The Office of Police Accountability (OPA) investigates accusations of Seattle Police Department officer misconduct and recommends disciplinary action when they find it appropriate. About every other Friday, the OPA drops a chunk of its latest case findings. Last week, the agency closed 24 cases with no allegations sustained, though a handful resulted in a referral for more training. As the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG), which represents rank-and-file officers, continues to negotiate with the City, I plan on taking a closer look at the complaints that land SPOG members in front of the OPA.
Cop Goes Vroom
Case Number: 2023OPA-0018
The OPA sent South Precinct Officer Corey L. Foy for more training after he allegedly drove his patrol car through downtown at double the speed limit for about a minute in the middle of a weekday afternoon in January. The agency couldn’t find a reason for him to hurtle through downtown that day, as he wasn’t responding to a call. The investigator also noted that Foy apparently failed to turn on his lights or sirens, according to the OPA report.
The person who complained said the cop drove behind her northbound on Beacon Avenue South before entering the road’s center lane, cutting in front of her car, and then speeding away at about 50 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour zone. In addition to speeding, the woman reported him for allegedly traveling in a turning lane, continuing straight through a “right-turn only” lane, and parking in a load-only zone longer than allowed. Foy’s patrol car GPS data confirmed the woman’s account.
OPA concluded the cop potentially committed several parking and traffic infractions, which the SPD policy manual considers minor misconduct. The investigator determined his chain of command should deal with the matter through retraining.
The agency has 16 active investigations into vehicle operations by SPD cops. About 14 of those complaints have come in since SPD Officer Kevin Dave struck and killed 23-year-old Jaahnavi Kandula while she crossed a crosswalk in January.
Case Number: 2022OPA-0409
In November 2022, OPA opened an investigation into North Precinct Officer Vanessa M. Mercado for a stop she conducted that month. During the stop, she allegedly pulled out her gun to detain a man without any evidence that he’d committed a crime. She sought him as part of an investigation into a stolen car that another person had crashed nearby. Cops arrested the driver of that stolen car but also searched for a passenger who’d left the scene of the crash.
When Mercado approached the man, she told him to stop, but then he kept walking, so she pulled out her gun and ordered him to put his hands against a wall before handcuffing him. OPA pointed out that these actions likely exceeded the scope of the stop. Riding in a stolen car isn’t a crime, and she didn’t have any evidence showing he knew he was in one anyway.
She left the department before the OPA could finish its investigation, but, had she remained, OPA recommended that a supervisor review with her SPD policy on detaining suspects.
Domestic Violence Call from Detective’s House
Case Number: 2022OPA-0454
OPA investigated whether a Seattle police detective lied to Pierce County sheriff’s deputies when they went to the detective’s house for a domestic argument last winter. In December, the wife of SPD Detective Nicholas R. Kartes called 911 for help after he took her phone and started to throw things around the house, according to the report. The woman said she needed someone to come intervene. While on the phone with 911, dispatchers allegedly heard Kartes threaten to make a report to get his wife arrested for hitting him in the face.
When deputies arrived, Kartes told them the incident hadn’t turned violent despite blood on his shirt. His wife had a cut on her finger, and he had a cut on the inside of his lip, according to the OPA report. The agency did not sustain the complaint that Kartes lied about the incident to deputies because OPA viewed him as a victim of domestic violence.
Deputies ultimately arrested his wife because she “struck his face” while trying to “escape his grasp,” according to the OPA report. This is not the first time the spouse of a cop called 911 during a domestic incident and responding law enforcement ended up arresting the spouse rather than the cop.