On Tuesday the Seattle Police Department fired an officer who claimed that a 69-year-old man had swung a golf club at her that he was using as his walking stick.
According to the Seattle Times, Officer Cynthia Whitlatch, 48, who is white, was adamant that William Wingate, who is African American, had taken a swing with his club during the July 2014 encounter.
Once police watched videotape of the incident, however, they saw Wingate leaning on the club as if it were a cane. He never once raised the club toward the officer. The SPD released the footage in January.
"Your perceptions of race and other protected categories appear to be so deeply seated that they likely impacted the authoritarian manner in which you treated this man and your refusal to deviate from that approach towards an individual whose actions did not warrant such treatment," the Police Department's termination order read, the Times reports.
According to the Times, Whitlatch claimed that during the incident, she'd heard a clang of metal and believed that Wingate had hit a stop sign with his club. She claimed that he tried to hit her with the club after she approached the man. The video footage shows Wingate standing on the corner leaning against his club when the officer gets out of the car. He is taken into custody shortly afterward.
"Your inability to understand, even in hindsight, that your behavior was unnecessarily aggressive, an abuse of discretion, and negatively impacted the community's confidence in this police service, offers me no pathway to confidence that your behavior will improve or change," Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole wrote in her findings. "Without this ability to learn from your mistakes, understand how you can improve and do better, and recognize your own errors, you are unable to effectively function as an officer."
Whitlatch contends that she didn't exhibit racial bias in her arrest and says that she wouldn't change one thing about that day. Seattle Police Officers' Guild officials are expected to appeal her dismissal, the Times reports. According to the Times, Wingate, a retired bus driver and veteran, sued the city and Whitlatch in April.
Read more at the Seattle Times.