End Of A Tale. Seattle Officer Who Threatened To Arrest News Editor For Taking A Picture Gets The Sack

Back in July, 2013 we reported an incident where Seattle’s The Stranger news editor – Dominic Holden – was threatened to be arrested for photographing a person on the street along with the cops around him.

End Of A Tale. Seattle Officer Who Threatened To Arrest News Editor For Taking A Picture Gets The Sack

Usually those incidents get some media buzz. Sometime a police spokesman will issue a statement, and this is it. But this story, after going viral has a more conclusive ending.

Six months after the incident, the threatening officer – deputy Patrick “K.C.” Saulet – was fired by King County sheriff John Urquhart.

While on a phone call, the sheriff assured Holden that “Threatening to arrest a citizen for legally taking photos of cops while on public property, is a constitutional violation, as far as I am concerned”, which is exactly the change of wind we hope to see with how police are treating photographers.

This paragraph from a disciplinary letter issued to Saulet by the sheriff pretty much sums it up:

Suffice it to say, in my judgement, the evidence shows that (i) you abused your authority in your dealings with Mr. Holden on July 30, and (ii) thereafter, rather than be accountable, you attempted to recast events in a light more favorable to you. Stated broadly, for example, you claim you interacted with Mr. Holden in a civil, professional manner that was nothing more than ‘social contact’; you did little more than tell him for his benefit that he couldn’t ride on Metro property because doing so is a $66 infraction; [you claim that two other deputies] Shook and Mikulcik told him the same thing; and you once calmly pointed him in a direction you were suggesting he leave. But the evidence is that you approached Mr. Holden because you took exception with him lawfully exercising his right to take photographs of you and your colleagues while lawfully standing on public property; you were agitated and confrontational; you essentially ‘squared off’ with him; you expressly and/or implicitly threatened to arrest him if he did not leave immediately in the specific direction you pointed, not once but five times (misidentifying public property as private property in the process); and Shook and Mikulcik deny the statement you attribute to them.#

This decision did not go unbattled and both Saulet and the union behind him called it a “witch hunt” partially due to a large investigation file.

Holden says he is not gleeful about Saulet’s termination, neither are we. We do, however, appreciate the fact that this time the complaint was not covered up.

[Sheriff Fires Cop Who Threatened to Arrest Me for Taking Photos of Cops via jseliger]

  • Allen Stimmel

    Photographers should print out and keep a copy of this in their bag at all times.
    http://krages.com/phoright.htm

    • Lucas Hubbard

      Do you know of anything like this for video.

    • Ed Selby

      Krages pamphlet is informative, but it carries absolutely no legal authority. A cop bent on busting you for taking pictures will not be persuaded by a piece of paper in your camera bag.

      • Dov

        Actually they can be very effective its not just to hand out to officers
        its to read yourself and be able to convey them when Mr officer talks
        to you.

        Most officers don’t know their rights or for that matter
        you. Knowing your rights and being able to articulate them can in many
        issues defuse Mr officer. In this instance the officer is a lost cause
        but I’ve had good success dealing with officers who aren’t already
        hellbent to dominate you because they have a gun.

        Not all
        interactions with Mr officer start at “Defcon 5″ and when I’ve had one
        sniffing around me on the street bringing up the law and my rights can
        start a conversation that has defused a number of situations for me.

        I
        used to shoot a burlesque show in Brooklyn and heading home at 3am
        would shoot the train station while waiting for my train. Had an officer
        get in my face claiming anti terrorism and against subway rules to
        shoot in the NYC subway.

        I calmly read him the riot act of what is or isnt legal and also quoted the NYC subway rules on photography.
        His rather flabbergasted response at the end was “Well they told me to say that”.

        Want to watch an officers eyes bug out ask him if this is a “terry stop” They may back down just on that alone.

  • jason bourne

    The deputy got what he deserved.

    Seems that too many police nowadays abuse their power, sometimes with tragic results.

    • joe_average

      no, I think better training in public interaction is what *all* officers should get. law enforcement should not deny that cameras are all around, for better or worse, and show their best…as should we all.

      • Bygone Error

        Overall, Urquhart wrote, Saulet had been the subject of about 120 allegations, with 21 sustained. Saulet had racked up more complaints on the force than any other King County deputy, according to a demotion letter previously obtained by The Stranger.

    • David Lewis

      The reality of this is that nobody is 100% professional all the time, so this will always happen to some extent. The department probably did everything they could (within reason) to prevent stuff like this from happening. They knew the guy was trouble, but probably couldn’t fire him because of political and/or legal reasons.
      The issue is, if you give more power to the government, they could fire the guy, but it would also be more acceptable for him to act the way he did.

  • joe_average

    good to know what finally happened. thanks for keeping us informed.

  • Bygone Error

    It’s okay to be gleeful! This is a bully in a police uniform. He had a number of altercations in addition to this one. We deserve better.

  • http://wilcfry.com/ Wil Fry

    It’s nice to read a followup to one of these stories. Usually we only hear about the initial incident and never the conclusion.

  • James Madison

    The shame is that this policeman would have known and been much more likely not to commit the same offense again. Instead, he’ll be replaced with someone who will not fully understand the implications of encounters like this. History will repeat itself.

  • Me

    Anyone can have a bad day. You wake up, stub your toe getting out of bed and it goes down hill from there. In my case, the worst that will happen is that I bark at a colleague who’ll laugh in my face and call me an idiot.

    A police officer has powers I do not. This is why they must be held to a high standard in their line of work. A police officer taking out his ill humour on a member of the public can ruin that person’s life.

    I’m sorry the fellow lost his job but if he was in that bad a mood, he should have not gone out on patrol that shift. Arse covering after the fact therefore ruins his credibility to act as a witness. I don’t know the man’s record of employment but I’m guessing there is more here than fits into a headline.