When William Wingate was arrested in Seattle on July 9, 2014, for the apparent crime of Apocryphally Threatening a Moron, he was surely as appalled as anyone who’s learned since then the bizarre facts of his increasingly ridiculous case.
After all, the military veteran and retired Metro bus driver had then managed to reach the dignified age of 69 without ever getting arrested — an amazing feat, indeed, considering the fact that he was a black man in America.
Then he met Cynthia Whitlatch.
As many local news geeks likely know by now, Seattle police officer Whitlatch arrested Wingate that day for allegedly swinging his golf club at her while she drove past him in her patrol car on Capitol Hill. Wingate was released from King County Jail the next day and the charge was eventually dropped, in a case that has now acquired national infamy in the context of a national epidemic of bad police behavior — much of it lethal.
The good news for Seattle is that yesterday Whitlatch was notified that she now faces termination due to her bad cop behavior on that fateful day last summer. The Seattle Police Department’s misconduct investigation arm, the Office of Professional Accountability (OPA), has now recommended that Whitlatch be fired. While Wingate will possibly receive due justice for his ordeal, Whitlatch will apparently receive well-deserved mockery for years to come.
Meanwhile, among the intriguing comments accompanying yesterday’s news was one by Ron Smith, president of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild, who actually claimed to the press in Whitlatch’s defense that “[t]here is no evidence that he [Wingate] didn’t swing the golf club at her [Whitlatch].” Parse that carefully.
Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole has not yet made a decision regarding the OPA’s recommendation. Nevertheless, O’Toole is apparently determined to exorcise the SPD of bad cops like Whitlatch by several means, including and especially more critical recruitment. Good cops like O’Toole (a police official in Boston and Ireland for many years before her ascension to the title of Seattle’s top cop) understand that the fundamental job of a police officer is to protect the citizenry of their jurisdiction — not to wage war on them.
And then there’s the likes of Cynthia Whitlatch.
Hopefully, other cop shops across the nation will eventually learn the lesson O’Toole might soon be teaching in Seattle: