Port's investigation of its police officers' e-porn called flawed
The Port of Seattle Police Department's investigation into pornographic e-mails sent among 30 of its officers was poorly conducted on all...
Seattle Times business reporter
The Port of Seattle Police Department's investigation into pornographic e-mails sent among 30 of its officers was poorly conducted on all levels, according to a strongly worded report released Thursday by the Port's commission.
The 10-page report, based on the findings of an investigation by an independent company, also found that members of the Port's executive staff gave deferential treatment to the Police Department during the 2006 investigation and failed to "act on red flags" that would have alerted them to issues undermining the investigation.
At the commission's meeting Thursday, Linda Strout, deputy chief executive of the Port, publicly apologized to the community and commissioners for the executive team's lack of oversight in 2006.
She said Port officials "deeply regret, and will for years to come, the disruption to the Port's workflow and the public embarrassment."
Acting Police Chief Gale Evans also apologized on behalf of the 108-member department and acknowledged that the e-mailing and subsequent investigations have "taken a toll on the entire department."
The Port commission asked Seattle-based Seabold Group to conduct an independent investigation in late January, following media reports critical of the Police Department's handling of the sexually explicit and racist e-mails sent or received by 30 of its members.
Ten people received written reprimands from then-Police Chief Tim Kimsey following the department's 2006 investigation. One of the officers, Jon Schorsch, was fired for additional, unrelated reasons. Kimsey officially retired in May, although he had been taking paid vacation time since the beginning of the year.
Seabold Group interviewed about 40 people and reviewed 25,000 pages of documents, including Port policies, e-mails and personnel records during its three-month investigation. The Port commission took its findings to produce the report released to the public Thursday.
Among the findings:
• There was inadequate procedural or substantive expertise within the Police Department to conduct the personnel-related investigation properly.
• There were insufficient Police Department resources devoted to the investigation or direction given.
• The decision of discipline was made by former Police Chief Kimsey and approved by Strout, general counsel Craig Watson and former Chief Executive Mic Dinsmore without consideration by the Port's Labor Relations or Human Resources departments, in violation of the Port's policies.
• Kimsey seemed "unduly influenced" by a desire to avoid any challenge by the police officers' union (Teamsters Local 117) and apparently believed any discipline more than written warnings would provoke a challenge.
• The discipline administered did not match the severity of the misconduct, and the process for imposing the discipline was inadequate.
"We also are extremely disappointed that an investigation of this magnitude was not handled more thoughtfully and deliberately by the Police Department's leadership and members of our executive team," said Commission President John Creighton.
The Port's commission has charged Chief Executive Tay Yoshitani with changing the Police Department's policies and culture, and has also appointed a community advisory group that will weigh in on department issues.
The Port is currently searching for a new police chief. In the meantime, Yoshitani said, he will announce a "plan to transform the department" at the commission's regularly scheduled public meeting June 12.
Yoshitani said there "will be some activity between now and then" but he declined to comment further on any disciplinary actions that might take place. The entire Police Department has undergone training on sexual harassment.
Kirsten Orsini-Meinhard: 206-464-2391 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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