COPS STRIP-SEARCHING COPS. A police dispatcher sending out messages that her boss is a "dickhead." A police computer manager informing the department head he'd become an "Ignorant Clone." A police records technician hiding three years of paperwork in her office.
That's the collective snapshot of Seattle's finest that emerges from a new batch of previously unreleased police internal investigation documents. "It's not exactly the image they put forward to the public," says John Hoffman, the community activist whose ongoing public-records requests and court battles afford a rare peek into the department's day-to-day peculiarities—and compose a sort of police party album.
Hoffman's laborious document searches had already turned up instances of cops sleeping on shift, collecting 1,000 hours of unauthorized overtime, and driving a Seattle patrol car to Issaquah to pick up an officer's drunken wife ("Why You Can't Get a Cop," SW 10/15/97). But the strip search, which took place in June 1995, may trump them all. Seattle Police spokesperson Christie-Lynne Bonner says it resulted in an internal investigation complaint that was later sustained. Assistant City Attorney Phil Brenneman says the four officers who were forced to bare their birthday suits ultimately shared a $55,000 settlement.
According to internal documents (with names exorcised), the four were ordered to undress in front of an East Precinct commander who suspected them of stealing $76.63 from a suspect they'd arrested. The money, inventoried and placed in a property locker with the locker key hanging nearby, was missing two hours after the arrest. Officers searched the precinct, police cars, and garbage cans, but found nothing. Four officers were singled out and their lockers searched, to no avail. They were then marched into a watch commander's office and ordered to disrobe, which they did, top to bottom. Their clothing was also searched—there's no indication a body-cavity exam was performed—but the money was never recovered.
The officers, however, did wind up with a little more than $13,000 each for successfully alleging a violation of their civil and Police Guild rights. "The sergeant in charge said the disrobing was voluntary and that he was trying to convince the officers that if there was an internal investigation over the money, they could be in the clear," says Brenneman. "But the city determined the complaint should be settled."
IN OTHER, FULLY CLOTHED, police news:
A computer-systems expert who left the department last year filed a complaint about a two-page e-mail he received from a police official who was obviously upset with the department's computers. As the official wrote: "I have seen too many examples in my career of your diversionary/stalling/blame shifting tactics, baffling and intimidating our administration with stupid bullshit answers to valid questions.... You should be ashamed: the consultants understand our mission better in six months than you do after 20 years... you don't have a fucking clue.... Good riddance Ignorant Clone."
After a police administrative assistant in the West Precinct burglary and theft unit went on military leave, a substitute worker found a small mountain of crime reports (1,009, it was ultimately determined) stacked in the assistant's office. Some as old as three years had not been entered into the department's computer system. A supervisor termed it "gross deviation... beyond any normal secretarial backup." It took two officers three weeks just to arrange the reports for filing.
A police dispatcher, upset at a staffing decision, sent fellow workers 15 interoffice electronic messages that included the following descriptions of her boss: "What an asshole.... I hate him.... He is sneaky and mean... that dickhead.... What a dick.... He hates me.... I wish he would fucking die." The dispatcher was disciplined for improper use of equipment.