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February 6, 2015 at 10:45 PM

Second SPD officer put on paid leave over social-media posts

For the second time in a week, Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole has placed an officer on paid leave in response to what she described as social-media posts that have been “called into question.”

O’Toole announced her action in a department-wide email Friday night.

The matter has been referred to the department’s Office of Professional Accountability, which conducts internal investigations, the email said.

O’Toole’s email did not identify the officer.  But a department official said the move related to a story posted on The Stranger website Friday that identified Seattle police Officer Sam Byrd as posting inflammatory Tweets about race, gays, President Obama and other subjects.

O’Toole’s action came three days after she placed Officer Cynthia Whitlatch on paid leave,  stemming from disclosures last week that Whitlatch, who is white, had posted racially charged comments on Facebook last summer  within two months of arresting a 69-year-old black man for carrying a golf club she viewed as  a weapon. Whitlatch had initially been placed on desk duty last week.

“I am particularly disappointed by these incidents because they undermine community trust, the reputation of the SPD and the outstanding work of many professional, hard-working officers,” O’Toole said in the Friday night email. “I will continue to take decisive action against this type of behavior. I expect all SPD members to demonstrate professionalism, common sense and good judgment. “

She also noted the department has been working with the Seattle City Attorney’s Office on a draft social-media policy since August.

“I have expedited the draft and it has been sent to the Monitoring Team and the Department of Justice,” O’Toole wrote, referring to ongoing work with a federal monitor and the U.S. Justice Department to carry out court-ordered reforms to curtail excessive force and biased policing in the Police Department.

The city agreed to the reforms under a consent decree with the Justice Department in 2012.

In Friday’s Stranger story, the newspaper referred to a Twitter feed listed, until recently, under Sam Byrd’s name.

According to The Stranger, the feed, which has since been made private, complains of the following:

“the Feds will look for any reason to take over local law enforcement. If the facts aren’t there, the facts are fabricated”; there are “no repercussions for crime” in Seattle; gays in Seattle “have more rights and protections than I do”; Mexico is a “third world cesspool”; “social justice is nothing more than racism”; Jay-Z or Beyonce is a “blatant racist”; Barack Obama “know[s] more about basketball than foreign policy”; that Marshawn Lynch cannot “speak properly”; that the Department of Justice will “fabricate evidence” in its investigation of police brutality in Ferguson [Mo.]; that local protesters don’t protest “when blacks kill blacks by the thousands every year”; Macklemore is an “imbecile” for protesting the death of Mike Brown; Al Sharpton is a “racist”; “People are too busy looting” for the cops’ side of the story to be told in Ferguson; and “There’s no incentive to own a business or shop in Seattle” because of the new minimum-wage law.

On Jan. 29, The Stranger reported, a Facebook page identified as Byrd’s, which also is now private,  included the posted comment, “Apparently, due to my employment, this is about all I’m allowed to post, so here you go…”

It was followed by images of kittens and puppies.

Byrd, 43, who is white, joined the Police Department in 2001.


Comments | More in General news, Government, The Blotter | Topics: paid leave, Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole, social media


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