Police internal-affairs investigators have concluded a now-retired veteran Seattle police officer used the 'N-word' and other racial slurs while working off duty.
A veteran Seattle police detective used racial slurs, including the n-word, while working off-duty in front of a Seattle City Light crew and retired officers, according to newly disclosed records and a source familiar with the matter.
The officer, Salvatore Ditusa Jr., retired after the department opened an internal investigation last year that concluded he used the slurs and would have been fired if he had not left the department, the records show.
“His conduct and comments have no place in the profession of policing, let alone in modern society,” Andrew Myerberg, the civilian director of the department’s Office of Police Accountability (OPA) wrote in a scathing case summary made public this week.
Ditusa is not identified in the summary, but his name was provided to The Seattle Times by the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the Police Department has not released the full case file. Ditusa joined the department in 1991, serving mostly as a patrol officer before becoming a detective in the last few years.
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Attempts to contact him Friday were not successful.
The Seattle Times filed a public-disclosure request with the Police Department on Thursday for additional records.
The summary, posted on OPA’s website, provides a general account of the incident but without a specific date or location.
Although the summary does not describe specific language, Ditusa used the n-word during the incident, the source said.
Ditusa was working off-duty, flagging traffic at a Seattle City Light job site, when a “minor disturbance” occurred between a City Light employee and an African-American male, according to the summary.
A retired Seattle police officer who was also working at the site “resolved the conflict and returned to work,” the summary says.
Afterward, Ditusa approached several City Light workers and “engaged in a diatribe that included multiple racial slurs towards African-Americans,” the summary says
While making the remarks, Ditusa specifically used a racial slur toward an African-American City Light worker who Ditusa said talked “too much,” according to the summary.
Ditusa also threatened to harm an African-American individual, the summary says.
“I note that the slurs … were abhorrent and I have chosen not to write them” in the summary, Myerberg wrote.
Among those who witnessed Ditusa’s behavior were the retired officer and three African-American City Light workers, the summary says.
“The retired officer took no action,” Myerberg wrote.
In addition, a second retired officer also providing security at the site took no action when informed of Ditusa’s statements, the summary says. He told City Light employees to “tell your crew chief,” Myerberg wrote.
The employees notified the supervisor, and City Light’s human-resources manager contacted the Police Department, which referred the complaint to the OPA.
Two City Light employees who witnessed Ditusa’s behavior confirmed his use of the slurs, the summary says.
The first retired officer confirmed he heard at least one of the slurs, according to the summary. He said he “walked away” but didn’t report the matter to the department or the OPA. The second officer confirmed he told City Light employees to report the matter to their crew chief, but said he did not feel he had a personal obligation to report it to the department or OPA, the summary says.
Neither of the retired officers is identified in the summary.
When an OPA investigator contacted Ditusa to set up an interview, Ditusa informed him he no longer worked for the department and wasn’t required to give a statement, according to the summary.
Myerberg wrote that he didn’t find it coincidental that Ditusa retired shortly after the incident occurred and OPA initiated its investigation.
“Instead of facing the consequences for his actions, he avoided OPA and this disciplinary process,” he wrote.
Myerberg found that Ditusa engaged in biased policing, in violation of department policy, by using racial slurs with the threat to use force.
Ditusa “betrayed the trust placed in him by the community and violated our collective norms of decency,” Myerberg wrote.
Myerberg noted it was “unlikely, if not implausible” that Ditusa had not engaged in this conduct before, “as I do not believe that this type of racism simply appears out of the blue.”
But Myerberg wrote that he believed if Ditusa’s co-workers had heard him make such comments, he would have been referred to OPA long ago and “I hope that the fact that we have not seen such cases previously means that they were unaware.”
Myerberg also found that Ditusa was working off-duty without a department-required permit and that he failed to follow rules regarding such employment.
In 2014, Ditusa joined in a lawsuit brought by more than 100 Seattle police officers seeking to block the implementation of new, federally mandated policies designed to address excessive force cited in a U.S. Justice Department investigation. A federal judge dismissed the suit.
In 2016, Ditusa was the subject of a story in The Stranger newspaper, which quoted him as saying, while sitting in his patrol car at the Northgate Mall on June 18, 2014, “Do you ever want to punch anybody in the face?”
Ditusa was on duty, meeting a friend, who asked “Like that guy?” the Stranger reported.
“No, (expletive) him,” Ditusa replies. “I mean everybody today … (expletive) everywhere you turn, someone needs a clout.”
“You get yourself in a lot of trouble,” the man warns the officer. “But it sure is tempting.”
Ditusa didn’t know his patrol car’s dashboard camera was recording the conversation and over six hours he complained about new training, insulted a fellow officer with a homophobic slur, harassed a homeless person, intimidated a signature gatherer and suggested his sergeant steal police files from headquarters, the newspaper said.
Ditusa received a written reprimand after the video came to OPA’s attention, in what the tabloid described as Ditusa’s 12th disciplinary incident during his tenure in the department.
A 2008 Seattle Post-Intelligencer story reported allegations that Ditusa improperly used a city car, worked as a flagger without a city permit while off-duty and misused his department sick leave to take unauthorized trips “for the purpose of attending a boxing match.”
An investigation found Ditusa’s “reporting that he was sick, when he appears to have not been, so that he could travel across country, calls into question his integrity and honesty.”
But then-Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske sustained only a charge of misuse of city equipment and gave him a written reprimand, the story said.
The case was one of many during Kerlikowske’s tenure in which he came under intense scrutiny for repeatedly reversing or reducing disciplinary actions.