A day after placing a Seattle police officer on desk duty, the Police Department is reviewing a new allegation that the officer previously stole marijuana for her personal use from evidence, a department official said Friday.
The allegation surfaced Friday in The Stranger newspaper, which quoted a woman purporting to be the ex-girlfriend of Officer Cynthia Whitlatch as saying the two smoked the marijuana at home after it was stolen in the spring of 2005.
It was not immediately clear what step the Police Department might take, but one option would be to open a criminal investigation. A statute of limitation barring criminal prosecution would likely apply to an allegation of theft. But state law has no prosecution limit when a felony is committed by a public officer, “if the commission is in connection with the duties of his or her office or constitutes a breach of his or her public duty or a violation of the oath of office.”
Whitlatch was removed from street duties Thursday by Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole following disclosures that Whitlatch, who is white, had arrested a 70-year-old black man for carrying a golf club on July 9 and then, within two months, posted racially charged comments on Facebook .
On a Facebook post last summer attributed to Whitlatch, the officer was critical of “black peoples (sic) paranoia” in assuming whites are “out to get them, ” and cited the Ferguson, Mo., riots that followed the fatal shooting of a young African-American man by a white officer Aug. 9.
O’Toole said she learned only Wednesday of the post and became concerned that it closely followed the golf-club incident, which was publicly disclosed this week.
Amid public outcry, O’Toole opened broad reviews of Whitlatch’s work history and the department’s handling of the golf-club and Facebook matters. The department also has opened a separate internal investigation of the golf-club matter that could lead to discipline against Whitlatch.
In the Friday Stranger article, the woman making the marijuana-theft accusation, identified as Corinne Purucker, also alleged that Whitlatch made racist comments in the past, including the use of the n-word.
Purucker acknowledged her own checkered history, confirming she departed her job as a police officer in the Tukwila Police Department in 2004 after she was indicted for bankruptcy fraud.