Officer in off-duty fight in Ballard will avoid suspension if he stays out of trouble
Officer Garth Haynes, the Seattle police officer who stepped on a handcuffed suspect after a Ballard brawl, will avoid a 10-day suspension for using excessive force — if he stays out of trouble.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The Seattle police officer who stepped on the head of a handcuffed man after a fight outside a Ballard nightclub used excessive force, but Chief John Diaz has decided to withhold imposing a 10-day suspension providing the officer keeps out of trouble.
Officer Garth Haynes was also referred for retraining on the department's policies for professionalism and off-duty behavior, according to a Seattle police disciplinary report obtained by The Seattle Times through a public-disclosure request.
Diaz agreed with Office of Professional Accountability Director Kathryn Olsen that Haynes had used unnecessary force on a detained and unresisting suspect. The chief imposed a 10-day suspension without pay but held the punishment providing Haynes stay out of similar trouble for the next two years.
However, Olsen earlier modified other recommended findings of department policy violations by Capt. Tag Gleason, who oversees the department's Internal Investigations Section.
Gleason had suggested sustained findings that Haynes violated the law while on duty by assaulting a suspect and showed a lack of professionalism. (Gleason determined that from the point Haynes identified himself as a police officer and displayed his badge, he was on duty.) Olsen, however, pointed out that Haynes was acquitted by a jury of misdemeanor assault charges in Seattle Municipal Court in March.
The Police Department's internal investigation — which was suspended after he was criminally charged and resumed after his trial — found that Haynes escalated the December 2010 confrontation at BalMar nightclub and used "poor discretion" when he confronted a woman who had taken his coat and the coat of a friend.
Haynes, who was off duty, wound up in a fight with three men who came to the aid of the woman despite showing his badge and calling 911 for backup.
The three men were arrested for fighting with Haynes and his friend. After the three were on the ground in handcuffs, Haynes is seen on a police dashboard-camera video stepping on the head of one, Jake Baijot-Clary.
Haynes was charged in July 2011 with fourth-degree assault, a gross misdemeanor, just as the U.S. Department of Justice was in a midst of an investigation that ultimately concluded that SPD officers routinely engaged in a "pattern or practice" of using excessive force.
But the incident also resulted in outrage from police, who were angered that Haynes was charged by City Attorney Pete Holmes. The Seattle Police Officers' Guild said there was a racial motive involved, noting that after his arrest one of Baijot-Clary's companions used the term "spook" in reference to Haynes, who is black. Baijot-Clary and his companions are white.
The intent of the comment also divided the internal investigation.
Gleason, the captain, concluded through the investigation that "racial or ethnic animus or bias was not an apparent motivation for the parties involved." He determined that the Seattle Police Officer's Guild and Haynes' defense attorney were responsible for introducing race into the controversy.
Haynes, Gleason pointed out, did not know the term had even been uttered when he stepped on the man's head. The individual who used the term, Gleason said, explained that he meant it in the context of its slang definition of a spy. Gleason pointed out that Haynes was in plainclothes and flashing a badge that nobody at the scene believed was real as the confrontation escalated.
However, Olsen rejected this analysis and concluded that "bias could have contributed to the refusal to acknowledge Officer Haynes' legitimate role as a police officer, and fueled the fight that ensued."
Sgt. Rich O'Neill, president of the Seattle Police Officers' Guild, was on vacation and could not be reached Tuesday for comment.
Gregory Jackson, an attorney representing Haynes in a civil lawsuit filed by Baijot-Clary, said Haynes has appealed his suspension to the Seattle Public Safety Civil Service Commission.
Christopher Carney, the attorney representing Bailjot-Clary in a federal civil-rights lawsuit against Haynes and the SPD, said in an email: "We are pleased that the Department has finally acknowledged some of Officer Haynes's misconduct, but disappointed by the slap on the wrist imposed."
He said the "department is blaming the innocent victim, trying to use someone else's words to unfairly label Mr. Baijot-Clary as a racist."
Mike Carter: 206-464-3706