- Seattle police officer Cynthia Whitlatch, in 2014, arresting an elderly black man for no apparent reason as he walked through Seattle. "I knew she would make the news someday," Kathleen Dunne, a 57-year-old Metro bus driver, said of Whitlatch. Dunne filed a complaint about Whtilatch's behavior toward her in 2011.
Yesterday, we broke the news that Seattle police officer Cynthia Whitlatch—the cop whose racially charged Facebook remarks and treatment of a retired Metro bus driver, William Wingate, have landed her in hot water—has a history of using the n-word and once stole marijuana from SPD, according to her former girlfriend, an ex-cop.
Now another person has come forward alleging that she, too, has been on the receiving end of Whitlatch’s aggressive behavior.
Fifty-seven-year-old King County Metro bus driver Kathleen Dunne says Whitlatch harassed her several years ago. According to Dunne, she was driving a route on Capitol Hill on a chilly morning in November. Dunne, who is white, said that Officer Whitlatch would regularly park her patrol car in the bus stop on the west side of Broadway near the intersection with Roy Street. That morning, Dunne had to go to the bathroom (Metro drivers' attempts to secure accessible bathrooms is whole 'nother story). On her way in to Roy Street Coffee to use the restroom, Dunne said, she asked Whitlatch and her partner to move their patrol car out of the bus stop. It wasn’t the first time Dunne had asked one of them to do so.
"I said, 'I really need you to move your car,'" Dunne told me.
But Whitlatch wasn’t cooperative, according to Dunne. In fact, she said, Whitlatch responded aggressively.
"She comes after me as I'm trying to go to the bathroom. She said, 'Why are you always harassing me?'"
In response, Dunne said, "Ma'am, I have to go to the bathroom."
Then, as Dunne recounted, "She comes after me and she keeps peppering me with questions. She wouldn't let me answer. She kept saying, 'Why do bus drivers run through red lights?' I kept thinking, 'This woman is crazy.' She acted like they could park anywhere they wanted."
Dunne said after she went to the bathroom and walked out of the coffee shop, past Whitlatch and her partner, Whitlatch followed her out and down the street. She said she remembers Whitlatch saying something along the lines of, "You! Come here! You're not going anywhere."
Dunne said she felt threatened. "She was trying to physically intimidate me," Dunne said. "She was pretending like she was going to chest bump me... She kept rocking on her heels and coming up about an inch from my chest. I was so afraid she was going to put me in handcuffs."
While Whitlatch berated her, she said, her partner "stood there like a dolt. I kept looking at him, and he said nothing... It felt like a nightmare."
Whitlatch didn't arrest Dunne like she arrested Wingate (for carrying a golf club as a cane and refusing to put it down). But Dunne said she was so upset by the incident that afterward she refused to drive routes on Capitol Hill. When she saw the video of Whitlatch's arrest of Wingate, she said, she started shaking and tearing up.
"She needs to be removed from SPD. No one would listen to me back when she harassed me a few years back,” Dunne wrote on her Facebook page on Wednesday, the day the story of Wingate's arrest broke. “I knew she would make the news someday, and I'm ready to testify for my dear retired coworker William! Never should [have] happened."
Today, when I talked with Dunne about what happened to her, she stressed, "It's not about me. It's about trying to get the story out for William, and all the others abused by her."
After Dunne’s run-in with Whitlatch, Dunne did exactly what Seattle resident Brian Davis did after Whitlatch accused him of being a "black racist" in a series of inflammatory online comments last year: Dunne filed a complaint with the Seattle Police Department's Office of Professional Accountability (OPA).
OPA Director Pierce Murphy confirmed that Dunne filed a complaint in 2011, and said the allegations Dunne shared with me today regarding those events matched what she filed in her report.
Murphy hasn't yet provided The Stranger with a copy of the 2011 report. But he said the OPA referred the complaint to Whitlatch's supervisors and did not investigate Dunne's allegations. That decision, Dunne said, "felt like a slap to the face... I won't take a bus route on Capitol Hill now, because I'm afraid of her."
She added: "I just wish someone would have listened to me back then."
When we told City Council Public Safety Committee chair Bruce Harrell about Dunne’s allegations, he said, "We'll continue to push for the appropriate discipline," but did not want to comment on Dunne's specific allegations. "But more importantly," he added, "let's continue to explore the systemic problems in the department, where this kind of conduct has not been called out in the past."
Asked about the new allegations from Dunne, SPD spokesman Sean Whitcomb said, "She did the right thing by filing the complaint." Beyond that, he had no comment.
Seattle Police Officers Guild President Ron Smith, who conveyed yesterday's new allegations to Whitlatch, said he would alert Whitlatch about these new allegations as well and let us know if she has a response. At 5:09 pm today, Smith sent The Stranger an e-mail: “No answer."
UPDATE: The FBI is supporting SPD's investigation into Cynthia Whitlatch.