Seattle police officer Cynthia Whitlatch was cruising down the street in her patrol car when she came across an elderly man standing on the corner using a golf club as a cane, prompting her to stop her car and order him to place the club down, claiming it could be a weapon.
William Wingate, a retired bus driver and Air Force veteran who was 69 at the time, said he’s been using that golf club as a cane for 20 years and refused to set it down.
So Whitlatch escalated the lying.
“You just swang that golf club at me …. It was on audio and videotape, put it down,” she said.
The incident took place last July, but Whitlach’s dash cam video was just released after a public records request by The Stranger, Seattle’s alternative weekly.
The video, posted below, shows Wingate remained professional but defiant, insisting she call another officer.
But when she did, the second officer took her side, arresting him on harassment and obstruction charges when it was clear from the video she was the only one harassing and obstructing his freedom to move freely in the city.
After spending a night in jail, King County prosecutors switch the charge against him to unlawful use of a weapon, obviously not bothering to watch the video.
Wingate, represented by a public defender who also didn’t watch the video, was told to sign an agreement stating the case would be dropped in two years if he complied with certain stipulations.
Fortunately, a former politician learned of the case and got involved, and eventually persuade the judge to dismiss the case. But police never admitted wrongdoing, even after watching the video.
And Whitlach is still on the force, a protected liar who should be behind bars.
Because Wingate is black and Whitlach is white, she was accused of racial profiling, but police balk at that notion, insisting she would have falsified records to arrest him even if he had been white.
In the police report filed by Officer Coles about the incident, Whitlach said “she observed him look at her and aggressively swing his golf club in the direction of her patrol car.”
“Because Wingate was still in possession of the golf club,” Coles wrote in the report, “and she was fearful of being assaulted by him, she said that she kept her distance from him upon exiting her patrol car.”
“It’s like, c’mon lady. You were lying,” Mason told me. “She wasn’t afraid of him at all.”
But the police commanders, including Metz and Davis, didn’t see it that way. Mason said they “tried to convince me nothing was wrong.”
Metz, in particular, “kept trying to convince us nothing was wrong here. He defended the officer.”
Nothing came out of that meeting, Mason said. But weeks later, she received a call from Deputy Chief Carmen Best, who, like Wingate, is black.
“The solution we came up with,” she said, “was actually good on the part of the [police] chief”—who’d assigned Best to look into the case. “It became African American and white women coming together to work on a solution.”
Weeks later, city prosecutors, after conferring with Best, recommended dismissing both the case against him and the two-year stipulation.
“They know that had this been a white man,” said Mason, “we wouldn’t be here.”
But, in fact, it appears they don’t know that. The Seattle Police Department insists racial bias played no role in the incident.
“If this person had been white,” said SPD spokesman Sean Whitcomb, speaking by phone on Tuesday, “I would imagine it would have been the same outcome. We don’t believe this was a biased policing incident. We don’t believe the officer acted out of malice or targeted this man because of his race.”
Whitlatch enjoys playing the victim having been one of 126 Seattle police officers last year who sued the Department of Justice, claiming the agency was infringing on their Constitutional rights by requiring them to be less violent towards citizens.
Here is the non-emergency phone number to the Seattle Police Department in case you want to urge them to fire her. Her conversation with Wingate begins at the 1:40 mark.