King County sheriff’s deputy fired over threats to news editor
In firing a 27-year veteran, King County Sheriff John Urquhart found that Deputy Patrick Saulet abused his authority by threatening to arrest the news editor of The Stranger while doing his job on public property.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A King County sheriff’s deputy who threatened to arrest an editor for The Stranger weekly newspaper during a sidewalk confrontation in July has been fired by Sheriff John Urquhart.
Deputy Patrick Saulet, a 27-year veteran with a troubled disciplinary history, was terminated at the end of the business day Monday, according to Urquhart.
Urquhart found that Saulet “took exception” to Dominic Holden, The Stranger’s news editor, lawfully doing his job on public property, according to a Jan. 30 disciplinary letter sent to Saulet.
Saulet became “agitated and confrontational” and essentially “squared off” with Holden, the letter said.
Holden wrote that he was riding his bike past Fourth Avenue South and South Jackson Street about 7:25 p.m. July 30 when he saw six law-enforcement officers surrounding a man seated on a planter box at a transit station. He said he took a photograph from a public sidewalk of Saulet, who told him to leave or risk arrest.
Holden filed complaints with the Sheriff’s Office and the Seattle Police Department over the incident.
Last month, a Seattle police officer, John Marion, was suspended for a day without pay for acting unprofessionally during the incident.
Holden wrote that Marion threatened to harass him at his place of work.
Urquhart, citing evidence gathered in an internal investigation, found that Saulet abused his authority in his dealings with Holden and attempted to “recast events” in a more favorable light.
Contrary to Saulet’s assertion that he engaged in a “social contact” in which he told Holden he couldn’t ride his bike on King County Metro property, Saulet expressly or implicitly threatened to arrest Holden while incorrectly identifying public property as private property, Urquhart wrote in the letter.
“Your ill-advised actions also play to some of the most basic fears among some citizens, which is that a police officer may indiscriminately exercise his or her power in violation of their rights, because in the event of a complaint, the officer will just deny the allegation and ‘circle the wagons’ with his or her fellow officers on the expectation they will take care of their own,” Urquhart wrote.
In Saulet’s case, two deputies denied a statement in which Saulet asserted they also told Holden he couldn’t ride on Metro property.
Urquhart also noted that the event was part of a “larger pattern” in Saulet’s employment history.
Saulet was demoted from sergeant last year after Urquhart found he had harassed a family in a vehicle that had made a wrong turn into an area reserved for King County Metro Transit vehicles.
Overall, Urquhart wrote, Saulet had been the subject of about 120 allegations, with 21 sustained. Saulet had racked up more complaints on the force than any other King County deputy, according to a demotion letter previously obtained by The Stranger.
“You have been repeatedly told you need to improve your interaction with people, coached and counseled on methods for doing so, and warned of the potential consequences of further problems,” Urquhart wrote in the Jan. 30 letter.
Saulet, whose positive contributions and courage were noted by Urquhart in the letter, may ask his union if it is willing to appeal to an arbitrator.
Holden said Monday he was pleased with what he called a “thorough investigation,” the outcome of which “sends a clear message” that misconduct and abuse of civilian rights will not be tolerated.
He said the result ultimately strengthens the Sheriff’s Office, because people can trust that deputies will be held to the same standard as the people they protect.
Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @stevemiletich