It appears that the City of Seattle has made a decision in the interest of protecting the rights of its citizens. At least for now.
This week, the Seattle Public Safety Commission announced that it has upheld the termination of a Seattle Police officer. Eric Werner was dismissed three years ago for failing to tell internal investigators that he punched a man who was later Tasered. A new police of SPD was adopted in 2008 mandating that police officers will be fired for dishonesty.
But this decision has been anything but clear-cut. After his firing in 2009, the same commission actually voted to reinstate Werner in 2010. On a 2-1 vote, the commission said that while Werner did exhibit dishonesty, the department's punishment was too severe, and instead ordered a suspension of 30 days without pay. Then the City Attorney's Office appealed the commission's decision, and a King County Superior Court judge sided with the city and ordered the case to be sent back to the commission. The officer then appealed the judge's decision, which was affirmed by the Washington Court of Appeals last year. So the case was finally sent back to the commission.
In the meantime, one of the commissioners who had voted against termination had been replaced - and the new commissioner sided with the original punishment of dismissal. So in February, the commission ruled 2-1 to uphold Werner's firing. That decision wasn't announced until this week. Confusing? Certainly.
The icing on the cake? The entire incident might have remained undiscovered had Werner not decided to apply for a position with the Shonomish County Sheriff's Office in 2008. During the interview process (which included a polygraph examination), Werner disclosed that he had punched the suspect. The sheriff's office declined to hire Werner, and then informed SPD of his disclosure. It was only then that steps were taken to dismiss Werner from the force.This ordeal may not be over yet. Werner, who is currently out of law enforcement, has 30 days to appeal the decision.
In upholding the firing the Commision stated,
Police officers are critically important to the community and their work is entitled to the highest respect from citizens... Part of that foundation of trust, though, must be premised on the assumption that they will tell the truth — especially in a circumstance where the striking of a citizen is involved.