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Seattle Cop Fired After Arresting Black Man Using Golf Club as a Cane

The city's police department found that officer Cynthia Whitlatch acted improperly when she arrested the 69-year-old black man and said he threatened her, which video evidence later showed was not true.
Screenshot via SPD

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A white Seattle police officer who was put on desk duty after she arrested a 69-year-old man using a golf club as a cane has been fired for racial bias, according to the Seattle Police Department.

Cynthia Whitlatch claimed that William Wingate had swung a gold club at her in July 2014 and she later arrested him for unlawful use of a weapon. Cell phone footage of the arrest, however, did not support those claims.


Instead the video, released by the Seattle police in January, shows Wingate simply leaning on the club and using it as a cane, which he said he had done so for 20 years. At that time, the department stated that after reviewing the case, charges against Wingate had been dropped and that the officer had "received counseling from her supervisor, a course of action that the department believes to be an appropriate resolution."

Yet nearly eight months later, Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole signed off on a termination order for Whitlatch written by the SPD's Office of Professional Accountability, which found the officer had violated departmental policies in the arrest.

Whitlatch's "actions towards [Wingate] violated Department Manual Section 5.140(2), which states that 'Employees shall not make decisions or take actions that are influenced by bias, prejudice or discriminatory intent,'" the disciplinary action report read.

The report went on to address the officer: "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."

"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," the document added. "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."

Whitlatch has denied any wrongdoing or racial bias throughout, and reportedly told investigators she would not have altered her actions in any way on the day of her arrest, according to The New York Daily News.

The Seattle Police Officers' Guild is now deciding whether to appeal the decision, the Seattle Times reported.

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