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January 28, 2015 at 5:38 PM

Seattle police apologize for man’s 2014 arrest; chief orders review

Update at 6:10 p.m.: Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole on Wednesday said she has ordered a review of Officer Cynthia Whitlatch’s conduct and supervision, according to the department’s website.

Here is O’Toole’s statement:

“Today I heard many concerns from community members about the conduct of an SPD officer assigned to the East Precinct. These concerns are related to two incidents that occurred during the summer of 2014, one of which was detailed previously by our department.

I have directed East Precinct commander Captain Pierre Davis to prepare a comprehensive report, to include his assessment of the officer’s performance and any supervisory measures that were taken to address her actions in these incidents.”

The statement doesn’t name the officer, nor does it give details of the second incident.

Original post: Seattle police have apologized to a 70-year-old man who was arrested last year after he refused an officer’s command to put down a golf club, which the officer claimed he was wielding as a weapon.

William Wingate was on his daily 10-mile walk last summer, using the golf club as a cane, when the officer claimed he swung it in a threatening manner while she was driving her patrol car, according court documents and a police video of the interaction between Wingate and the officer.

The video, which was taken by a police patrol-car camera, was posted on the Seattle Police Department’s website along with news of the apology. In addition to the apology, the officer who arrested Wingate was counseled and the charge against Wingate was dismissed.

Dawn Mason, a former state representative who asked the Seattle City Attorney’s Office to look into the case, said the apology rectified a wrong and strengthened ties between police and the community.

“I believe that it’s in everyone’s best interest to also highlight the things that go right. That’s what happened here — this one is a win,” Mason is quoted as saying on the police website.

According to the police report, court documents and Mason’s account, the arrest occurred on July 9, after Officer Cynthia Whitlatch claimed Wingate had aggressively swung his golf club at her, striking a stop sign, while she was driving past him near 11th Avenue and East Pike Street.

The video and police report indicate she circled the block, pulled up alongside Wingate and repeatedly ordered him to drop the golf club. She can be heard telling him that the club can be used as a weapon.

Wingate, who at times appears to be unable to hear Whitlatch clearly, denies any wrongdoing, refuses to drop the club and tells the officer to call somebody — presumably a supervisor or another officer.

Another officer comes into view and Wingate is arrested. He is later booked into the King County Jail for investigation of obstruction and harassment.

Court documents show Wingate was later charged in Seattle Municipal Court with unlawful use of a weapon, a misdemeanor. He accepted an agreement in which the case would be dismissed after two years if he complied with conditions ordered by a judge.

Neither Wingate nor Mason could be reached for comment on Wednesday, but Mason said in her blog that the arrest was unjust.

She described Wingate as a former King County Metro bus driver with no previous criminal history who spent 30 years in the military and had previously enjoyed a good relationship with police.

Mason spoke with City Attorney Pete Holmes about the case and Holmes asked Criminal Division Chief Craig Sims to look into it, according to Kimberly Mills, a spokeswoman for the City Attorney’s Office.

“After Craig discussed the issue with Deputy (Police) Chief Carmen Best, our office determined that justice would be served by agreeing to dismiss the case before the agreed two-year time period, as Mr. Wingate had no previous criminal history,” Mills said in an email on Wednesday.

On the city’s recommendation, the case was dismissed by a judge on Sept. 19.

Best personally met with Wingate, returned his golf club, and offered an apology for his arrest.

Police also said Whitlatch received “counseling from her supervisor, a course of action that the department believes to be an appropriate resolution.”

Wingate also spoke about the incident during a rally sponsored by the NAACP Seattle King County in August.

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