2 Renton police officers demoted over Web cartoon of jail
A deputy police chief and a sergeant in Renton have been demoted over a Web cartoon ridiculing city jail staff. Posted on YouTube in January, the video made fun of jail policies and staff and featured a clown refusing to admit into jail a drunken suspect brought in by police.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A deputy police chief and a police sergeant in Renton have been demoted over a Web cartoon ridiculing a new regional jail in South King County.
The disciplinary actions stemmed from a video posted on YouTube in January, city officials said Monday. The nearly 9-minute video made fun of jail policies and staff, and featured a clown refusing to admit a suspect brought in by police.
The clown, representing jail staff, says the suspect is "too drunk," too "angry and loud," and has a backpack that is too large. He speaks in robotic tones to a mustachioed police officer.
Later, the clown admits he thought the new jail — called the South Correctional Entity, which houses inmates from seven cities — was going to be the "land of milk and honey." But now he fears otherwise.
"We spent the last two years burning bridges, shirking responsibilities and calling in sick for no reason," the clown says.
The city identified the sergeant who created the video as Bill Judd. He has been demoted to officer.
Judd showed the video to former Deputy Police Chief Charles Marsalisi, who was accused of advising Judd on how to post it while remaining anonymous.
Marsalisi was demoted to sergeant.
The investigation is separate from the case of "Mrfuddlesticks," a series of cartoons posted on YouTube in April lampooning city police and personnel, said Preeti Shridhar, city communications director.
Those videos, while using the same technology, are the subject of another internal investigation, Shirdhar said.
According to documents released Monday, Police Chief Kevin Milosevich said in a Thursday memo to Judd that the creation and dissemination of the video "deliberately distorted and exaggerated the jail's operations." He also said viewers might conclude that jail operations and jail personnel were "incompetent" and "ignorant."
The chief added that the video "publicly demeaned and ridiculed certain department staff" and harmed the relationship between the Police Department and the regional jail.
At a disciplinary hearing Aug. 4, Judd, through an attorney, argued that his speech was protected under the First Amendment and that the video amounted to "political satire on the inefficiencies of government."
Marsalisi was demoted for failing to advise Judd the video was inappropriate, according to Renton city documents.
In a meeting with the Police Department's Disciplinary Review Board, Marsalisi said he didn't believe Judd was going to make the video public.
"He mentioned that he didn't want it traced back to him and I flippantly said something to the effect of, why don't you just use the library like everybody else? It was in a sarcastic tone," Marsalisi told the board.
When Judd posted the video online, Marsalisi told the sergeant to take it down, according to his testimony.
The former deputy chief said he thought the video was a "humorous look at past issues and didn't really see it as an attack" on the jail.
Documents indicated Marsalisi's pay would drop from more than $130,000 to roughly $102,000.
Two other high-ranking officers who were not identified — a sergeant and acting sergeant — were given written reprimands because they allegedly knew of the video before it was posted but saw nothing wrong with it, the documents said.
Jeff Hodson: 206-464-2109 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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