When it comes to disciplining cops, the Seattle Public Safety Commission - not the police chief - has the final say, the State Court of Appeals ruled this week. The court, in a 2009 appeal case brought by the Seattle City Attorney's office, upheld a reduced suspension handed down by the commission to Officer Richard Roberson, who once held the department record for disciplinary actions - six in five years.
Roberson, who made headlines in 2004 for handing out some discipline of his own - repeatedly spanking an 8-year-old boy he'd been ordered not to have contact with - was suspended for two days. In 2005, Roberson was suspended another 30 days for three separate misconduct incidents:
--Insubordination (he had to be ordered to respond to a 911 hangup call after insisting he was going to take a dinner break).
--Failing to take appropriate police action (he didn't make out a report or fully investigate an attempted theft, telling the victim there was no such thing as attempted theft; a separate investigation turned up a suspect who then pleaded guilty - to attempted theft).
The commission ruled Roberson deserved suspension for just the latter misconduct, cutting 23 days off the suspension given by then-Chief Gil Kerlikowske. The appeals court decided the commission's procedures were consistent with state law.
"Change in the discipline imposed," writes Judge Anne Ellington, "is explicitly within the Commission's powers." The city is likely to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.