Police union officials plan to fight against the 15-day suspension of a Seattle officer, who was accused of using racially charged language when she called a black suspect “boy” during a chase downtown.
The Seattle Police Officers’ Guild says the punishment is “too severe,” while the department says the punishment demonstrates that it is committed to holding officers accountable, a local CBS affiliate reported.
Dashcam footage taken in October 2013, released just this week, showed Officer Jennifer Hunt pursuing a black male near Fourth Avenue and Union Street. Kimo M. Warren, 32, was being sought for a domestic violence incident, the CBS affiliate reported.
During the low-speed chase, Officer Hunt can then be heard yelling from her patrol car: “You’re gonna get your ass shot, boy!”
The department launched an internal investigation after Officer Hunt’s superiors heard the comment while watching the video as part of a use-of-force review, the station reported.
“I expressed deep concern about her word choice,” Seattle Police Department Sgt. George Davisson reportedly wrote in an internal memo. “I explained that regardless how she intended the comment to be taken or what she meant to say, this comment would undoubtedly be viewed in a negative context with police chasing a black male in the streets of Seattle.”
But Officer’s Hunt’s language wasn’t the only issue the department had with her behavior. In the same video, she could be seen driving onto curbs and sidewalks, and at one point yelling, “Go ahead, fool. Keep going!” She received sustained findings of misconduct for violating department policies on professionalism and emergency vehicle operation, the CBS affiliate reported.
Ron Smith, president of the police union, said they are in the process of appealing Officer Hunt’s 15-day suspension without pay in an effort to bring it down to five days.
“Officer [Hunt] is over 40 years old … to her, he looked significantly younger than her,” Mr. Smith told the station. “I believe that she actually was trying to communicate with a fleeing suspect that she thought was much younger than her.”
Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, the department’s lead spokesperson, said they have instituted a new bias-free policing policy as part of an agreement with the Department of Justice after Seattle Police Detective Shandy Cobane was filmed telling a Hispanic man he would beat the “Mexican piss” out of him.
“There’s progress being made and the department is changing,” Sgt. Whitcomb told the CBS affiliate. “We have new training in place, new policies in place, and are working very hard to restore confidence in the police department.”