New Records Show Years of Concern About SPD Officer Whitlatch's Behavior (Including a Petco Incident in 1997)

Comments

1
Last name begins with Desch*, maybe Deschene, Deschone, or Deschine.
2
Awesome job, Ansel! Thank you for keeping at this story.
3
And I bet the first name is Jim.
4
Rogue copz gonna rogue.
5
Seconding applause for wonderful reporting work all the way through on this one. @1 and 3, that's Jim Deschane all righty. Google results show he was West Precinct captain and then Assistant Chief. Retired 2007 according to old SPOG newsletters online.
6
A Captain Jim Deschane is quoted here in an old NYT article:
http://www.nytimes.com/1987/12/26/us/sea…
7
As long as good cops keep covering up for the bad cops, as long as bad behavior is an accepted part of Cop Culture, the SPD will never get to where it needs to be.
8
@5, @6: Nice work, folks.
9
Don't worry. A week of sensitivity counseling will clear this right up!
10
Seems like more of a dumbass cop, than a rogue cop. Fire her. Start firing cops that do this shit. It's the only way.
11
Is SPD going though OPA and other disciplinary records to see where there are multiple incidents with other cops?

The worst thing that can happen is to Whitlatch as a one-off case. Whitlatch's incidents prove that there are systemic problems, loopholes and lapses that need to be addressed. The Stranger shouldn't be identifying officers' documented patterns of abuse through PDRs; SPD is responsible for doing this on its own.

Let's hold the mayor, city council, and police chief accountable for fixing this now and making sure this is addressed in the current SPOG union contract negotiations.
12
@10

Okay, then, dumbass copz gonna dumbass.
13
@10

Okay, then, dumbass copz gonna dumbass.
14
Read her body language. She's a bully.
15
11,

The retention schedule for OPA files is 3 years, then they shred them.

I have an open public records request with SPD for *all* of their old OPA files. SPD had charged me over $2k (out of an estimated +$20k) copying fees so far. The earliest OPA files I was able to get hold of date back to January 2010. Everything before then is pretty much gone.
16
The problem is that there are dozens and dozens and dozens more just like her on SPD...
17
@11: I applaud The Stranger for documenting Whitlach's history. You think the SPD is going to do it? NOPE. I agree with everything else you said RE holding mayor, police chief and city council responsible for addressing loopholes.

How can this woman still have a job? It'll be interesting to see the SPD respond to this story.
19
Makes me wish the The 206 could bring in Melissa McCarthy to play her in a skit.
20
@11 - Thanks for doing that. So complaints over 3 years old are out, but I'm assuming disciplinary information for the length of an officer's career would be included in their personnel files. Do you know if this is correct?

Even if the files aren't disclosable, shouldn't the data about the discipline that would be documented across all files should be disclosable? For example, shouldn't we be able to look at the past 10 years, and request how many officers were referred for counseling, mandated trainings, verbally reprimanded, etc? And how many cops had 2, 3, 4, etc. instances of discipline or corrective action? And while we're at it, how many instances of discipline later had their severity reduced (like the instance noted here and the actions by former interim Chief Bailey) and by whom?

I understand why releasing files of cops wouldn't/shouldn't happen, but it seems that the data should still be public. Do you know if this is possible?
21
@15 - I meant to reference you in the previous comment.

@16 - As I commented before, this is why an independent press is so important. We would know nothing about this if it weren't for the Stranger's reporting.

The Stranger is doing more to protect the residents of Seattle than the mayor, police chief, or DOJ.
22
@19: Why shouldn't it happen? I'm working with Eric on this, and we intend to make all OPA (internal investigations) files available to the public. These are our investigations of our public staff by our public staff.
23
I'm not from Seattle, so I don't really have an intimate knowledge of the workings of the SPD. But I've always had a great time visiting this amazing city. I don't understand how such a "cool, hip" place (I know….showing my age) could have such a fucked up police force.
24
@19,

The problem is, prior to a supreme court decision in August 2011, it was legal to keep files about misconduct investigations secret in cases where the accusation was not sustained. And so, until that point in time, what SPD would do is they would exonerate the officers even in clear-cut cases of wrongdoing. Then they could say, "Because the accusation was not sustained, we don't have to release the investigative record."

One can point to Whitlatch's lengthy history of sustained accusations as evidence to the contrary, but there's a certain pattern you see when you look at old OPA investigations: if it's something minor, like insubordination, or rudeness, or running personal errands in city vehicles, then the accusation has a good chance of being sustained.

But if the accusation was for a civil rights violation such as false arrest or excessive force, then OPA would go to the ends of the earth to avoid a finding of sustained. For a dozen years, from 1999 until 2011, OPA reliably exonerated these types of accusations, and then destroyed the records when they were three years old.

Two important things have changed about OPA since the bad old days: #1, it has a new director, and #2, its investigative files are made public. I'm hopeful that those changes will lead to a better OPA. Time will tell.

25
@22, you were just lucky enough not to have annoyed one of our cops during your visits.
26
This is curiosity more than anything else right now, but has Off. Whitlatch ever fired her gun at or otherwise physically subdued a suspect?
27
Why is Whiplash still a Seattle Cop? ...why was she *ever* a Seattle Cop? ...for the answers, tune in to the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.....
28
What scares me is that this woman who cannot control her anger even in trivial situations can carry a gun.

I would rather she be fired but barring that she should only have a desk job where she does not meet the public and she should not be allowed to carry a gun. Also, she should not be training other officers!
29
Wow. Outstanding work, guys. This is the kind of investigative journalism that should win awards and be emulated across the country.
30
@23

Clearly you've done your research. So finish the job. Support these allegations of management interference with the OPA. How about 10 cases where the investigation findings and a holding of unsustainable accusation of misconduct don't appear to match? Yeah. Thought so.

Yes, there are cops who are bad at their jobs or just unduited for police work. There are cops who make an error in judgement or lose their temper, for which discipline is appropriate. But it's also easy for someone like you who hates the police to make accusations that could ruin a good officers career. That's why the OPA exists. It protects the police both from bad police practices and unfounded or malicious accusations. Like those you're making.
31
The last name looks like starts with Derch or Desch, and go from there
32
Just Google "assistant chief of police professional responsibility bureau seattle jim" and you'll come up with Jim Deschane.

It ain't rocket science.
33
Just drop here off in the Central Dist or Rainier Valley. Problem solved.
34
@29: Who said or otherwise indicated anything about hating police?

Demanding that people employed to enforce public policy with force be watched closely and held accountable for their actions is not the same as hating police. Complaining about a pattern of maintaining the employment of police who engage in misconduct or are otherwise unfit for the job is not the same as hating police.
35
@29,

It's coming, and rest assured I appreciate all your words of encouragement.

Just one thing: the bit about hating cops? Your words, not mine.
36
@33 Exactly. Seattleblues is a reactionary little turd who suffers from severe projection disorder (and probably constipation). Because he fears and therefore hates anyone who threatens his fossilized view of "good guys" and "bad guys," he attacks Ansel's reporting on this story as motivated by hatred of the police. No matter that there's zero evidence for such a claim. In fact, the reporting is factual and dispassionate almost to a fault.
37
The system is designed such that the defense bar is one of the primary checks on police/prosecutorial misconduct. Until the discussion includes the class and race issues involved with why the defense bar is ineffective in that role, attempts at ending misconduct will ultimately be futile.
38
Patterns of conduct like this are seen when an agency is reluctant to take substantive action, because the employee involved will immediately be defended by the Guild, EEOC and civil action - all of which will allege discrimination of some type. The administrative costs of responding to such allegations are so high that the agency/local govt. tries to avoid them at all costs. The result is the ineffective application of training, conduct and overall performance standards.
39
Thank you for your good work on this story, Ansel. You are a journalist in the best tradition of the profession.