More than 5 months ago, a Seattle Police Department official warned the police chief and others that some off-duty work by officers threatened department integrity.
More than five months ago, the Seattle Police Department’s chief operating officer warned that allowing off-duty work by officers to continue unregulated threatened the department’s integrity and sought solutions from top city officials, according to an email obtained Wednesday by The Seattle Times.
“I think we are at the crossroads: either we accept the status quo or the City mount a concerted effort on breaking the back of what may be corruption, even if technically legal,” Brian Maxey wrote in the April 7 email sent to Chief Kathleen O’Toole, City Attorney Pete Holmes, the mayor’s office and other officials.
The warning came shortly before O’Toole referred to the FBI allegations of intimidation and price-fixing by officers working lucrative off-duty jobs directing traffic or providing security at parking garages and construction sites.
Among the allegations was that Kevin Stuckey, the president of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG), sought to undermine efforts by an Olympia-based startup company, Blucadia, from entering the Seattle off-duty market. Blucadia was supported by Seattle police management, which placed a Blucadia link on its website containing an endorsement from Maxey.
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Blucadia describes itself as an Uber-like service that connects officers seeking off-duty work to customers.
SPOG is affiliated with Seattle Securities Inc., one of two companies that has long provided off-duty officers for hire.
Blucadia’s chief executive officer, Rob McDermott, claimed Stuckey berated and swore at him over the telephone for repeatedly asking to meet with Guild officials about Blucadia’s plans.
Stuckey, in an interview Wednesday, acknowledged the incident but said McDermott had pursued the meeting relentlessly and had been “condescending and rude.”
“At first, I ignored him,” Stuckey said, but he eventually spoke with him by telephone in May. Stuckey said he was sick at home and had been taking NyQuil.
“I asked him, ‘Who the (expletive) do you think you’re talking to?,’ ” Stuckey said. “I let my anger dictate the situation and I shouldn’t have. I know better.”
Stuckey said the department has never endorsed an off-duty provider before. The union president alleged Maxey was behind the placement of the Blucadia portal because he is on Blucadia’s board.
Maxey, reached Wednesday, called Stuckey’s allegation “simply untrue” and “just crazy.”
Stuckey, calling himself a “conspiracy theorist,” said he has filed a public-disclosure request seeking any communications between Maxey and Blucadia.
The FBI, which on Tuesday had declined to acknowledge an investigation, on Wednesday issued a statement saying it is “reviewing the information provided to us and will review details thoroughly.” Bureau spokeswoman Ayn Dietrich-Williams said anyone who has information related to the allegations should call the FBI at 206-622-0460.
McDermott has provided the FBI with detailed notes of a 45-minute conversation with off-duty Seattle police Officer MacGregor “Mac” Gordon, a 32-year department veteran who was working the garage at Columbia Tower on April 4.
The notes claim Gordon detailed an entrenched and lucrative system for handing out off-duty work that had been in place for decades. Gordon, McDermott recounted, was “adamant that off-duty was not a topic that was going to be controlled or changed by anyone.”
McDermott said Gordon used the term “mafia” at least five times during the conversation.
“He said that those customers that need their work know this is the way it’s done and everyone knows not to mess with them, or else ‘all hell breaks loose,’ ” according to McDermott’s notes, which were reviewed by The Seattle Times.
The notes said Gordon detailed ”squeezing” a building owner for more money.
“If they refused to pay more, he would threaten to leave and ensure no other cops would work the job,” the notes said. Within “a day or two with no cop, the building manager would be calling back asking him to please return, quickly agreeing to any new rate.”
Also present during the conversation was Andrew Finley, a former Pierce County sheriff’s deputy and Blucadia co-founder. He confirmed the conversation in an interview with The Times on Wednesday, recalling it as “shocking.”
Gordon, contacted Wednesday, acknowledged the conversation but said comments about “squeezing” a building owner “is an absolute lie.”
“That is about as far away from truth as you can get,” said Gordon, who claims the men took the conversation “out of context.”
“We were joking around,” he said. “For these people to start an investigation from a conversation that was a joking situation, that’s what I can’t believe.”
Gordon, who works as a detective, said he has performed off-duty work for years “and I don’t know of anybody who breaks the rules.”
Maxey, in his April email, said officers working off-duty use the department’s “trappings and authority, but it seems our ability to control the terms of when and where these officers work and for whom is compromised by past practice.”
“I am asking for help,” Maxey wrote to the city officials, calling for a “coherent strategy because I don’t think SPD can solve this problem alone.”
In a post on the Police Department’s news website Wednesday, Chief O’Toole said before receiving the allegations SPD managers have long identified secondary employment as a “significant risk.”
“While acknowledging that the business needs of our community often require the engagement of SPD officers off-duty, current practice limits SPD’s visibility into the management, assignment, and performance of this work,” O’Toole said. “The Department is renewing its request to City partners to assist in developing systems and legislation to allow the Department to address and mitigate identified concerns.”