Officers Christopher Couet and Jamison Maehler also were ordered to receive training in using appropriate professional discretion when dealing with the public.
Two Seattle police officers have been reprimanded for improperly classifying a police report as a “disturbance” after a former sheriff’s deputy alleged last year that she had been raped by King County Sheriff John Urquhart years earlier.
Along with written reprimands placed in their personnel files, Officers Christopher Couet and Jamison Maehler also were ordered to receive training in using appropriate professional discretion when dealing with the public.
The Police Department’s Office of Police Accountability (OPA) recommended the officers’ discipline and training following an internal investigation stemming from questions about the case raised by The Seattle Times. Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole approved the findings and discipline last month.
The officers have since grieved the discipline, OPA Interim Director Andrew Myerberg said in an email Thursday. Kevin Stuckey, president of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday.
Most Read Local Stories
- Just as rain comes into the forecast, Seattle is named the nation's 'gloomiest city'
- Bellevue teen who died at WSU fraternity was ‘a comet that came and went’
- Seattle police captain arrested on suspicion of sexual exploitation
- WSDOT told drivers to bail out of the tunnel Thursday morning. Nobody did.
- Hostile Waters: Orcas in peril
The case stems from a 911 call in November, when the former deputy asked for a female officer to come take her report that Urquhart allegedly sexually assaulted her after a night of drinking in 2002.
A short time later, Couet and Maehler arrived at the woman’s apartment. She agreed to talk with them, giving the officers the names of potential witnesses and other details about the alleged assault.
But the officers primarily focused on her self-disclosure of a mental-health diagnosis. When they later wrote a police report, they classified the matter as a “disturbance-other” and described the woman as delusional, but failed to document witness names and other details about the reported assault.
“As a direct result of the incomplete and mislabeled … report, the SAU [sexual assault unit] investigation of this report was delayed,” the OPA’s investigation found. “In addition, the complainant/victim experienced distress at not having her report taken seriously and lost trust in the Seattle Police Department.”
Seattle police ultimately opened a sexual-assault investigation into the woman’s claims in January after The Times asked about the case. A prosecutor and detective eventually cleared Urquhart, finding the statute of limitations had run out and that the alleged encounter appeared to be consensual.
Urquhart, 69, has vociferously denied that he raped or had consensual sex with his accuser, whom he supervised 15 years ago. He has cited the woman’s mental-health issues to discredit her claims.
The woman stands by her accusations.
The OPA investigation found that while talking with the woman, Couet and Maehler “began viewing the interaction as a ‘Crisis Intervention’ and not a reported Sexual Assault that needed to be adequately investigated and documented.”
“It is critically important that officers not dismiss reported crimes merely because the person reporting the crime happens to be in crisis or has a mental health challenge,” the OPA investigation stated. “In fact, with certain crimes, including sexual assault, the vulnerability sometimes attendant to being in crisis can increase the probability a perpetrator will target a person as his or her victim.”
The OPA investigation did not sustain allegations against a third Seattle officer, to whom the woman said she initially tried to report the alleged assault at the East Precinct. The woman said the officer declined to take the report and used air quotes to describe rape victims; the officer denied that. OPA deemed the matter inconclusive.
The OPA case marks the second official report to find problems with the way police handled the woman’s rape claims against Urquhart. A King County Ombudsman’s report last month found Urquhart violated department rules and procedures when he directed his internal-affairs squad not to document or investigate the allegations after his department learned of them from the FBI in June 2016.
Urquhart, who disagreed with many of the ombudsman’s findings, told The Times last month he should have handled the matter differently in retrospect.