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OPA Case Review July 11, 2023
Note: These are summaries of selected reports released by the Office of Police Accountability on July 7, 2023. Links to the full reports are included at the bottom for your convenience. If you want to browse all the cases, you can visit the OPA Closed Case Summary website.
Partygoers threatened with arrest for smoking weed.
A woman alleged Officer Richard Bonesteel was rude and unprofessional when he ordered her to extinguish a joint at the annual BOO! Seattle Halloween party. When she and her companion refused to put it out, Bonesteel got irate and threatened to arrest them for obstruction. Ultimately, they put the joint out, and Bonesteel left just as more officers arrived.
OPA wrote that Bonesteel “fell short of exemplifying SPD’s professionalism standards,” noting that Bonesteel “was admonished, retrained, and disciplined for unprofessional behavior five times over the last five years.” Throughout his career, Bonesteel has had the police called on him at least three times for domestic disturbances. One of those resulted in a suspension.
Though OPA acknowledged that Bonesteel had a pattern of problematic behavior and found fault with his actions, it inexplicably issued “inconclusive” findings.
Detective violated arrestee’s Miranda rights
After reviewing a case, a King County deputy prosecutor initiated a complaint against Det. Christine Nichols, in which he observed that she violated the suspect’s Miranda rights “no less than nine times.” Nichols continued questioning the suspect after he had invoked his Fifth Amendment right and requested a lawyer.
The deputy prosecutor claimed he had spoken with Nichols three times about not following procedure. He added: “She continues to ask suspects questions after they invoke despite my clear instructions to her on the law. She is a veteran police officer and knows better.” OPA sustained two allegations, and Nichols was reprimanded.
Nichols was previously involved in the beating of a University of Washington student. She asked him to stop filming during a noise disturbance call. When he refused, she and two other officers beat the man with fists and flashlights. He later sued the city and settled out of court.
Lieutenant investigated for airing beef with the Chief
Lt. Heidi Tuttle was investigated for sending out an email to non-SPD grant partners saying that she was “kicked out” of the Community Service Unit by Chief Diaz. Someone complained to the OPA, saying the email was “unprofessional, undermines the integrity of the chief, misrepresents the character of the employee movement process, and undermines the trust of grant partners in SPD’s ability to perform its commitments under the grant.”
OPA found that Lt. Tuttle’s “language and tone did not meet Department standards” and that she “possibly committed a minor policy violation, but not one that rose to the level of serious misconduct.” Tuttle was given a training referral.
Officers unprofessional to violent crime victim
A man who was the victim of an assault and robbery complained that he was mistreated by responding officers. When the officers arrived on the scene, they found the man visibly bleeding from his hand and mouth. The OPA investigation notes that the man was “agitated,” used profanity, talked over officers, and demanded business cards from them.
The complainant claims he only received one business card, and it contained none of the officers’ information. The investigation found that Officer Jacob Rogers violated SPD policy by repeatedly refusing to identify himself to the complainant. OPA also sustained unprofessionalism allegations, calling his behavior “antagonistic, unnecessary, and unprofessional.”
OPA sustained unprofessionalism allegations against Officer Jessica Chandler for cursing back at the man. Though OPA acknowledged that Chandler had been singled out for abuse and called an unspecified “gender-based slur,” it noted that her only options under SPD policy were to “continue responding professionally to the Complainant’s inexcusable verbal abuse or to disengage from the Complainant entirely.” Chandler received a written reprimand.
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