It’s often argued that it’s a good thing that police officers are allowed to lie while interrogating suspects or while investigating a crime. Because if it helps solve said crime, what’s the harm? It’s far too rarely considered that giving cops free rein to tell whatever lie they want, so long as it aids their agenda, may have tragic consequences.
Such is the case for a Seattle police officer who was suspended after it was found that a lie he told a hit-and-run suspect contributed to the man’s suicide, NBC News reported.
It all started when an unidentified man got into a minor fender-bender in May 2018 and fled the scene. Was he wrong? Sure. Is there any reason, whatsoever, the misdeed should’ve lead to his death? Of course not.
But according to a report from the Office of Police Accountability, an independent office within the Seattle Police Department, two Seattle PD officers who were investigating the incident were sent to an address connected to the suspect to get a statement.
The report states plainly that both officers knew it was a minor fender-bender and that no one was injured. But, for some inexplicable reason, when they arrived at the address, one officer told the woman who answered the door, a friend of the suspect, that a woman had been critically injured in the accident and may not survive.
Body camera footage showed the woman was visibly upset by the news and, reportedly, after the officers left, she called the man to relay the message and advise he get an attorney.
I can imagine the stressful feeling of finding out you’ve been caught fleeing the scene of an accident and knowing you’ll have to deal with the deserved consequences. That’s hard, but not the kind of thing that would lead one to believe their life was over. But the distress and desperation that would land on the heart knowing that, in all probability, you’ve killed someone, I can’t imagine and would rather not try.
From the NBC News report:
Friends of the driver told investigators with the Office of Police Accountability that in the days following the police visit, the man grew increasingly upset and worried.
One friend said the man told him that the fender-bender happened when his car rolled backward, striking the other vehicle. The man said he had left the scene, but did not remember anyone being injured in the crash, the friend said.
The report states the driver had been a drug addict for 20 years and had prior legal trouble. The friend told investigators that the man said he was not high at the time of the crash.
The man’s roommate told investigators that the day before his death, he “became increasingly worried” and started talking about suicide. The roommate found the man dead on June 3, 2018, less than a week after the crash.
To add insult to injury, or in this case, death, the officer, who also hasn’t been identified, says that the lie he told was necessary to get information and that he didn’t feel responsible for the man’s suicide. The officer’s partner told investigators that the officer said he knew it was a lie, “but it’s fun.”
Imagine having a good ol’ time inadvertently causing someone’s death. But what really boggles the mind is the officer’s rationale being that he’d get more information on a suspect from said suspect’s friend by falsely saying he may have killed someone rather than just telling the truth, that it was only a minor crash. I suppose it’s difficult to think clearly, though, when you’re having so much “fun.”
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said in a statement that the officer was wrong and that he’s been suspended for six days without pay as of Thursday.
“The officer’s actions did not meet SPD’s standards of acceptable use of discretion and were not consistent with the standards of professionalism or training,” Best said. “In 2019, the Seattle Police Department provided in-service training to all sergeants, officers, and detectives on the appropriate use of ruses during criminal investigations.”
A six-day suspension for a man’s life. Is this how protecting and serving works?