Sheriff's Deputy Fired For Harassing Journalist Taking Photos Of An Arrest On A Public Street

from the protecting-citizens-rather-than-deputies:-so-crazy-it-might-work dept

Here's something that's all too uncommon in the police world, so enjoy the moment.

A King County sheriff’s deputy who threatened to arrest an editor for The Stranger weekly newspaper during a sidewalk confrontation in July has been fired by Sheriff John Urquhart.

Deputy Patrick Saulet, a 27-year veteran with a troubled disciplinary history, was terminated at the end of the business day Monday, according to Urquhart.
According to the complaint filed by Dominic Holden (the editor who was harassed), Deputy Saulet became "agitated and confrontational" when he noticed Holden taking pictures of an arrest that occurred on a public street. An internal investigation found that Saulet "recast" the confrontation to put it in a more favorable light, deliberately obscuring the fact that he threatened to arrest Holden for (basically) performing his job and "misidentifying" public property as private property. Another deputy, John Marion, was suspended for a day (without pay) over the same incident, after it came to light that he threatened to harass Holden at his workplace.

So far, so good. Rather than letting this slide, the sheriff fired the deputy. Surprisingly, the strongest words used against Saulet came from the letter accompanying his pink slip -- written by his former boss, Sheriff Urquhart.
“Your ill-advised actions also play to some of the most basic fears among some citizens, which is that a police officer may indiscriminately exercise his or her power in violation of their rights, because in the event of a complaint, the officer will just deny the allegation and ‘circle the wagons’ with his or her fellow officers on the expectation they will take care of their own.”
This is a rather bold admission of the attitude that's almost omnipresent in law enforcement agencies across the nation. The "basic fears" Urquhart writes of aren't unfounded. Example after example exists of LEOs making up the rules as they go along (and reinterpreting laws on the spot), secure in the knowledge that the system will protect them. (And in some cases, return them to their jobs despite their supervisors' obvious desire to be rid of them.) Firing Saulet is a small step towards restoring the public's trust. But lurking behind this stark acknowledgement of the corrupted system is more evidence that the system -- even Sheriff Urquhart's -- is still severely broken.
Saulet was demoted from sergeant last year after Urquhart found he had harassed a family in a vehicle that had made a wrong turn into an area reserved for King County Metro Transit vehicles.

Overall, Urquhart wrote, Saulet had been the subject of about 120 allegations, with 21 sustained. Saulet had racked up more complaints on the force than any other King County deputy, according to a demotion letter previously obtained by The Stranger.
Saulet has been a problem for a long time. That the Sheriff is unwilling to let this last one slide isn't really a victory -- it's simply the end result of an ugly history that could no longer be ignored. An action like this should have been taken long before Saulet racked up his 21st sustained complaint. And, unfortunately, Saulet still has the option to work with an arbitrator to reclaim his position -- a position of responsibility and power he's clearly unfit to fill.

So, it's a small step forward for the King County Sheriff's Department, but one that follows several steps backwards. A sustained movement forward is what's needed to start shifting the balance of power back towards King County residents. Urquhart seems to be ready to do exactly that, but Saulet's long rap sheet points to a long history of "circled wagons" and ineffective wrist slaps.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, Feb 10th, 2014 @ 9:27pm

    Where's the DOJ?

    If the DOJ was doing their jobs, correctly, we would have a lot less of this. Civil rights violations are directly in their purview. These are civil rights violations. The Fed's. should be stepping in, and they are not.

    I guess they are too busy trying to figure out how to crucify MegaUpload and Edward Snowden, at the same time appeasing Hollywood and their various minions, whilst all along preparing to use Drones on US citizens on US soil without a trial, facilitated by lying to congress and various judges.

    Ok, we have means and opportunity, motive anyone?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 10th, 2014 @ 10:08pm

    Due process being enforced? Oooh, Just Sayin's not going to like this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 10th, 2014 @ 10:58pm

    One of the attributes destroying the unity of the nation is the observation by the average citizen that this government is corrupt from the top levels right down to the local levels. People still love their country but their view of the circumstances they find themselves in has been deteriorating steadily.

    From people and household pets being killed in no knock warrants only to find it being the wrong household, right down to the militarization of the local police force in their home towns.

    Hardly a month goes by here at Techdirt that some article isn't put up for all to see that carries this theme on while the national media seeks to disguise these same events by no coverage at all.

    Time and again we see that police officers appear to be deathly afraid of the camera wielded by a citizen or a local news reporter in what looks to be a phobia of being scared of being seen in images of not doing their jobs as they are charged to uphold.

    It is precisely events such as this that is destroying that unity. The idea that it took 120 events of which 21 were ruled valid says that more than I can. The question in my mind is just how many more which were not found valid were.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 10th, 2014 @ 11:48pm

    Re:

    Is he gonna go Super Sayin' though?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2014 @ 12:33am

    Re: Re:

    Nah, probably just the usual spiel on how Masnick is blocking him and other brave souls like darryl and out_of_the_blue.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    edpo, Feb 11th, 2014 @ 12:35am

    Re: Where's the DOJ?

    The DOJ is too busy overlooking and justifying abuses elsewhere in the Executive Branch to actually perform their duties with competency, professionalism and integrity.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Feb 11th, 2014 @ 2:07am

    Re: Where's the DOJ?

    If the DOJ was doing their jobs, correctly, we would have a lot less of this.

    Get a chair. You'll need while you wait this to happen. And a few more centuries probably.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Just Sayin', Feb 11th, 2014 @ 3:29am

    Re:

    Why doesn't Masnick do anything about you? Oh, right. He doesn't want the truth to be told, just like here. Why don't you unlink the story, Masnick? Because you hate due process, and you hate copyright law being enforced.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    Violynne (profile), Feb 11th, 2014 @ 3:49am

    Irony alert!

    Here's the law allowing 21 strikes against one officer before action is taken, but serving a public with incarcerating criminals who only get 3 before serving life sentences.

    There's something wrong with this picture, but I can't quite put my fingerprint on it.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2014 @ 4:14am

    Re: Re:

    You still haven't provided a citation for your reasoning. Please do so.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    FM Hilton, Feb 11th, 2014 @ 4:17am

    At the end of the day

    There's still too many cops out there who believe it's their god-given right to bust anyone for recording police activity on the public ways.

    And there's still too many police departments happy to ignore them, let alone fire them.

    Kudos to that Sheriff. Perhaps his pink slip explanation should be emailed to every police department in the country for future reference.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2014 @ 5:18am

    Let's not forget that the police are fighting a "war" against crime, and compared to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, (un-"embedded") journalists who cover police are getting off very easy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Nicci Stevens, Feb 11th, 2014 @ 5:23am

    Urqhart was elected quite handily over in Nov 2012. By and large he is a trusted law enforcement officer in an area where those phrases aren't used together as a rule. Seattle is the seat of King County and the Seattle Police Department has been the subject of DOJ investigation and monitoring for numerous civil rights violations and worse. The KCSD has been a little better but far from stellar. Under Sue Rahr and Steve Strachan there were numerous rights violations as well. Urqhart's pledge during his campaign was to clean up KCSD and it is good to hear that there is at least some headway along those lines. Oddly, while I pay attention to numerous local news sources, this one went under the radar.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    Vidiot (profile), Feb 11th, 2014 @ 5:25am

    Re:

    You mean like if you lied to Congress, you or I would be behind bars within days?

    Or how if you repeatedly deceived and lied to a judge, you'd be jailed for criminal contempt and conspiracy?

    Does not apply to government officials, officers of the court and the "connected" class. Silly person!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2014 @ 5:47am

    Timcushinghatescops.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, Feb 11th, 2014 @ 5:49am

    Re: Re: Re:

    That's not reasoning. Since our regular trolls have gone a bit quiet, I presume he's a sock puppet of one of them.

    Given the whining, I'd say it was Darryl. Expect barnyard noises.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, Feb 11th, 2014 @ 5:51am

    Re: Re:

    Damn it, where's the "Sad But True" button?!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, Feb 11th, 2014 @ 5:52am

    Re:

    The trouble is, they see We The People as the enemy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2014 @ 6:04am

    Re:

    averagejoehatesdueprocess.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2014 @ 6:17am

    there is more to this story.

    C'mmon, they hired him in the first place, "trained", and then tolerated the moron for so many years.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2014 @ 6:17am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Nah, doubt it - he's on his usual spiel about Mike censoring him. Then again, these days they're all on about it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2014 @ 6:42am

    Re: Re:

    How do they know that camera you're pointing at them isn't really a gun or some other kind of weapon? They don't - and to be on the safe side, they have to assume that it is.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    icon
    ltlw0lf (profile), Feb 11th, 2014 @ 6:50am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Damn it, where's the "Sad But True" button?!

    It is to the left of the "funny" button. Mike has it mislabeled as "insightful".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), Feb 11th, 2014 @ 7:06am

    Re: Re: Where's the DOJ?

    Isn't the DOJ also busy with harassing and persecuting bright young tech savvy individuals into committing suicide because he gamed the system in a way that pissed off a business while committing no real crime and that ultimately benefits the public good?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), Feb 11th, 2014 @ 7:06am

    Re: Re: Where's the DOJ?

    Or just one revolution away.

    I'm not suggesting any action. I'm just saying look at history.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), Feb 11th, 2014 @ 7:16am

    Police vs. The Citizens

    Rather than weakening it, your question actually reinforces the point you replied to.

    They can't know that the camera pointed at them isn't a weapon. But they should assume that it isn't. They are not in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are on US soil. They are not in a war. They are civilian police officers. Geez, even the military understands that they should win the hearts and minds of the local citizenry. Yet police departments seem to believe it's a good idea to alienate the local citizens they are supposed to serve and protect.

    Assuming that every camera is a weapon is exactly part of the problem. They see everything as Police vs. Citizens. They need banish that thinking. Police are citizens, who have accepted a privileged position. They need to recognize the responsibility in their hands and act accordingly.

    I do understand that there are dangerous areas that more closely resemble a war zone than a neighborhood. Of course, police should act accordingly. But the police need to recognize that not every street in the USA is a war zone. In fact the vast majority are not.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2014 @ 7:20am

    Re: Re:

    Have a report vote, you fuckwit! How's the view in Hong Kong? Cramped?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Fighter, Feb 11th, 2014 @ 7:35am

    Re: Re: Re:

    So let me get this straight. You're saying that all police officers are so stupid, do dumb, and so blind that they can't tell the difference between someone holding a camera right in front of their nose and a criminal pointing a gun at them?

    And these are the people we trust to protect us?
    I'm tired of the the old police excuse of "I'm dumb as shit and have no common sense so I have to assume..."

    I call bullshit.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2014 @ 7:42am

    Re:

    This one action of Urqhart shows he is sincere in wanting to clean things up. Question remains if he continues to behave this way or only just enough to get re-elected.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2014 @ 7:52am

    even more than this is a strict punishment regime for officers who abuse their positions against the very people they are sworn to protect. that regime should be stated by the head honcho and no exceptions made so everyone knows exactly what they are supposed to do and what will happen to them if they go astray!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Feb 11th, 2014 @ 7:52am

    Re: Re: Re:

    And that lolipop, it might actually be plastic explosives...

    And that can of soda, that might be filled with fuel to start a fire...

    What about that pen, is it a pen, or perhaps it's a detonator to something...

    Spare me, if a cop is so paranoid that they're worrying about a camera because it might be a gun(and I don't believe for a second that more than a handful actually do, they know full well it's a camera, they just don't want their activities recorded), then they need to be off the force, and put into psych counseling, as it's obvious they're burned out and have let the 'Us vs. Them' mentality affect them to a dangerous degree.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    Fitzwilly (profile), Feb 11th, 2014 @ 8:30am

    We need what they've got in Japan as far as training of cops is concerned...

    Education is highly stressed in police recruitment and promotion. Entrance to the force is determined by examinations administered by each prefecture. Examinees are divided into two groups: upper-secondary-school graduates and university graduates. Recruits underwent rigorous training—one year for upper-secondary school graduates and six months for university graduates—at the residential police academy attached to the prefectural headquarters. On completion of basic training, most police officers are assigned to local police boxes called Kobans. Promotion is achieved by examination and requires further course work. In-service training provides mandatory continuing education in more than 100 fields. Police officers with upper-secondary school diplomas are eligible to take the examination for sergeant after three years of on-the-job experience. University graduates can take the examination after only one year. University graduates are also eligible to take the examination for assistant police inspector, police inspector, and superintendent after shorter periods than upper-secondary school graduates. There are usually five to fifteen examinees for each opening.

    About fifteen officers per year pass advanced civil service examinations and are admitted as senior officers. Officers are groomed for administrative positions, and, although some rise through the ranks to become senior administrators, most such positions are held by specially recruited senior executives.

    The police forces are subject to external oversight. Although officials of the National Public Safety Commission generally defer to police decisions and rarely exercise their powers to check police actions or operations, police are liable for civil and criminal prosecution, and the media actively publicizes police misdeeds. The Human Rights Bureau of the Ministry of Justice solicits and investigates complaints against public officials, including police, and prefectural legislatures could summon police chiefs for questioning. Social sanctions and peer pressure also constrain police behavior. As in other occupational groups in Japan, police officers develop an allegiance to their own group and a reluctance to offend its principles.


    Law enforcement in Japan-Conditions of service

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2014 @ 8:39am

    Re:

    I think you meant to write: weallshouldhateassholecopsliketheguythatwaswrittenabout.com

    FTFY, and thanks for being part of the problem.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2014 @ 8:44am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Oh please, if you can't tell a camera from a gun, you don't need to be on the police force in the first place. They got another place for you... the loony bin.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2014 @ 8:53am

    Re: Re: Re:

    That is about the most idiotic excuse I have heard in a long time, but I'll answer your question anyway.

    It's because a gun and a camera look nothing alike. If someone given authority to carry a gun and enforce laws can't tell the difference between a camera and a gun then you have to question whether they should be granted that authority.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Feb 11th, 2014 @ 9:12am

    Re: Re: Re: Where's the DOJ?

    History teaches us that the results of revolution are likely to be even greater problems with the power structure than we have now.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2014 @ 9:33am

    Re: Re:

    It's probably not easy to pink slip a government employee though. I'm just happy he's started setting the bar somewhere....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2014 @ 10:31am

    I bet nothing will happen to this cop who kills a dog for barking at him -- as that seems to be standard practice these days.

    http://magicvalley.com/news/local/officer-shoots-service-dog-at-boy-s-th-birthday-party/article _5e989a44-928a-11e3-b2a5-0019bb2963f4.html

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), Feb 11th, 2014 @ 11:03am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Where's the DOJ?

    Exactly. That worked for us once, a couple hundred years ago, and we really got lucky. Not sure how well it would go a second time.

    I remember when all the uprising was going on in Egypt, and when they finally threw Mubarak out, a bunch of people were saying "we're free now." That's when I knew they were doomed, because they didn't get it. I said, if they can establish a replacement government that guarantees basic, universal civil rights and religious freedom, and keep Islamic theocratic ideas out of it, for five years, then they can truly say they're free. But of course that's not what they did, and just look at where Egypt is now...

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    bob, Feb 11th, 2014 @ 11:03am

    they have laws too

    Police follow very similar general rules as us regular folks.
    what we are seeing here is the 121 strikes and you're out rule. :-P

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2014 @ 1:12pm

    A days suspension without pay, oh, im sure he regrets his actions, in the meantime he's free the next day, to go out and break another constitution

    Harsher penalties, no harsher then a firing, dependant on the crime.......YES, CRIME........im sick and tired of the "law keepers" not being described for what they are in an action they take, because it feels "weird" to do so........i recognise my conditioning

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Honest Abe, Feb 11th, 2014 @ 5:13pm

    about time

    No telling how many lives this rouge cop has ruined.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    GEMont, Feb 11th, 2014 @ 6:20pm

    COPture, Police Policer, Rap-App, Bust Trust.....

    I don't actually own a cell phone - for reasons I won't get into here - but, as everyone else I know does, I was wondering if anyone knows of, or has heard of an app that lets you turn on your phone's recording with a single button press and downloads the results to a safe location, say on a website somewhere, in real time, without actually displaying anything that would let someone else inspecting the phone know that the phone was recording or downloading?

    Or perhaps a device that does the same thing....

    Something needs to become available to the public to combat this blatant disregard for civil rights and law by what passes today for police officers, as it does not appear that its going to get any better any time soon, and in fact seems to be getting worse every day.

    I'm actually thinking of something like a First Alert devise but specifically for recording false arrests and cell phone confiscations (or even muggings and robberies) that has an instant download aspect to prevent LEOs from erasing the evidence. It would be best if it looked perhaps like a heavy key-ring or wrist watch.

    If nothing like this exists, it might be an interesting Crowd-sourced Project.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    icon
    Fitzwilly (profile), Feb 17th, 2014 @ 9:46pm

    Re: COPture, Police Policer, Rap-App, Bust Trust.....

    There's already an app like this available on-line for most phones. In fact, most phones are like this already.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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