by: Linzi Sheldon, Casey McNerthney Updated:
A Seattle police officer fired for the wrongful arrest of a then-69 year old African American man with a golf club on Capitol Hill has settled with the city to get years of back pay, and to have her termination record changed to a retirement.
The back pay is more than $105,000 in two lump payments, paying her for 90 hours a month for the time since she was fired. All sustained findings by the Office of Professional Accountability about Whitlatch’s conduct will remain in place.
The agreement, signed Saturday by Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, also is expected to give Whitlatch her full pension for her 18 years as an officer and the two additional years after her firing.
Cynthia Whitlatch said the man in the Capitol Hill case, William Wingate, swung a golf club at her on July 9th, 2014 but the dash camera video did not show that. Wingate was arrested, and the charges were later dropped. Watch the dash camera video below.
In January 2015, Mayor Ed Murray ordered her off from patrol, and Whitlatch was fired that September.
“My first reaction was this, short and simple: that she’s no longer on the street,” Wingate told KIRO 7 on Wednesday.
Whitlatch, who is white, expressed a strong belief that the disciplinary actions against her were done because key people involved in the case were black.
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“Her not being on the force, that's a good thing, regardless of how it is done,” Wingate said. “I wish nothing bad on nobody. I'm not here to hate on anybody. … That's not me."
Whitlatch filed a grievance through the Seattle Police Officers Guild. The agreement was released to KIRO 7 Tuesday night by the City Attorney’s Office after a request. City Attorney Pete Homes’ office and Seattle police declined additional comment on the agreement.
Wingate, who received $325,000 as part of a settlement with the city, said he was not surprised Whitlatch filed a grievance. The city is also expected to pay legal fees for Wingate.
Because of the grievance resolution, which signed by Chief of Police Kathleen O’Toole on Saturday, city records will now show Whitlatch as retired instead of terminated. Whitlatch also agreed "to not to apply for any future jobs with the City or in commissioned law enforcement."
KIRO 7 asked the city attorney’s office if Whitlatch could work in other states or even Canada, but the office would not clarify.
“What would be your reaction if she could work in Oregon or Idaho as a police officer?” KIRO 7 asked Wingate.
“It would be scary,” Wingate said.
KIRO 7 also asked the Seattle Police Department why it decided to settle with Whitlatch. Via email, a spokesperson responded, “We agreed to a settlement of this matter based on the advice of the City Attorney.”
The change takes effect on September 15. The lump sum payments are expected within 14 calendar days of that change.
Whitlatch will get an hourly rate of $48.86 for Sept. 16, 2015 – the day after she was fired – to August 15, 2017. The rate from August 16 to September 15, 2017 increases to $49.23.
The agreement also says the city releases Whitlatch “from any known demand, obligations, actions, causes of action, rights, damages, costs (including payment of attorneys’ fees), losses of services, expenses, and compensation or any nature whatsoever, whether based on a tort, contract or statutory theory of recovery.”
The President of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild, Kevin Stuckey, told KIRO 7, “We had a duty for fair representation. We have to represent her. This is not a testimony of whether or not we believe the validity of anything that happened or the claims. In the case of Officer Whitlatch, when her case was completed and we’re presented with the case, the first thing we do is check for contract violations to see that the city has played by the rules.”
Stuckey said dates were set for SPOG and the city to present their cases to an independent arbitrator, who would have decided whether or not the discipline was valid. However, he said, the city and Whitlatch reached a settlement before those dates.
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