Want a case study in how two police departments that operate in Seattle speak differently to their cops about misconduct?
1. As Slog readers know, the Seattle mayor and police chief repealed an officer's punishment last Thursday under pressure from the police union, and then, when political and media blow-back reached hurricane force, reinstated the misconduct verdict this morning in a hastily called press conference. They also said the city is reconsidering several more officer punishments. Here's the message that sends to cops: Sometimes you can get away with misconduct and sometimes you can't. Terrible message.
2. The King County Sheriff's office is a different story. Sheriff John Urquhart posted a YouTube video message to his deputies last Wednesday that, after some nice stuff about how swell the cops are, warns them that misconduct is unacceptable and officers will be fired:
Click for video
"I have terminated over a dozen people last year," says Urquhart. He goes on to explain why he fired a deputy involved in the same incident as the SPD officer I mentioned above. He also details reasoning for other terminations.
"I was elected on the heels of two very devastating audits of our organization," Urquhart continues. "One audit in particular was extremely critical. A major point in the audit was a lack of accountability in the sheriff's office. The employees were not being held accountable for their actions. That puts the trust of the citizens we serve at risk. I am not willing to lose that trust. So make no mistake, I intend to hold people in the sheriff's office accountable. Everyone must honor the law enforcement code of ethics and follow our general orders manual. I expect all ranks to be on board with this."
"You have the power to arrest, to take away somebody's freedom. Society confers on you that very unique responsibility," says Sheriff Urquhart. "But it is to be used with respect and it is to be used without violating constitutional or civil rights."
In other words, King County is doing what Seattle is not doing: making clear what conduct is acceptable and unacceptable—and actually punishing the unacceptable behavior—then sending that message directly to cops. Sheriff Urquhart is doing this right.