Two officers who had been accused of lying in written reports have been cleared of any wrongdoing by a Seattle Police Department investigation...
Two officers who had been accused of lying in written reports have been cleared of any wrongdoing by a Seattle Police Department investigation, Chief Gil Kerlikowske said this afternoon.
Kerlikowske said an investigation into more than 25 arrests by officers Greg Neubert and Mike Tietjen turned up no indication that the officers have lied in their reports.
The officers have been under scrutiny since Jan. 3, when a Seattle man reported that they lied about what happened during his arrest. In reaction, the King County Prosecutor’s Office sent letters to defense attorneys in cases in which Neubert and Tietjen are potential witnesses, alerting them to the possibility of problems with the officers’ integrity.
But during a news conference this afternoon, Kerlikowske defended the officers. He said they are the targets of complaints because of the sheer volume of arrests they make as bicycle officers in the department’s West Precinct. He said the only thing the officers did wrong on Jan. 2 was that they failed to report that they had handcuffed and later released a man in downtown Seattle before arresting George “Troy” Patterson, a convicted felon who claims his civil rights were violated by the two officers.
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Kerlikowske said the officers didn’t lie to investigators but instead forgot to report that they had earlier handcuffed and released the other man.
“This case was investigated very thoroughly,” Kerlikowske said. “It’s not uncommon for officers who make a lot of arrests to be the subject of rumors.”
Kerlikowske said the officers could face some type of administrative punishment for the lapse, which could include a written reprimand.
The investigation centered on Patterson’s late-night arrest at the corner of Third Avenue and Pike Street downtown.
According to a sworn statement in Patterson’s criminal case, which has been dismissed, Neubert said he and Tietjen watched Patterson, 26, through a telescope from a vantage point in a building nine stories above the street. Patterson, who uses a wheelchair, sold drugs to a woman, Neubert alleged.
The officers descended to the street and found “crumbs” of crack cocaine in Patterson’s lap, Neubert alleged. Patterson is a convicted felon with a history of drug abuse.
Patterson was arrested and jailed for a few hours before being released pending formal charges.
In an interview, Patterson said that after he was released, he immediately complained about the arrest to the Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability. He alleges that the officers planted the drugs and roughed him up.
During his recitation of the events, Patterson said, he mentioned that the officers had briefly handcuffed and detained another man.
According to officials familiar with the case, that fact was missing from the officers’ report. Seattle police policy requires that all instances when people are detained by officers must be detailed in writing.
Detectives were assigned to investigate the discrepancy, and discovered that a surveillance camera on a nearby Walgreen’s drugstore had taped the arrest. The tape supported Patterson’s version of events, according to one source familiar with the investigation.
The source also said detectives questioned Neubert and Tietjen and they again failed to acknowledge that there even had been a second man detained, the source said.
Police have not released the tape.
Rich O’Neill, president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, said he viewed the videotape, and he acknowledged that Neubert and Tietjen indeed detained the other man and failed to report it.
But O’Neill blames defense attorneys for blowing the incident out of proportion. The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has alerted defense attorneys in 17 cases — including two being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office — that Neubert and Tietjen are under investigation and that the outcome could impact those cases. It wasn’t yet known what impact the investigation could have on the cases.
The felony drug charge filed against Patterson stemming from the arrest was dismissed earlier this month “in the interest of justice,” a prosecutor wrote in King County Superior Court documents.
Neubert, 42, joined the Seattle police in 1992 after a stint in the Air Force. Tietjen, 31, joined the department in 2000. As partners on the downtown bicycle patrol, the two were named “officers of the year” for the department’s West Precinct last year.
After only three years on the force, Neubert shot a suspected drug dealer inside a McDonald’s restaurant downtown. Neubert said he thought the man’s cigarette lighter was a gun. The man survived. Neubert was cleared of wrongdoing.
Then in 2001, Neubert and his partner, Officer Craig Price, stopped a black man named Aaron Roberts for driving erratically in the Central Area. Price fatally shot Roberts after Roberts allegedly grabbed Neubert’s arm and dragged the officer down the street with his car.
The incident ignited charges of racism against the Police Department, but Neubert and Price were cleared both by a county inquest hearing and internal police review.
Roberts’ family filed a civil-rights lawsuit against the officers and the department. Neubert countersued, claiming Roberts’ widow should pay for the treatment of his injuries. Both lawsuits were dismissed.