A King County sheriff’s deputy who threatened a newspaper editor with arrest during a sidewalk confrontation in July has been placed on administrative leave pending the final results of an internal investigation into his behavior.
King County Sheriff John Urquhart confirmed today that Deputy Patrick Saulet was placed on paid administrative leave before Thanksgiving for allegedly threatening to arrest Dominic Holden, news editor for The Stranger weekly newspaper.
Holden wrote that he was riding his bike past Fourth Avenue South and South Jackson Street about 7:25 p.m. on July 30 when he saw six law enforcement officers surrounding a man who was seated on a planter box at a transit station.
Holden said he took a photo from a public sidewalk of Saulet, who told Holden to leave the area or risk arrest. Holden then spoke to a Seattle police officer, who reportedly threatened to come to Holden’s office and bother him while he was working.
Taking photos of police activity on public property is legal.
“As long as they are not directly interfering with an investigation, they have a right to stand there and videotape or take photos,” said sheriff’s spokeswoman Sgt. Cindi West following the incident.
In addition to writing about the incident, Holden filed complaints with both the King County Sheriff’s Office and Seattle Police Department.
The complaint to the SPD has been forwarded to the department’s Office of Professional Accountability, according to spokeswoman Renee Witt.
Urquhart said the sheriff’s internal investigation into Saulet is nearly complete, but that the deputy has requested a Loudermill hearing, when he will have one last opportunity to plead his case before the sheriff imposes discipline. Urquhart declined to comment further on the internal investigation or the punishment recommended by Saulet’s commander.
The Loudermill hearing is set for Dec. 19, according to the sheriff’s office.
Urquhart had previously stripped Saulet of his sergeant’s stripes back in August in connection with a December 2012 incident in which the deputy was accused of being hostile and threatening to a man and his pregnant wife when they accidentally drove into an off-limits area of a Metro Transit Station at Westlake in Seattle. The couple said Saulet made a “spectacle” of everything, told the husband to “man up” and threatened to arrest him and have their 18-month-old daughter taken from them, according to a letter sent to Saulet at the time of his demotion.
The letter also references Saulet’s troubled history with the department, indicating that he has received 120 misconduct complaints, more than any other deputy in the department, for his interactions with the public. It also shows that the deputy had received counseling and had been warned on numerous occasions.