with Sgt. Whitcomb during the Oso incident response. He is awesome--hope they fill these spots with folks like him.
Posted by seattleeco on May 15, 2014 at 3:38 PM · Report this
I've heard that Whitcomb is actually back from exile but haven't seen that confirmed anywhere. Kappel and Jamieson were incompetent and an embarrassment. Finally some good news for SPD...
Posted by junipero on May 15, 2014 at 3:43 PM · Report this
thatsnotright 4
So these horrible officers will now be investigating crimes? Sounds as we can look forward to botched investgations.
Posted by thatsnotright on May 15, 2014 at 3:44 PM · Report this
dittoing the love for Whitcomb and hoping he is indeed back. But, w/thatsnotright @4: sending them to criminal investigations?
Posted by gnossos on May 15, 2014 at 4:08 PM · Report this

Wonder if the number of abusive comments will now go down.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on May 15, 2014 at 4:10 PM · Report this
MrBaker 7
6 FTW!
Posted by MrBaker on May 15, 2014 at 4:15 PM · Report this
I think Sean did great work in his pre-exile position, and I repeatedly heard him express views about the need for departmental transparency with which I agreed.

I think I met one of the two other guys at one of SPD's mesh network show-and-tell meetings last year. I forgot which. He was sitting next to me in street clothes, and at some point, I asked if we'd met. His initial response was, "You don't know who I am?" I think he expected I'd know him as a local TV celebrity or something. Someone later pointed out to me that he was one of SPD's PR people.

I can't comment on the wisdom of moving Kappel and Jamieson to the criminal investigations unit, but bringing Whitcomb out the basement and back into the role of department spokesperson is a great move.
Posted by Phil M on May 15, 2014 at 4:23 PM · Report this
meanie 9
@6 for everyone but you Balio.
Posted by meanie on May 15, 2014 at 4:30 PM · Report this
Gern Blanston 10
I'm sure you're an absolute joy to work with too.
Posted by Gern Blanston on May 15, 2014 at 5:14 PM · Report this
I saw a Whitcomb quote in the ST yesterday and had my fingers crossed.

Great news!
Posted by $nacks- on May 15, 2014 at 5:41 PM · Report this
raindrop 12
It was nice of Sergeant Whitcomb to call back. In regard to the tone, he has a point. You risk getting the reputation as hot head Dom.
Posted by raindrop on May 15, 2014 at 6:16 PM · Report this
The fact, that I, an NYC resident, know a Seattle Police spokesman by name speaks volumes to the professionalism of Sgt. Whitcomb. Now if only NYPD would follow suit...
Posted by DannyG on May 15, 2014 at 9:14 PM · Report this
Kappel is a jerk. Jamieson is not. In our experience, he has done all the things you attribute to Whitcomb - looking up and providing incident reports, among them. Sorry your interactions with him have not gone well.
Posted by Throwing the ticker tape on May 15, 2014 at 10:17 PM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 15
Go Whitcomb! I've seen several quotes from him in these pages that were clever and funny. I always have to re-read a couple of paragraphs to convince myself that it's the police dept. spokesman talking.
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on May 15, 2014 at 10:24 PM · Report this
These things are oil and water, they don't exist together anywhere in the universe:
"right-wing" & "union-beloved"
"right-wing cop" & "union president"

I think you mean "left wing".
Liberals & unions get along like Turner & Hooch, Tango & Cash, Crockett & Tubbs, Riggs & Murtaugh... (you get the idea)
Posted by CorrectingThe Obvious on May 16, 2014 at 12:41 AM · Report this
My sentiment exactly on Kappel. I'm a journalist that had to deal with them on a daily basis and mostly only had issues with Kappel put the whole department is difficult to reach. There are 4 PIO's making over a hundred grand with overtime and I have experienced them not being reachable or uncooperative even when public safety is compromised. Some transparency, in the same memo they announced the new hires, they said the media relations office is now only open until 5pm Mon-Fri.
Posted by newsguy206 on May 16, 2014 at 10:48 AM · Report this
Apparently neither were willing to massage Holden's ass with a nightstick like a certain former employee.
Posted by Ghjk on May 16, 2014 at 5:24 PM · Report this
The reason that these two guys have refused to cooperate with Holden is precisely because of Helden's "tone". Holden has no one but himself to blame for this sour relationship.
Posted by Arthur Zifferelli on May 17, 2014 at 5:09 PM · Report this
Seattlebcc 20
I like Sean's on-air persona as he appears personable and gives a human face to the department. There is also a lesson here for Dominic that he seems to be missing and that he makes mention in the "Update", that "Sergeant Whitcomb just called, and, because he is a consummate gentleman, he stood up for the two cops who are leaving his division". This statement tells me Sean is not only a consummate gentlemen, but an officer of the law who knows what the uniform means and the daily risks these folks deal with day-to-day no matter what objections you may have to their personality. And that "Referencing this post, he said, "I would object to the tone, and I value the contributions that Mark and Jeff have provided.", which to me, is an indicator for Dominic to chill out on the negative commentaries about the SPD, because you're just making his job all the more difficult without having the benefit of actually doing the role - or so that is what Im getting from this post. Welcome Back, Sean!
Posted by Seattlebcc on May 18, 2014 at 6:23 AM · Report this
As always, I enjoy the venom of your musings Dom! I do however agree with Sean on the tone but even if you muted the sharpness, the message would ring true. I found Kappel to be a fucking ass-hat from day one. Bumbling, incoherrant, rude, slow, and at times a leering hound-dog in his dealings with attractive female journalists. At no point did I find his attempts at charm an acceptable trade-off for his lack of interest in fulfilling his duties as Public Information Officer.

Jameson however arrived as a breathe of fresh air when he first took on the role of PIO. He was helpful and earnestly interested in doing his job completely even when all he could say was "the investigation is ongoing," or "the department has no comment." That changed quickly. Soon he would answer the phone and "play 20 qurestions" over the authenticity of what you were trying to confirm even debating the meaning of simple words like "it." Am I questioning Bill Clinton or the SPDs PIO? In recent dealings, Mark seemed overly cautious as if someone was listening to EVERY word being said. It was sad really.

I welcome the new additions and wish Jameson good luck in his next assignment. Kappel is leaving the way he came in: an ass-hat. Good riddance!
Posted by Viaduct_bum on May 18, 2014 at 11:37 AM · Report this
Good riddance to all the asshats getting booted, and welcome aboard to all the new breaths of fresh air cleaning up the SPD. Thanks, too, for the updates, Dominic. Keep up the good work.
Posted by auntie grizelda on May 18, 2014 at 9:35 PM · Report this

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