The Seattle Police Department’s internal investigations unit found that a lieutenant now running for City Council lied about his alleged mistreatment of another officer, and recommended that the lieutenant be fired, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
But before the investigation concluded and went to the police chief for a decision on whether to uphold the findings, Brendan Kolding resigned and left the department in March after announcing his run for the City Council’s District 1 seat in January.
Kolding, who has partly built his campaign on combating what he called the council’s “culture of hostility” toward police, was investigated by the police department’s Office of Police Accountability (OPA) over a complaint that he had harassed the other officer.
Kolding on Wednesday denied the allegations, saying he was the victim of retaliation.
The OPA found in May that Kolding violated department rules regarding retaliation and professional conduct, said one of the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter remains under confidential review.
The allegations included that Kolding threatened to have the officer put in a desk job used to sideline problem employees, according to the source.
The OPA also found that Kolding lied about his actions, according to both sources. Department policy presumes officers will be fired for dishonesty in their official duties.
Even though he has left the force, Kolding has a July 25 meeting scheduled with the department in which he can seek to have his name cleared. After that closed-door meeting, Police Chief Carmen Best is expected to decide whether to uphold the OPA’s findings.
Although no disciplinary action can be taken against Kolding if Best upholds the findings, the result could harm his political standing.
In an interview Wednesday, Kolding acknowledged the OPA investigation and its findings against him, but he denied the allegations and claimed he is the victim of ongoing retaliation by higher-ups in the department.
Kolding said the internal investigation had nothing to do with his decision to leave the department.
“I did not leave in lieu of termination,” he said. “My motivation for leaving the department was to run for City Council and to solve the problems we’re facing out there.”
Many details of the investigation haven’t been disclosed.
The Seattle Times filed a public-disclosure request last month with the police department for Kolding’s personnel records and is awaiting the department’s response. A police spokesman said the department plans to release the records next week.
All seven of the City Council’s district seats are up for election this year, and ballots for the Aug. 6 primary are scheduled to be mailed to voters next week.
Kolding, 36, is one of three primary-election candidates in District 1, which includes West Seattle and South Park. The others are incumbent Councilmember Lisa Herbold and attorney Phillip Tavel.
Herbold has been endorsed by the Martin Luther King County Labor Council, while Tavel has been endorsed by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, making them likely to advance from top-two primary to the Nov. 5 general election.
Kolding, who spent 10 years with the police department and who ran unsuccessfully for a state House seat as a Democrat in 2016, has mounted a serious campaign.
The West Seattle homeowner had raised $65,009 from 854 donors as of July 8, mostly from taxpayer-funded democracy vouchers. Herbold had raised $76,287 from 1,083 donors and Tavel $60,922 from 528.
On the campaign trail, Kolding said his experience with the police department has prepared him to replace Herbold.
“Officers don’t currently feel supported by the City Council,” he said in an interview with KTTH radio in March, shortly after leaving his job. “They need someone on the council who understands law enforcement and understands the dynamics of police work.”
When asked Wednesday why he hasn’t mentioned the internal investigation during the campaign, Kolding responded: “This is a personal situation. My side of the story hasn’t been totally considered with this yet.”
Kolding said he was struggling with how much detail to tell The Times about his situation because he plans to present the information to Best during his meeting with her.
“The investigation is still going on,” he said. “There’s an incredible amount of backstory, but if I tell you before I present my side of the story to Chief Best, then we’re trying this matter in the press, which isn’t what I want to do.”
Kolding said the OPA investigation is the outcrop of ongoing retaliation against him that began in 2017 after he confronted an employee about being late for work.
“He subsequently threatened me with a pair of scissors, and I pushed that information up the chain of command but was met with resistance at every level,” he said.
Later, the department opened the investigation of misconduct against him, Kolding said.
“The OPA investigation, as I reviewed it, did not include a thorough depiction of the exact scenario itself,” Kolding said. “At the end of the day, I have dealt with a great deal of retaliation within the department. I was harassed and bullied by people who were higher in the chain of command. I’ve tried to maintain an even keel and I’ve tried to take the high road, but at no point in this investigation has it really been reflective of the true scenario.”