Kevin P. Casey
The Washington State Patrol late yesterday released details of its investigation into Assistant Police Chief Mike Sanford. The King County Prosecutor's office


Mike Sanford Report Reveals Possibly Inappropriate Behavior-- and Resentment

Kevin P. Casey
The Washington State Patrol late yesterday released details of its investigation into Assistant Police Chief Mike Sanford. The King County Prosecutor's office had, by that time, cleared Sanford of criminal behavior. But whether Sanford behaved inappropriately, that's another question.

Certainly, some within SPD thought so. According to one officer who spoke with the patrol's investigators, Assistant Chief Nick Metz was "offended" at Sanford's intrusion during a traffic collision involving Sanford's daughter.

The daughter, whose name is redacted in the patrol's report summary, rear-ended another car in March 2011. Sanford showed up, as did an officer who came to investigate the collision. Notebook in hand, the officer got ready to take statements when Sanford asked him if a collision report was necessary.

It may not have been. The other driver, whose car was only minimally damaged, said he could skip the report, which would have resulted in a citation for Sanford's daughter. The officer, whose name is also redacted, told investigators that it's not uncommon to forgo a report. The officer also told the investigators that he felt Sanford was doing what any father would for his kid.

Still, a sergeant interviewed by the investigators said he thought the officer could have been intimidated by the assistant chief. And that's plausible given Sanford's high rank.

What's more, the similarly high-ranking Metz had previously faced the same situation. His daughter had been involved in a collision. Yet Metz, according to the interviewers' source, had directed an officer to handle the investigation "officially."

Another allegation concerns Sanford's alleged pressuring of officers to donate to his favorite charity, the Special Olympics. He does this, apparently, during an all-day retreat he holds a couple times a year for patrol sergeants. At the end, according to a sergeant who spoke with investigators, Sanford "tells the sergeants in a joking manner to put your donations in the hat if you wish to go home early." For added measure he tells them that he won't sign their overtime authorization unless they donate.

Now, it's actually not up to Sanford to sign overtime authorizations. It was a joke--but a pointed one, and the sergeant who told the story said he felt that younger sergeants would feel compelled to donate.

It's quite possible that the resentment of Sanford might be motivated by other things. As we reported in a recent cover story, the assistant chief is something of a reformer, challenging traditional ideas within police culture. He argues, for instance, that more arrests aren't the answer to crime.

More recently, he's been assigned the task of implementing reforms stemming from the federal Department of Justice's scathing report on SPD's use of force. Chief John Diaz suggested yesterday that Sanford's new role has made him a magnet for criticism. And it's telling that this investigation--over arguably minor stuff--arose due to complaints from within the department.

More on Sanford investigation and the report itself on the next page.

Whatever the reason, anger there is. One source who talked with investigators about yet another allegation--surrounding Sanford's purported interference over the bibliography for the sergeant's exam--said the assistant chief "had a reputation for surrounding himself with officers who he wishes to promote, who share his philosophy and who he can manipulate (sic)."

Of course, such can be said for a lot of bosses, inside and outside SPD. Nevertheless, Diaz said yesterday that even though Sanford has been cleared of criminal conduct, he will face an investigation by the Office of Professional Accountability.

Sanford Report

Follow The Daily Weekly on Facebook and Twitter.

comments powered by Disqus

Friends to Follow