- After demonstrating a "Come at me, bro" pose, Marion threatened five times to "bother" me at work.
I just got a call from Seattle Times reporter Steve Miletich confirming a rumor I'd heard recently: Seattle police chief Harry Bailey has overturned the one-day suspension of Officer John Marion, the cop who threatened to harass me at work in retaliation for reporting on police misconduct. Chief Bailey wants to provide more training instead, and as Miletich explains, Bailey doesn't seem to understand that he's also apparently overturned the misconduct ruling itself:
Bailey said he believed that a misconduct finding against Officer John Marion would remain in place, but then acknowledged he wasn’t sure a training referral amounted to formal finding of misconduct. Normally, training referrals are not considered to be a misconduct finding on an officer’s record.
The Office of Professional Accountability, which investigates misconduct cases and makes recommendations for handling discipline, found in January that Officer Marion was guilty of misconduct. The bureau director called his actions "indefensible." I argued that even the one-day suspension was already too weak and ignored some evidence. (A video shows Marion was retaliating specifically because I was documenting police activity, a constitutional violation.) But by overturning even the gentle one-day suspension, Chief Bailey is demonstrating that he places the agenda of bad cops, and the conservative police union that fights every discipline decision, over citizens who have been mistreated by police. Chief Bailey is also considering reversing the discipline against Officer Garth Haynes, the Seattle cop who stepped on the head of a handcuffed man.
That's too bad for the whole city.
It is a glaring sign that that Mayor Ed Murray and his pick for police chief are not committed to reform.
By protecting bad officers, Murray and Bailey further erode the tattered public trust that many citizens have of a department with a pattern of civil rights violations. It redoubles the appearance that politicians and police brass will defend their own and render complaining about misconduct useless, because no matter the evidence or recommendation, they will coddle the worst officers.
For his part, the chief claims that he nixed the day off because it gives him an opportunity to provide more training to the officer. That is absurd. The SPD does not need to repeal a misconduct ruling to provide basic officer training. Indeed, they are under a federal court order to provide better training after the Department of Justice found a pattern of excessive force linked to escalation of ordinary interactions (obviously, threatening a law-abiding reporter is an example of the escalation that SPD is supposed to be eradicating). Chief Bailey called me as I was writing this post to explain to me, as a citizen, his decision. But asked three times to explain why he had to reverse discipline to provide basic training, Bailey only prevaricated.
In a similar case involving a sheriff's deputy—from the same incident—King County Sheriff John Urquhart fired the cop outright.
My case is only a harbinger of the larger problem: Miletich notes today that Bailey is working with the cop union to review the discipline on 25 other cases of officer malfeasance. And under Mayor Murray, Bailey's first step as chief was to push out former interim chief Jim Pugel—who was praised by the federal court monitor as a leader on reform—by demoting him and possibly pushing Pugel out of the department entirely. Chief Bailey also recently defended a cop who shot a man in the butt before a use-of-force review for the incident was even complete. It may have been a justified shooting, but declaring an officer innocent misses the point of force reviews. As critics pointed out, Bailey prejudged an officer as innocent, ignored the review of his conduct, and cast an uncritical eye on use of force—that is, Chief Bailey is exhibiting the same behavior that got Seattle into a federal reform order in the first place.
Reform is going the wrong direction, Seattle. And the people leading us the wrong way are the mayor and chief, the people in charge.
UPDATE: Mayor Murray backs this decision 100 percent. “Technically, a day of training is considered a ‘lesser’ punishment than a day off," Murray says in a statement sent to The Stranger. "But Chief Bailey felt that mandating a training and education day for the officer in question would be a more constructive use of time and a better way at addressing the issue not just to penalize behavior but to shape the kind of behavior we want to see from our police force—and I agree with Chief Bailey’s decision.”