Police Officer Fired. Film at 11.

In what truly is a newsworthy event, the sheriff of King County, Washington, John Urquhart, has actually fired an officer for threatening to arrest a photojournalist taking pictures of him making an arrest and then lying about it. And he firmly supports the right to record the police:

King County deputy Patrick “K.C.” Saulet has been fired for threatening to arrest me last summer, when I was photographing several officers on a downtown street corner, and then lying to investigators about the incident, says King County sheriff John Urquhart.

The termination is effective today.

“You have a constitutional right to photograph the police,” Sheriff Urquhart asserted in a phone interview with me today. Threatening to arrest a citizen for legally taking photos of cops while on public property, he added, “is a constitutional violation, as far as I am concerned.”

The union, of course, calls all of this a “witch hunt” and will probably file a lawsuit over it. Because we can’t expect the people who enforce the law to actually follow the law and respect the Bill of Rights, can we? And Saulet was pretty obviously an officer who delighted in abusing his power. He had 120 complaints filed against him, 21 of which were validated by the department.

Incidentally, my friend Radley Balko praised Urquhart for his decision on Twitter and he replied, “Thanks for the kudos. Your book is required reading for my command staff.” That’s a really good sign.

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  • Michael Heath

    John Urquhart ran for sheriff as a non-partisan: http://johnforsheriff.com/.

    Wikipedia’s entry for King County leads off the politics section with this:

    King County, which includes Seattle, is a major center for liberal politics and is a bastion for the Democratic Party. In the 2008 election, Barack Obama defeated John McCain in the county by 42 percentage points, a larger margin than any previous election.

  • D. C. Sessions

    So, MH, what you’re implying is that as long as Republicans are at least 30% of the population, abusive cops are safe from accountability?

  • Alverant

    I wonder if the union really thinks it is a witch hunt or are they protesting it because they have to protest it the same way the USAG has to defend stupid laws even though he/she knows they’re stupid.

    DC In this case the cop was fired, something that doesn’t really happen in Republican controlled districts. Plus it’s not like citizens can vote on which cops get fired and why.

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    Holy shit! That’s incredible!

    Remember when the police in Philadelphia dropped a bomb on a house and burned down an entire city block and killed a dozen people? Nobody got fired for that. This guy must have not only screwed up, he must have been really unpopular; maybe he wasn’t on the take or something.

  • http://www.thelosersleague.com theschwa

    Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

    …unless you have a badge and are charged with enforcing the law. Then, you know, its OK because cops are special.

  • DaveL

    Remember when the police in Philadelphia dropped a bomb on a house and burned down an entire city block and killed a dozen people?

    Um, no…

    <googles “philadelphia police bombing”>

    Holy crap!

  • http://www.gregory-gadow.net Gregory in Seattle

    “He had 120 complaints filed against him, 21 of which were validated by the department.”

    Speaking as a long-time Seattle residence, you have that only partially right: there have been 120 people naïve enough to bother filing a complaint against him — most residents know that complaints typically get ignored if they are even read — and of those complaints, 21 were so egregious that the SPD could not cover them up or otherwise issue the standard line, “After investigation, we found that the officer was acting appropriately.” There is a REASON why SPD has been investigated by the FBI, and why the investigation turned up a list of changes that must be made.

    It is nice to finally see a Chief of Police willing to stand up to the union. While I strongly support labor, the police union we have seems to serve solely to protect officers from the consequences of their actions.

  • Funny Diva

    Just to set the record straight…

    Although the Seattle Police Department does need to clean house, they’re a separate entity from the King County Sheriff’s Department–which is the agency showing decent leadership in this particular case.

    Many local-level elected positions are officially “non-partisan” here in WA. Urquhart’s opponent had the county Republican Party’s official endorsement, but Mr Urquhart was endorsed by a previous sheriff who’s now in DC as an (R-WA) congressperson from one of the very conservative/R enclaves of King Co. I’m sure it was also politically savvy for him to have “Non Partisan” predominately displayed at the top of his campaign webpage.

  • jnorris

    … lying to investigators about the incident …

    That’s against the law and he should be prosecuted for it.

    Related note: Ed, I believe you posted a while back about a web service one could upload live video of police in these situations so the video would survive any harassment. Could you find that and repost? Thank you.

  • Michael Heath

    jnorris, here’s the link:http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches/2012/06/19/stop-and-frisk-theres-an-app-for-that/

    I found it by googling: “ed brayton” police mobile app upload video. It was the top non-sponsored result.

  • valhar2000

    That’s a really good sign.

    Depends on how you look at it; I0d say it’s a bad sign, for the Sheriff. I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the near future, Sheriff Urquhart gets shot and killed by a young black man, with ties to drug trafficking gangs, who was shot by the Sheriff’s own men for resisting arrest.

    At this point, I expect just about anything.

  • Pingback: The Final Recording | Police Officer Fired. Film at 11. » Dispatches from the Culture Wars()

  • http://onhandcomments.blogspot.com/ left0ver1under

    Just as honest cops are few and far between in sewers of corruption, so are honest sheriffs and honest chiefs of police. While it’s good to hear one sheriff fired a corrupt cop, what about the thousands of others who know of and encourage violations of the law?