After video surfaced in which a Seattle police officer appeared to refer to protesters as cockroaches, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) said Tuesday a sergeant was placed on paid leave pending an investigation spurred by “multiple inquiries about a video showing a member of the public expressing concern about statements made by the sergeant, as well as his driving while on-duty.”
Videos circulating online this month showed an unmarked SUV speed through the intersection at 11th Avenue and East Pine Street, and then later, a person inside the SUV identifying himself as a Seattle police officer, acknowledging driving onto a sidewalk and comparing protesters to cockroaches.
In the video, one speaker says, “I saw you hit almost a bunch of people” and questions the person in the SUV about driving “up on the sidewalk.” The person in the SUV responds that he was “trying to catch a bad guy” but didn’t because “he ran like a roach.” Asked, “Don’t you think you could have hurt somebody, seriously hurt somebody?” he says, “No … I’m a professional.”
When asked, “Are you the one that called them like a bunch of cockroaches?” the person in the SUV responds, “Yes, yes,” and later says, “I think it’s very, very [inaudible] … running like cockroaches.” He appears to complain about Seattle and efforts to cut SPD’s budget, saying he “used to love Seattle” but now the city is “dirty” and “gross,” but that “they pay me like 200-grand a year to babysit … these knuckleheads every night because they smash up all the businesses.”
The Office of Police Accountability (OPA), which will conduct the investigation, currently lists an investigation into an allegation that an “officer drove onto sidewalk, nearly hitting protesters” on Aug. 13 in its online dashboard.
The person in the video gives a badge number, but SPD has not confirmed the identity of the sergeant.
However, in a longer version of the video posted by the South Seattle Emerald, the speaker in the SUV identifies himself as “Tietjen.” A knowledgeable source within the department confirmed Sgt. Michael Tietjen is the officer in the video and that the incident has been referred for criminal investigation. A department roster from early August lists Tietjen as having the badge number identified in the video and working at the East Precinct. An attempt to reach Tietjen was unsuccessful.
In 2007, Tietjen and another officer were accused of planting drugs on a suspect and using excessive force. The officers were cleared of any wrongdoing by a department investigation, though a civilian auditor later concluded the officers lied. A later report from the then-director of the OPA found they were properly exonerated. In the process, prosecutors alerted defense attorneys in more than 30 cases that the officers may have credibility problems.
A Seattle Police Department spokesperson said Tuesday the department would not offer any information beyond what is in the online post. The department had previously refused to answer questions about the video, saying only that it had been referred to the OPA.
Elise Takahama and Mike Carter contributed reporting.