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Originally published July 13, 2013 at 7:17 PM | Page modified July 13, 2013 at 9:52 PM

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SPD fires high-ranking officer with troubled history

Donnie Lowe, a veteran Seattle Police officer with a troubled history, was fired on Friday.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The Seattle Police Department has terminated Lt. Donnie Lowe following an internal investigation into allegations of domestic violence and dishonesty, according to a member of the department’s command staff.

The official, who confirmed Lowe’s dismissal on condition he not be identified by name, said Lowe was fired Friday by Interim Police Chief Jim Pugel over issues of honesty arising from his arrest in June 2012 for domestic violence, even though Lowe was acquitted by a King County jury of a misdemeanor domestic-violence charge last September.

Lowe also had been under investigation for violating a court-imposed no-contact order stemming from his arrest, however he was never prosecuted and the case was abandoned after the acquittal.

A telephone call to Lowe’s residence was answered by a woman who declined to put Lowe on the line and said there would be no comment.

Pugel declined to discuss the issue on the record.

Lowe, 46, was one of the highest-ranking African Americans in the Seattle Police Department, and he won praise and promotion during his 21 years with the department. Just before his domestic-violence arrest, he had been named an acting captain and placed in charge of a key element of the SPD’s “20/20” plan to overhaul the department in response to a Department of Justice investigation, which concluded SPD officers routinely use excessive force. The DOJ report also noted what it considered evidence of biased policing.

Lowe had been placed in charge of the leadership aspect of the plan, but he was replaced and eventually placed on administrative leave after his arrest.

The command-staff source said Lowe’s dismissal followed an extensive investigation by the department’s Office of Professional Accountability begun after Lowe’s acquittal.

A telephone message to Lt. Eric Sano, the head of the Seattle Police Manager’s Association, which represents the department’s lieutenants and captains, was not returned Saturday.

Lowe was arrested after his wife, Nanette, reportedly called 911 on June 22, 2012, to report he had assaulted her. She later insisted it was a misunderstanding and said she would not testify, however, city prosecutors moved ahead with the case based on the emergency call.

The court imposed a no-contact order, and Lowe found himself in the city attorney’s sights again when he was pulled over in August for talking on a cellphone while driving with a woman in his car.

Lowe told police the woman was a relative later identified by Nanette Lowe as a 16-year-old niece. Mrs. Lowe insisted she was not in the car.

However, an investigation by the King County Sheriffs Office turned up conflicting evidence — including video of his wife showing up to work a half-hour after the traffic stop in a dress similar to the one described by the officer in his report.

Lowe has had a difficult history with the department.

He previously was disciplined after he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in 2008. He pleaded guilty to an amended charge of reckless driving, later dismissed when he met court conditions. The department then suspended him for four days without pay after an internal investigation.

His arrest in that case attracted attention because Lowe was allowed to supervise a Seattle police-security detail at President Obama’s January 2009 inauguration, even though the arrest had taken place Nov. 23, 2008.

Lowe also received internal reprimands for inappropriate physical treatment of a son who was handcuffed and in police custody in a holding cell in 2006, and over an improper effort to retrieve from a man nude photographs of a female acquaintance in 2002.

Mike Carter: mcarter@seattletimes.com or 206-464-3706. Information from The Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

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