Seattle police officer fired for arresting elderly black man

On Tuesday the Seattle police officer who arrested an elderly man she claimed swung a golf club at her was fired after an ordeal that lasted for more than a year.

Fired Seattle police officer Cynthia Whitlatch. Image-

Fired Seattle police officer Cynthia Whitlatch. Image-

Officer Cynthia Whitlatch was officially let go for “racial bias” and “combative approach” during the July 2014 arrest, according to the city’s police chief Kathleen O’Toole.

“Your perceptions of race and other protected categories appear to be so deeply seated that they likely impacted the authoritarian manner in which you treated this man and your refusal to deviate from that approach towards an individual whose actions did not warrant such treatment,” the SPD’s termination order said.

Whitlatch told investigators she saw a blur out of the corner of her eye and heard the sound of metal striking metal as she approached the street corner. She said she thought she saw William Wingate, 69, hitting a stop sign with his golf club. She claimed Wingate then glared at her, but the dashcam video tells a much different story.

Here’s the video from Whitlatch’s dashcam:

Whitlatch, who had been disciplined twice in the past for “unprofessional conduct,” denied any racial bias or misconduct in the arrest, and told investigators that she wouldn’t have done anything differently if she could do it over again.

“Your inability to understand, even in hindsight, that your behavior was unnecessarily aggressive, an abuse of discretion, and negatively impacted the community’s confidence in this police service, offers me no pathway to confidence that your behavior will improve or change,” wrote O’Toole. “Without this ability to learn from your mistakes, understand how you can improve and do better, and recognize your own errors, you are unable to effectively function as an officer.”

The Seattle Police Officers’ Guild is expected to appeal Whitlatch’s dismissal, according to The Seattle Times. SPOG president, Ron Smith, claims that the police department didn’t complete their investigation within the required 180-day period after learning of the outrage in the community following the incident in September 2014.

William Wingate. Photo- McNichols

William Wingate. Photo- McNichols

Wingate, a retired veteran and bus driver, sued the city and Whitlatch in April. He helped lead a march organized by protesters carrying golf clubs earlier this year.

His lawyers applauded Whitlatch’s firing, saying, “The public interest is best served by the even-handed enforcement of law regardless of race.”

What do you think?

Chris Shorr

About Chris Shorr

Chris is a sixth generation Portlander who loves all things Maine. He has worked with mentally ill and marginalized adults at a Portland non-profit, on a lobster boat in Casco Bay, at several high-end Portland restaurants, and at a local meat packing plant. He also ran for Portland City Council in 2013, wrote a weekly column in the now defunct Portland Daily Sun, and currently writes a weekly column in The Portland Phoenix.