Court Upholds Firing of Cop Who Punched Handcuffed Woman, Sound Transit Board Delays CEO’s Contract Renewal, Debate Continues Over Disarming Suspects with Knives

1. The Washington State Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Wednesday that the court will not consider former Seattle police officer Adley Shepherd’s appeal of an earlier Court of Appeals decision that upheld his termination from the Seattle Police Department in 2016. The ruling ends a protracted legal battle with the city of Seattle that has loomed over the past half-decade of police accountability reform efforts in the city.

Former Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole fired Shepherd for punching a woman while she was handcuffed in the back of a patrol car during a late-night arrest in June 2014. Shepherd and his union, the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG), appealed her decision to an arbitrator, who sided with Shepherd, directing SPD to re-hire him and offer back pay.

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes stood by Shepherd’s firing, asking the King County Superior Court to vacate the arbitrator’s decision—a rare challenge to the authority of arbitrators in police disciplinary cases, whose decisions are typically final. The city prevailed in both superior Court and the Court of Appeals, setting the stage for a longer-term struggle with the city’s police unions to limit arbitrators’ power to overturn disciplinary decisions made by police department leaders.

2. In an unusual move, the executive committee of the Sound Transit board decided to delay approving a one-year contract extension for agency CEO Peter Rogoff Thursday. The committee went into closed executive session for more than an hour before coming back into public session and bumping Rogoff’s contract renewal from the agenda. Rogoff makes a base salary of around $380,000 a year.

Sound Transit has spent the past 17 months debating the best way to cut costs in response to budget shortfalls and higher-than-anticipated cost estimates for key components of Sound Transit 3, the regional light rail and bus system expansion voters approved in 2016. After a number of tense public meetings, which included Rogoff, the board ultimately adopted a compromise plan spearheaded by King County Council member Claudia Balducci that would accelerate projects in order of priority if more funds become available in the future.

Because the discussion happened in executive session, no one is talking about what the committee discussed. Sound Transit spokesman Geoff Patrick, speaking on behalf of board chair (and a University Place council member ) Kent Keel, said, “following the committee’s discussion in executive session today, the full Sound Transit Board will continue discussion of the contract at its September meeting,” on September 23.

“Chair Keel emphasized his responsibility to honor the confidentiality that always surrounds the contract review process prior to when the Board discusses its action in open session, and that nothing further can be shared at this time,” Patrick said.

3. Mark Mullens, the only police officer on Seattle’s Community Police Commission, was unusually vocal during a question-and-answer with Office of Police Accountability (OPA) Director Andrew Myerberg during Wednesday’s commission meeting. Myerberg came to the meeting to address the OPA’s investigation into the fatal shooting of 57-year-old Terry Caver by Seattle police officer Christopher Gregorio last May. After the OPA concluded that Gregorio failed to de-escalate during his confrontation with Caver, Interim Seattle Police Chief suspended Gregorio for 20 days and transferred him out of the department’s K9 unit—a rare outcome for police shootings in Seattle, which typically end without discipline.

“No amount of discipline can bring someone back, and I know a 20-day suspension doesn’t feel like a big deal, but being removed from K9 is devastating for an officer,” Mullens said. “When that discipline was handed down, it sent ripples through the department. It made officers shiver. A lot of us hadn’t given a second thought to whether [Gregorio] violated policy, but this made officers very aware.”

Other commissioners, as well as CPC Director Brandy Grant, questioned why the OPA hadn’t recommended firing Gregorio—the same question Caver’s family raised after Gregorio’s suspension. “It seems like maybe if [Gregorio] had de-escalated properly then the shooting wouldn’t have been necessary,” commissioner Alina Santillan said.

Mullens also questioned Myerberg’s recommendation that SPD rework its trainings for responding to people carrying knives, saying he doubted that any tactical improvements are possible to reduce the use of deadly force when police respond to people carrying knives.

“In the academy, we’re taught that knives are the most deadly weapon we can face,” he said, because a knife can easily go through an officer’s bulletproof vest. “A lot of people think we’re trained to disarm people with knives. We are not.” Recent legislation limiting SPD’s arsenal of less-lethal weapons only restricts officers’ tactical options further, he added. “We’re running out of things to protect ourselves on the street from knives,” he said. (The ordinance doesn’t prohibit patrol from carrying launchers for foam-tipped projectiles, which are sometimes used to disarm people with knives without using live ammunition).

Myerberg responded that Gregorio’s most crucial misstep—exacerbating his confrontation with Caver by chasing him down a sidewalk—was partially the product of bad decision-making and partly the result of inadequate training for responding to people carrying knives. “The muscle memory is not there,” he said. “Officers may get one training a year, if that, and it happens in a sterile training annex, and then they’re expected to take that training to the street.”

The Caver case will heavily inform the outcome of the OPA’s investigation into the fatal shooting of 44-year-old Derek Hayden by SPD officers in February. Hayden, like Caver, was carrying a knife and experiencing a mental health crisis when officers shot and killed him on Alaskan Way; the OPA is investigating the officers  are under investigation for failing to de-escalate.

15 thoughts on “Court Upholds Firing of Cop Who Punched Handcuffed Woman, Sound Transit Board Delays CEO’s Contract Renewal, Debate Continues Over Disarming Suspects with Knives”

  1. “The ordinance doesn’t prohibit patrol from carrying launchers for foam-tipped projectiles, which are sometimes used to disarm people with knives without using live ammunition.” The new state law, however, DOES prohibit use of the launcher due to the caliber of device it is considered to be. So a shotgun is ok, but a nerf launcher isn’t. I’m a Democrat and yet am very much aware of how much our WA State Dems messed up on the current mess of poorly written, poorly thought out and in some cases intentionally vague legislation. Jamie Pedersen in Crosscut 9-13-21 stated that the legislation was written this way (by he and his cohorts) with full knowledge that a system needed to bridge the gap hadn’t been built, so the new laws will thus force a crisis that will bring about changes to the entire system that he wants but can’t accomplish without apparently costing some lives in the process. For the first time in my life I’m starting to understand why people switch parties, and only wish there were a viable 3rd party to join.

  2. All reporting about the OPA should acknowledge that there is a whistleblower complaint with the city about OIG “oversight” that also casts serious doubt on the integrity of OPA investigations and leadership. See The Emerald article of August 9.

    There’s always a danger that whistleblower complaints may be “dealt with” behind closed doors with settlements and non-disclosure agreements. Seattle media, please start reporting the fact of that whistleblower complaint. It is an issue of great public interest and we need you to be holding it up to the light.

    It was notable that at the beginning of the CPC mtg of Sept 1 reported here, Amy Tsai of the OIG said that office was short of investigators because people had left. I hope someone other than the whistleblower has also quit in protest and solidarity, and that the details are all aired sooner rather than later.

    The CPC mtg illustrated how completely inadequate our present system of police “accountability” is. Officer Mullens seemed to equate a bad cop being removed from the cool K-9 squad with the tragedy and horror of the police shooting of Terry Caver. Director Myerberg used the term “muscle memory” multiple times to describe what the officer who shot Terry Caver didn’t have. But alternatives to shooting people aren’t just about “muscle memory,” they’re also about strategies, decision-making, and moral values. You can see that in the video of the shooting of Derek Hayden, a death that clearly didn’t need to happen. A shooting Myerberg referred to throughout his CPC presentation as “the Alaskan Way incident” or “Alaskan Way.” That refusal to name the victim doesn’t bode well for a fair investigation.

    Charleena Lyles was shot four years ago. If our “accountability” system had taken serious action after that death, SPD would be dealing with knife incidents differently by now. We don’t have a police accountability system in Seattle. We have a maintain-the-status-quo system.

  3. It would help if the reporter gave a more complete context to the officer in question, Mr Gregorio, an official with a troubling profesional record. What’s more it seems that the 20 day suspension is overplayed. It sent chills through the department?? Chills? Really?? Can the context of Mr Caver’s death also be reviewed, since he was fleeing and Meyerburg’s interpretation of his last movements make assumptions that need to be questioned. Seems there’s more critical thinking and reporting work to be done.

  4. Since the start of the federal consent decree in July 2012 the SPD have now killed 15 people in mental health crisis, 12 of these killings involved a person experiencing a mental health crisis and wielding either an edged weapon or no weapon at all.
    https://hjgale.tumblr.com/post/644261894483492864/killed-by-spd-since-john-t-williams-2010
    I have repeatedly raised in meetings with the CPC over the last 5+ years the fact that this does not happen in the UK. The Police Executive Research Forum has trained numerous US police departments, e.g. Camden, NJ, in how to not shoot people with knives. All the Seattle “accountability partners” (CPC, OPA, OIG) know about this (or, if not, they should resign). I have talked about this with Paul Kiefer.
    This is problematic reporting that lacks full context and a reality check as to what happens in other countries.
    For a better analysis see tinyurl.com/JusticeforCaver
    For information about how long established training alternatives for police dealing with people wielding knives see https://hjgale.tumblr.com/post/643851682764275712/cops-in-the-uk-dont-kill-people-with-knives

    Of course, posting actual facts will likely get this comment booted if it even gets posted — posted at 5:44 PM on Sept. 4.

      1. Full link to my analysis of the OPA investigation into the Caver murder is:
        https://hjgale.tumblr.com/post/661009838278639616/what-seattles-investigation-of-the-spd-killing

        This investigation, released 10 days ago, is a clear indication as to the failure of 9 years of federal oversight of the SPD.

        It should chill everyone’s soul to think that after 9 years of police reform Officer Mullens — a member of the Community Police Commission — can say “A lot of us hadn’t given a second thought to whether [Gregorio] violated policy.”

  5. Since all of you know so much about policing, why don’t you sign up and show them how its done. I heard they were hiring. OH that’s right… you are not even remotely qualified and you only want to snipe at them from the outside. Well turnabout is fair play then. Seattle is being subjected to significant increases in crime because of what you Progressives have done to your own police force. Remember you brought this upon yourselves. It is great to watch as the violence increases every day and this obvious prediction comes true. Any idiot could have seen this coming. Apparently, most of you are in a somewhat lower class of intelligence. Swim in your own $#!T and knife violence guys. By the way, I use my real name because I am not afraid of the truth. So sorry about you fakers with fake names. Steve Willie.

    1. Steve Willie: “OH that’s right…you are not even remotely qualified and you only want to snipe at them from the outside.” This is rich coming from you, Steve Willie, who does not even live in our county, much less our city….just sniping from the outside as per usual.

      1. NAME-FAKER: ….which is precisely why your personal failures are so entertaining…I don’t have to suffer the results of your ideas. Please don’t ever change.

  6. Regarding item #1: So, can the information about this terminated officer, or any terminated officer, become public knowledge? Is there a database or gathering of information that will show this history when he might apply to another police department for a job? If not, why has this constructive Step 2 not been mandated by the State legislature? Is there a national database for this sort of information? Is there any kind of mandatory training or counseling for this or any similarly terminated officer to help them to see the error of their ways and thoughts while acting as a guardian of safety?

  7. People with knives are dangerous. They should deploy that device that shoots a net type thing to immobilize the person then they can disarm them.

    1. People in the UK are far more staby then folks in US, yet for decades the UK cops have used common sense, patience, & low-tech devices (batons, collapsible shields, & nets) to bring people with knives & swords into custody without anyone getting harmed.

  8. “A lot of people think we’re trained to disarm people with knives. We are not.”

    This seems like such an obvious oversight it feels downright intentional.

    1. It absolutely is. When I have discussed with SPD officers the reality in the UK they have variously told me: (1) not true, (2) “well, UK people aren’t capable of the violence/intent of US people, (3) “yeah, but the UK doesn’t have guns”, or (4) “look the London cops just shot a terrorist with a knife” (true, but that rarely happens & is unique to true terrorist incidents & not relevant to the discussion here. US police are to enmeshed in a warrior culture of domination & control to even consider an alternative unless they are forced.

      1. Yes, just to amplify, it was chilling “that after 9 years of police reform Officer Mullens — a member of the Community Police Commission — can say ‘A lot of us hadn’t given a second thought to whether [Gregorio] violated policy.'” If more training for SPD is the answer as Myerberg proposed, how is it that the training they’ve received to date hasn’t made policy second nature by now?

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