Police Threatened to Arrest Me for Taking Their Photo Last Night

Comments

1
As Wendy O Williams so memorably sang, "A pig's a pig - and that's that."
2
Thank you for doing this.
3
You are bombastic and caustic. I don't know if you happened to be bombastic and caustic at that time.

But if you were being bombastic and caustic, they STILL should have responded respectfully and politely because that is their job.

It isn't your job to be polite.
4
It was minor because you are white. If you were nonwhite, it would likely have become nonminor.
5
Remember, you're a serf, and they serve the Billionaires and Millionaires, not you.

After all, you only pay their salary, while the rich pay very very little proportionally.

It's how Mercantalism works here in Soviet Amerikkaa.
6
Thank you for this.
7
@4 is correct.

(ooh, lightning strike on Lake Washington - that was fun!)
8
He'll definitely be showing up at your offices now that you've complained.
9
Way to keep your cool and stick with this. Good job, Dominic. Thank you.
10
And this is what the police do in Sweden if you try taking their picture:
http://www.wimp.com/swedenpolice/
11
Way to go. Go get em.
12
He probably thinks that having a cop show up at your workplace would be trouble for the average employee. Little does he know that at police intimidation at The Stranger's front desk earns Dominic extra bong hits and a high five from Mr Keck.
13
Have at it, Dominic. This silly alpha-male territoriality so common in interactions with police is counterproductive. It seems only fair that if there are cameras in parks and transit centers for public safety, the public should be able to do the same thing and point their cameras at our public safety officers engaging in the lawful and proper completion of their work.

Besides, if something illegal was actually going down against the officers in question, your camera could have been the one that could have documented proper police procedure and provided the evidence needed to convict. The police should be welcoming cameras everywhere and at all times.
14
Dude has an awesome Nicholas Cage thing going. Imagine what he could accomplish if he used that power for good instead of evil?
15
Someone's been putting estrogen in the cop shop coffee pot again.
16
I hate that this happens, but I'm glad this happened to someone with a bigger stick than they have. I'm glad SPD proactively opened an investigation, but this will be a test to see if the reforms they're doing have any teeth. I don't have nearly as much optimism for the King County Sheriffs. Their problems have been ignored for too long. Time for Urqhart to show what he's worth.

Hold them accountable, Dom.
17
Good for you, Dominic. I also would have stood my ground (but I'm a little tiny person so sometimes that gives me leeway).

Everything that happened - trying to shoo you away, questioning you about taking pictures, questioning you about who you were - fine. They CAN ask you questions but they cannot tell you that you can't be there or do those things.

That the SPD needs an overhaul is quite clear. I am surprised that once you IDed yourself as press that they didn't try to do better.
19
Dominic, I'm sorry this happened to you, and I'm very happy this happened to you. I look forward to your documentation of the process.

I'm in the middle of an SPD OPA complaint (number 13-0235) now. I have politely asked investigator Jason L. Verhoff #6387, who is apparently assigned to my case, nine times via e-mail since July 9 where I can read SPD's procedures for such investigations, but he continues to ignore me.


Date: Fri, 26 Jul 2013 13:54:50 +0000
From: Phil Mocek
To: Jason Verhoff
Subject: [NINTH REQUEST] Where is OPA investigation procedure documented? (OPA complaint 13-0235)

On Wed, Jul 10, 2013, at 9:09, Jason Vernhoff wrote:
> The web address I sent you yesterday provides quite a bit of information
> about the OPA complaint review process.

[That page][1] contains only the following eight questions, along with answers:

* What type of complaint can I file?
* IS IT SAFE TO MAKE A COMPLAINT?
* Will my complaint be investigated?
* Who will investigate my complaint?
* What happens if my complaint is assigned for further investigation?
* How long will it take for my complaint to be investigated?
* Will I be notified of the outcome of my complaint?
* What if I disagree or am unhappy with the outcome of my complaint?

[1]: http://www.seattle.gov/police/OPA/proces…

Where can I read the process by which OPA complaints are investigated? I'm interested in something like a procedures manual, not just a brief FAQ.

--
Phil Mocek
http://mocek.org

20
This has happened so many times to people I know. This is how SPD act ALL THE DAMN TIME
21
I envy your courage and reporting skills Mr. Holden. Well done!
22
From the picture it looks like Sgt. Saulet was giing for his gun. Anywhere else in the state but Seattle and you probably would've been shot,
23
Thanks for going to the dull, bureaucratic trouble to try to improve the police department, Dominic.

Ten actually-filed complaints of petty abusive behavior like this will do more to fix the department, and the community, than 100 deliberately orchestrated anti-cop riots ever could.
24
It should be illegal for an officer of the law to exert this style of intimidation without cause. It should be illegal for an officer to threaten arrest without probably cause.
25
This is a byproduct of recruiting vets as cops after the country goes to war. Everyone is a terrorist, everyone is a potential enemy. Even the cops who weren't in the military get infected with this same attitude. "Violence of action" is what they call it in the military, but it has no place in the police department outside of breaking up a melee.
If the deputy thought that your presence could potentially escalate the behavior of the person they're interviewing (the only plausible reason to ask you to leave that I can think of), the appropriate way to do so is to ask you to back up while they work or to tell you not to encourage the suspect by filming him. This whole escalating and threatening is ridiculous and counterproductive. ...the only thing is that it has become completely routine.
26
Your characterization, "...and until bad apples are fired or retired..." is a contradiction to your story. This is systemic. This is not, "a few bad apples".
27
i was watching some bike cops hassle a black dude on the ave last summer, in front of thai tom, and he didn't seem to have committed any crimes other than loitering, so i started taking pictures. the cops were definitely not thrilled with this and kept an eye on me, but none of them said a word. (neither did the throng of people waiting to get a table at thai tom.) i can't help but think that my being a white lady helped was instrumental in not getting threatened with arrest.

anyway. good call, dom.
28
It's scary that police officers would threaten to arrest you and harass at your workplace simply for trying to observe them from a safe distance. I could understand if you were trying to interject yourself into the situation, but you were not. They shouldn't be concerned about law abiding citizens observing their work and even photographing or taking video of it if they are doing their jobs properly.
29
#4 and #25 nailed it.

Good job!
30
Way to go, Dom. Looking forward to hearing more as this all progresses.
31
Just for fun, let's apply some Mudede, re Reza Aslan on Fox:

"If a black person wants to rise in this society he/she generally has to do more than whites do. In light of this fact, let's turn to this context and what do we see? A black woman clearly doing her best to be far better at bigotry than her white peers. The same sort of thing is true for Clarence Thomas."

And for Sgt. Saulet as well? He has certainly out- escalated the escalators over at SPD.
32
I look forward to following this story about my city.
33
I don't think all cops are bad people. They're just people, so some are great, many are decent, and some are stupid, redneck, power-crazy, dickheads. And it sounds like there may be more than "some" of the latter in Seattle if there were two in this group of 8-9 cops (and there were). The problem is the crazy "we're a brotherhood" attitude that leads the institution to protect cops with a history of 12 (!) "sustained misconduct complaints". That is bullshit of the highest order and needs to stop.
34
I have never read an article about the follow through of police internal affairs investigations, so I'm interested in reading how your action develops. Follow through and never back down or bow out, people! I was a distribution manager for an underground newspaper that covered Michigan and Indiana and had many run ins and even an arrest after being targeted for distributing a popular free newspaper.
35
"...officers were escalating ordinary interactions into volatile, sometimes violent, situations." I've seen this happen more times than I can count.

I believe it's steroids, and I believe all officers should be tested for them. I was told that the police guild has managed to protect officers from being tested for steroids, and I call bullshit on that. That's the first and easiest thing that we can do to lower use-of-force incidents. When the aggression is escalated so obviously for no reason, it could be steroids.

I wonder if threatening to harass you at work is illegal. It’s certainly outside of policy, I’d venture to guess. What a tool. Our police are beyond arrogant. More like outwardly disdainful. They don’t believe they have to deign to answer any pesky questions from civilians, not even civilians directly involved in a particular situation! They never answer my questions, politely or otherwise. That is treating us like garbage, and it’s part of the reason they’re in such trouble and been taken over by a federal court.

We either have the stoopidest cops on the planet here in Seattle or they’re appallingly undertrained. Or both.

“They are part of a stubborn, toxic culture of disrespect and intimidation, and until that culture is exposed and discarded—and until bad apples are fired or retired—the local police will be reviled by people who should appreciate and trust them.” WELL SAID. I hope you do follow up with a complaint because if it’s not a part of the official record, it didn’t happen.
36
I've mostly had good experiences with the SPD, but back in the early 1990's, I got detained while on my lunch break from teaching at a small school in the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford. The cop blocked my way with his patrol car, and ordered me not to move. When I tried to ask him what was going on, he told me to be quiet. I heard his radio telling him "the female car prowl suspect is a white female wearing pink shorts and white shirt." I was wearing white shorts and a pink shirt. He abruptly told me I was "free to go", giving no apology.
I was PISSED, but knew it was fruitless to protest. So I empathize with wrongly detained people. However, it is not a good idea to become part of a situation in which the police are working.
Big fricking mess all round...not all of them are rotten, but obviously some are, if the feds are after them.
37
fuckin' amateurs.
38
@26: you can clearly see in the first quote that you provided that the language used was "until bad apples are fired or retired." where are you getting the implication that there are only "a few" of them?
39
Someone with a DOZEN sustained misconduct incidents is still on the job? That's fucked up.
40
Here is Marion's Facebook account. You can glean quite a bit from looking at what he posted.
https://www.facebook.com/john.marion.94
41
As a teen, I had very long hair which drew extra police scrutiny. I'd get hassled everywhere I went by the bored Kirkland police. At one point, I even had guns drawn on me while a drug bust was going on and I happened to be nearby with a bunch of other bystanders.

After I graduated high school and cut my hair, this type of treatment stopped.

I'm fortunate to be able to cut my hair and just be a privileged, normal looking white guy.

Now at the age of 41 and with a 7 year old daughter, I have again been growing my hair for the past few years (figured I should grow it out one last time while I still have all of it). I now live in Seattle, and recently, the Seattle cops have started acting just like the old Kirkland cops I knew.

Again, I can always cut my hair. Not everyone is so fortunate.

In the meantime, it's a very real object lesson to my young daughter. If you are in trouble, you go to the police. However, the police are not to be trusted and you should always be weary of them.

PS - The ACLU handles a crapload of cases where people have been arrested for simply taking pictures, and even having their cameras seized by police. It is legal and your right to take pictures of police activity, but it doesn't mean your life will be easy if you do. Also, in my experience, asking for a name or badge number is a very quick way into the back of a squad car.

42
This is how the USJustice Department responded to a similar case in Baltimore: http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/threat…
43
What @24 said. It should be a gross misdemeanor to threaten to arrest for a non-crime, it should be prosecuted, and the perp should be prevented from serving as a cop anywhere subsequently.
44
@25 not so sure about that.

While it is true that seeing everyone as an enemy is a problem, it has always been true that almost everyone a police officer interacts with in a normal day that is not also a police or court officer is probably doing something wrong and/or lying to them.

Back when I was the reg force attachment to a militia unit in New Westminster, BC, I noticed that almost all of the off-duty cops that formed the majority of our militia unit had very dark viewpoints about people, due to their own experiences as police officers.

So, being veterans may not help make you think everything is sunshine and happiness, but I don't think the conclusion is correct.

Mind you, that's just my personal observation.
45
i'll be following! Thx
46
Two words:

GOOGLE GLASS
47
i think you mean 'wary', not 'weary', paul.
48
One week ago, I took some photos of cars parked on the street in downtown Seattle, and the occupant of one vehicle pulled his vehicle out, drove the wrong way down a one-way street, parked across a bus stop, jumped out of his unmarked pickup in plain clothes, ran to me, wrestled my camera away from me, and refused to return it. I called 9-1-1 to report the assault and robbery. Turns out, the guy was a federal ATF employee, and the DHS cop who arrived before SPD helped ATF guy examine the content of my camera and delete one of the images, while SPD watched. SPD refused to investigate, first claimed there was no incident number, then recanted and wrote it down. The reporting officer requested in his report that the feds' names not be released.

See http://archive.org/details/20130724Seatt… for several videos and the incident report and http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2013/07/… for AP's report. There's another article on salon.com due later this week.
49
hold your nose and support libertarians; take advantage of the states rights scenario and ban all assholes from the new bio-region; this obviously includes all cops.
50
You really should change the title to reflect that it was the Sheriff's deputy and not the Police as they are two totally differnt and seperate agencies.

KCSO has been royal d-bags for ages now.
51
I think you really enjoyed agitating the cops Dom, all the while claiming your legal ground - which is correct - but nevertheless you were being provocative and annoying for the sake of being provocative and annoying.
52
So, because McGinn appoints the Chief of Police this is certainly his fault and he needs to comment, right ?

McGinn felt that because he appointed the SDOT leader who reviews street vacations (to put toward a Council vote) so certainly the McGinn campaign will recognize that Mike is responsible for this to.
53
does that pos have his hand on a weapon? I came here to hate on pussy centrist political writers but now I've totally gone soft.
54
Dominic, You are correct. This type of behavior happens every day. Many SPD and Sheriff are allowed to harass, bully and intimidate at will and not even our elected officials will lift a finger or get off their butts to do anything about it.
But they will pick up the telephone to tip each other off, in warning, to cover it up. Old habits die hard.
Tonight there was a story on the news regarding the downtown business association and their complaining to the mayor about all the problems downtown and people not coming to shop and spend their money. I would like to say here "one of the reasons I don't go in to the inner city -down town Seattle- to shop, eat, go to a movie, etc. is because of the cops and their harassing, aggressive, bulling attitudes."
They seem to have a big chip on their shoulder and express hostility to everybody.
I don't know if its alcohol- drug- or a problem with anger, but it no excuse for how they behave to and towards the person on the street.
55
Nice work. I really appreciate you taking a stand on this. These jerks need to be disciplined and/or drummed out of the force.
56
Bravo.
Stick to your... principles.
Let's leave 'guns' out of this.
57
Dominic Holden: Hero or traitor??
58
i count eight cops.
(why does it take eight cops to accost a single person?)
which makes the "bad apples" description ludicrous.
unless eight "bad apples" just happened to converge in an amazing happenstance.
let's start a new conventional wisdom which states the truth- that there may be a few "good apples" in the occupation forces.
59
@44, Things may have been different in whatever era you worked in BC, but look at the police today... riot gear, overwhelming force to serve warrants, tactical vests, straight up militarization of the local police that started with SWAT teams in the '70s. More of this was happening under the drug war, but it's really accelerated after 9/11. Now build a police force with that military mindset that comes from a military that teaches that the use of overwhelming force and intimidation is the only way to keep themselves safe, and this is what you get.
If you start looking at everyone as the enemy you're going to start treating them that way, and if you come from a military that would rather call in an airstrike than risk one of their own getting shot then you're going to get behavior like this. If you get cops coming in with the mindset that they're there to help you'll get a different attitude in these kinds of interactions.
You may have a point about cops becoming jaded after dealing with criminals all day, but that's no excuse to treat everyone like a criminal. That's a reason for counseling or a career change.
60
neu rule: If you WANT to be a cop you're automatically disqualified. enlist low-functioning liberal arts students before they get an [online] teaching certificate.
61
@52

It was the King County Transit police. I know you hate McGinn but can't you fucking read?
62
SPD appears unwilling to change, even with oversight. In the 80's I was told to leave "a seen" multiple times. Of course that was always by the non-participatory cop. All I'm saying is that they've had over 25 years to change, and they haven't.
63
@36…you weren't exactly wrongly detained. In fact, if your story is as you described it, that's a perfectly justifiable action by the officer. And, you didn't even mention any undue harassment other than simply stopping you.

I once had 3 police cars screech to a halt around me, guns drawn and asked to hit the ground because I fit the description of an armed robbery. It was cleared up quickly, but that isn't a wrongful detention. That's a legitimate job for the police.

Don't confuse valid use of force with invalid use.
64
"I'm going to come into The Stranger and bother you while you're at work."

I think his wee feelings were hurt.
65
im sorry this happened and its a sad sad state our police dept is in, but this is a great piece. keep at it.
66
hey toothless, short-sighted, centrist, pussies. there is no fucking question that this shit will only get worse. Look at the trend of the last 40 yrs; it runs parallel with the unabated and accelerated dismantling of the middle class. Oh but progress!
67
Fuck the police.
68
Well done, Dom! Takes guts to not be intimidated by cops. I would have been in this instance. This sort of stuff should be well documented publicly. Thanks for doing this.
69
Honestly, it does seem that they keep those trigger-happy, fighty-cranky powercops downtown. between the cops and the aggressive panhandling and the public pissing, I see no reason whatsoever to go downtown. So I am annoyed that I have to go down there to get my marriage license.
70
See photography is not a crime for _way_ more stories just like this one.
71
Apologies if someone already said this (don't have time to read other comments now) but: writing about the complaint process is likely to be of incredible value. It will give more confidence to others in similar situations. And that's good for everyone-- including the terrific cops doing hard, hard work who have to deal with a suspicious public because some of their co- workers are yahoos who undermine public confidence in the police.
72
Admirable work, Dominic.

They work for us. This kind of behavior from public servants should not be tolerated.
73
Like @58, I'm baffled why they need 8 or 9 cops to "investigate" a low-key homeless guy (who I notice is Black).
74
Thank you for doing this, Dominic.
75
@39- The police union has decided it's job is to keep the cops above the law, and they're very good at their job.
76
Well done and very brave. This is one of the best articles I've read on The Stranger.
77
I'm normally just a troll on this site, but even ugly old me needs to pause and say thanks for posting this. Happens all the time--way too many cops in Seattle are aggressive assholes. Thanks, Dom.
78
Good Job, Dominic. We need this kind of reporting.
79
The department won't punish the officers involved. A criminal complaint needs to be filed with the D.A. It should list all of the criminal misconduct charges according to RCW, which there are many: terroristic threat, official oppression, official abuse of office...along with a few others. It is up to WE, THE PEOPLE to hold these people accountable. The Code is there to keep them in line. I really hope the best for you!
80
Thanks for this Dominick. I look forward to reading what the Mayor, Chief of Police, King County Sheriff and King County Executive have to say about such an arrogant abuse of power. AND WHAT THEY WILL DO ABOUT IT!
81
#10, thanks for that.
82
Bravo, Dominic! Thank you for reporting and exposing this. I hope the police here get meaningful punishment, but I doubt they will. With years of abuse and embarrassment larger than this, they still don't seem to learn or change. It's a shame I can't trust or respect our city's police force, and I fear their incompetence and ease of abuse worse than the criminals that don't wear badges. I wish SPD - collectively or at an individual officer level- could demonstrate improvement as a reaction to these embarrassing incidents. Sgt. Whitcomb says it, but none of his officers will DO it. I hope to hear these cops get what's coming to them, whether it's punishment from the department, or misfortune on their beat.
83
Like everyone else, I commend you for keeping your cool, taking pictures and making notes while everything was fresh. And, of course, I'm glad that you took the time to write this article. I do hope that you publish the rest of the story as it plays out. At the same time, I wish you happened upon the port police at the airport more often like this. They seem to have stayed out of the limelight and yet have many identical issues with profiling and bullying merely for the sake of intimidation.
84
Can you get restraining orders against police officers?
85
I expect more from the Sheriff's Dept as the Sheriff is an elected official. Okay, well... I 'expect' the best from any person who is in a position of apparent legal authority; but the Sheriff can be ousted easier than one who is in position by tenure or other bureaucratic means.
86
Some things never change.... I am certain that there are good police officers on the force, but unfortunately, there are, and always will be, the "rogue cops" who feel that the badge gives them the power to do anything that they choose to do without fear of having to answer for their illegal conduct. They have gotten away with it for so long that they now feel that they are immune from punishment. The police are supposed to protect the public, but I have always wondered who is there to protect the public from the police...
87
@61,
I can read, which is why I read below the fold and Saulet to Seattle Police Department officer John Marion.

As for officers with complaints being fired, I believe the transit police force is generally regarded a bit lowly (although it isn't the same as being fired).
88
Some things never change. I am certain that there are many good members of the police force, but unfortunately, there are, and always will be, the "rogue police officers" who feel that the badge allows them to do whatever they feel like doing without fear of being held accountable. They are sick with "power". I lived in Seattle many years ago and had my share of problems from those sick officers who felt that they were above the law, or felt that the law was whatever they said that it was. I always thought that the police department was there to protect the public, but I then wondered who is there to protect the public from the police department.
89
Good article, Dominic.
On a lighter note, this is - allegedly - what happens when you try to photograph a cop in Sweden...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dw6hNigL8…
90
You should fill for a restraining order against the officer who threaten to come to your place of employment think of how many people in seattle alone how have been killed by people who have made that exact same threat to a boyfriend or girlfriend ...if he had been a civilian and made that threaten to you and you called the cops to tell them you had been threatened it would of been a priority call , called domestic violence and the law in that county city and state says that he must go to jail and cant even post bail to get out until he is seen by a judge and agrees to sign a restraining order not to go near you until the case is resolved. Think about it if I walk up to you on a public street/place and threaten you and I have a gun would not the correct, safe and proper thing to do be to call the police and report me , also since it is a case of domestic violence the law says I can not possess a firearm until the case is settled and if I am found guilty I can not posses one ever again even though it is only a misdemeanor crime that I have committed... Do we really ex[pect this cop to be found guilty No but this way he and you will have to stand before a judge at least at arraignment and now it will no longer be cops in house looking into the matter but the prosecuting attorneys office and a judge overseeing it all you still have time to have the paperwork turned in charging this officer with a crime or at least with a perceived crime go all the way till a judge tells you it is done become people don't do this is why the cops in seattle get away with even killing innocent people Please keep me informed asadullahal@gmail.com
91
Kudos Dom.
92
I was shocked that it was not mandatory for everyone on the SPD to read the report from the Justice Department, and not even in full, but even the 2 page summary which highlighted the gross injustice of the SPD. Reporting a police officer does nothing, you talk to their sergeant in charge who then discusses the incident with the officer and they call you back and decide that no wrong doing has occurred. I would appreciate that the Stranger investigate and continue to call out not only the pussy of a mayor we have for not being able to stand up to the chief of police or the police union, but also the police union itself. I would say the by line would be "Who do you think you are?"
93
You've inspired me to go down and follow up with a complaint I started but didn't follow through with regarding the Puget Sound Security employees who threatened me physically in front of my kids at pier 91 after dropping off my wife for a cruise. It's time to get real.
94
Great article; great attitude. Your intentions seem noble and its this kind of publicity that is needed to "clean" what are otherwise good departments in SPD and KCSO. You didn't do anything wrong, and clearly a culture of abuse definitely had these sergeants by the horns. The police are led top down - until sergeants like these are eliminated the rest of the patrol units will follow suit.

Thankfully, as I mentioned most of the department(s) are clean. We just need them to get a bit better and we'll be one of the luckier cities in the country.
95
Great article. Cops like this make it hard for ordinary citizens to consider relying on the police in any situation. At least that is how I feel. They're supposed to protect. It's ridiculous for citizens to have to fear them and we are so far away from where we should be.

@10 Hilarious!

@35 Totally agree. Dated some people who took steroids. Very easy to hide and they were definitely aggressive when on them. Plus, you just don't get that burly naturally.

Would love to see Stranger do a deeper investigative piece on steroids in the dept.

Thank you, Dominic!
96
Good work Dom. The SPD needs new leadership. This sort of behavior is more than tiresome. The only way the department will change is with a new Mayor. McGinn has proven that he can't do his job - which is appoint good people to run City departments and manage them. SPD is a mess. SDOT, HSD, are even worse. Time for a change at the top.

It's amazing you let McGinn off when the cops misbehave. I don't get it. SPD is out of control, it's gotten worse over the last 4 years McGinn has been Mayor, but you want to re-elect him to fix it?
97
Ah, yes. This is why I teach a course inspired by my #OccupySeattle experiences titled #OccupyYourCamera: policing the police through your lens.

Don't take my word for it. Watch the video: http://jetcityorange.com/OccupyYourCamer…

Yes, I videotaped an incident at Westlake. Yes, I filed a complaint with the Office of Professional Accountability (OPA). Yes, when subpoenaed with my video the city attorney dropped the charges in an unrelated #Occupy case.

Yes, your camera is a weapon that can be used effectively to combat police misconduct. Now, are there any questions about why the cops hate being photographed? Didya watch the video???
98
Blue Scholars had it right:

Shoot the Cops

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=peqpQ_XpN…

Take your cameras out your pockets people!
99
had a similar encounter in Tampa photographing an arrest on a public street downtown.... not a local problem...
100
And yet your the paper who endorses McGinn who has failed to stop this in his tenure. Sort of asking yourself to be hurt by the police under his rule.