Officer Cynthia Whitlatch on Tuesday was fired from the Seattle Police Department.
Whitlatch garnered some unwanted attention last July when she arrested William Wingate, a 69-year-old Black veteran for leaning on a golf club as a cane. According to Whitlatch, the man swung the club at her; however, subsequently released video footage showed that no such incident occurred and that Wingate was simply standing on the sidewalk.
According to Whitlatch’s disciplinary letter, signed by police chief Kathleen O’Toole, “Despite his non-threatening behavior, you repeatedly chose confrontational options, continuing to make accusations regarding what you claimed to have seen him do, threatening him with arrest, and holding your nightstick in your hand, further escalating the interaction.”
While Wingate has said he is not sure if his arrest was a case of racial profiling, O’Toole believes, according to the letter, that racial bias played a role in the events that occurred: “Considerable circumstantial evidence indicates that these deviations and your approach to the civilian were motivated by bias. During your interviews with OPA, you indicated that your perception of the race, sex, and age of others influenced how you interacted with and reacted to events regarding this individual and, more generally, events in the workplace.”
And Whitlatch’s bias extended beyond just the events of that day, O’Toole recounted in the letter: “Without prompting, you described how you viewed the resolution of his charges as an example of racial bias because ‘guess who’ — a black judge and black chief were not, in your view, supporting white officers.”
This is not Whitlatch’s only red flag as an officer; she has been disciplined by the department twice before for unprofessional conduct. Whitlatch also expressed her belief that she did nothing wrong when she stopped Wingate and that she would not change what she had done if given the chance. According to O’Toole, it is for these reasons that she fired Whitlatch: “However, your inability to understand, even in hindsight, that your behavior was unnecessarily aggressive, an abuse of discretion, and negatively impacted the community’s confidence in this police service, offers me no pathway to confidence that your behavior will improve or change. Without this ability to learn from your mistakes, understand how you can improve and do better, and recognize your own errors, you are unable to effectively function as an officer.”
Meanwhile, James Blake is hoping similar action will be taken against a member of the NYPD. The 35-year-old tennis star was tackled to the ground last week by Officer James Frascatore in what Blake has called a case of mistaken identity. Frascatore believed Blake was the suspect in a credit card fraud case — but this does not warrant Frascatore’s use of excessive force, according to Blake, who said of the situation, “I don’t think this person should ever have a badge or a gun again.”
When looking at Frascatore’s history, Blake’s request is not without merit. Frascatore has been with the NYPD for four years and already has a history of misconduct on his file. In 2013, he was named in five civilian complaints in a seven-month period — a number that, according to WNYC, the majority of officers never receive throughout their whole careers.
Following the incident with Blake, Frascatore has been placed on desk duty. However, Blake is hoping that further consequences will be delivered, saying in an interview, “I think I’m going to hopefully let people know that some [police officers] need to be held accountable and these that are doing police work the wrong way need to pay for those actions and be shown either the door or whatever they need to do to punish them.”