King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht has fired a veteran detective for a series of Facebook posts last summer that mocked and endorsed violence against racial justice protesters, finding that he “badly damaged confidence and trust in the Sheriff’s Office.”
Detective Mike Brown, a deputy for more than 40 years who had been a member of the protection unit assigned to King County Executive Dow Constantine, was formally fired Thursday, according to the sheriff’s findings following a due process hearing.
Johanknecht found Brown’s actions violated deputy performance standards related to social media policies and separately amounted to “Conduct Unbecoming,” a serious breach of the Sheriff’s Office’s core values that brings discredit upon the agency.
Brown was exonerated on another alleged violation of “serious misconduct” related to bigotry, but each of the sustained violations against him separately warranted termination, the sheriff found.
“Several of your posts endorsed and advocated unnecessary/excessive use of force and violence,” Johanknecht wrote in a nine-page memo to Brown detailing her findings. “They demonstrated extreme indifference to life and racial equity.”
Brown can challenge his termination through a grievance procedure. King County Police Officers Guild President Mike Mansanarez did not immediately respond to messages Friday.
Following complaints about Brown’s social media posts last summer, the sheriff’s internal investigations unit examined a series of his Facebook posts in June and July that criticized, mocked or advocated physical force or violence against racial justice protesters.
Among the posts, which drew widespread media attention, was a meme July 4 that depicted a vehicle striking a person and reading “ALL LIVES SPLATTER.” Brown posted the meme the same day a driver hit two protesters on Interstate 5. One of the protesters, Summer Taylor, later died.
Other posts included a video of a Baltimore police officer punching and knocking down a Black woman, with the added comment, “When in doubt…knock em out”; and a clip from the movie “Tombstone” posted June 22 that showed an officer gunning down and threatening suspects and citizens.
In her analysis, Johanknecht said she considered other comparable disciplinary cases in which employees posted improper memes and videos on social media, as well as Brown’s past disciplinary history, which includes a one-day suspension for another “conduct unbecoming” violation related to a 2013 traffic stop of Brown for suspected drunken driving in Chelan County.
“It is necessary that I also consider your ability to be effective as a law enforcement officer, given the ample material now available to discredit and undermine you and your work for this Office,” Johanknecht wrote. “The damage to your integrity and ability to continue to serve as a law enforcement officer cannot be repaired.”
After complaints emerged about the detective’s posts in July, Gov. Jay Inslee — who is a cousin of Brown’s — tweeted he was “deeply disappointed” with Brown’s “inflammatory comments.”
“The language is unacceptable and just flat wrong, particularly from a law enforcement officer, as we try to heal the divisions of our community,” the governor’s tweet said.