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January 15, 2014 at 6:32 PM

Seattle police officer disciplined for threatening journalist

A Seattle police officer who threatened to harass a journalist last year was found to have acted unprofessionally and was docked a day’s pay, according to the Seattle Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability.

The discipline results from a complaint filed against Officer John Marion by Dominic Holden, news editor of The Stranger, following an encounter Holden had with law-enforcement officers in the International District on July 30.

According to Holden, who has written about the incident, he was on his bicycle when he saw a half dozen officers surrounding a man at a transit station near Jackson Street.

Holden got off his bike to observe and to take notes and pictures, he said. While he was taking pictures from the public sidewalk, which is legal, a deputy with the King County Sheriff’s Office threatened to arrest him, Holden reported.

Holden wrote that when he questioned SPD’s Marion about who was in charge of the scene, Marion “became furious” and began threatening to harass Holden at his place of employment.

Holden said in a story published on Wednesday that the reactions struck him as just the sort of escalation that Seattle police were criticized for in a 2011 U.S. Department of Justice report. Holden wrote about what happened and then filed complaints with both Seattle police and the King County Sheriff’s Office.

Last month, the sheriff’s office placed Deputy Patrick Saulet on administrative leave pending the final results of an internal investigation into his behavior. Saulet, who requested a hearing to explain his side of the matter, had previously been demoted and stripped of his sergeant’s stripes in an unrelated but similar incident.

On Jan. 9, Seattle police found that the complaint against Marion was legitimate, or “founded,” and recommended that he take an unpaid day off. Holden said in his article that a “relaxing” day off seemed too light a penalty and quoted a civil-rights attorney as saying the officer should have been fired.

But Pierce Murphy, the director of the Seattle Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability said on Wednesday that while Marion’s conduct was “indefensible,” he is being held accountable for his actions. He said a day without pay is not a slap on the wrist. He said discipline can range from oral reprimands to termination, but “once you get into taking money away from a person, you are moving into the area of more significant discipline.”

Comments | Topics: Dominic Holden, John Marion, King County Sheriff's Office

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