In December, the Office of Police Accountability published about 50 investigations into cops behaving badly. Those cases included officers Tasing a suspect without warning, blowing off a call about domestic violence, and selling a shooting victim’s car. 

In this week’s installment of Bad Apples, I look at some of the final cases published by the OPA in 2023, which involved an officer repeatedly disregarding the constitutional rights of the homeless, an officer who failed to report hitting a parked car, and a field training officer teaching a trainee to view the people who call 911 with contempt.

Hassling the Homeless

Case #2023OPA-0156

On December 15, 2022, South Precinct Officers Sarah Coe and Mark Rawlins drove with a witness to an encampment to look for a person suspected of slashing the witness’ tires. When they arrived at the encampment, Officer Rawlins saw an occupied tent and ordered everyone to come out and speak with him. He then shined his flashlight in the faces of the four people who exited the tent, and the witness identified the man he claimed slashed his tires. 

After the witness identified the suspect, Rawlins pulled out his gun and told the suspect he could not leave. Coe moved to put the man in handcuffs saying, “Alright, you listen to what I have to say and what I have to say only. If you do anything else, you are subject to being assaulted by officers.” 

The officers then questioned the man, who told them his head hurt because the witness had allegedly assaulted him, and he had no idea if he popped anyone’s tires. After Rawlins repeatedly questioned the man about whether he slashed the tires, the man finally responded, “maybe.” At that point, Rawlins said the officers had probable cause and arrested the man. 

The OPA pointed out multiple issues with the way Rawlins handled this arrest and tied it to a pattern of Rawlins “disregarding” the constitutional rights of the unhoused. In this case, Rawlins had no reason to believe anyone in the tent had committed the reported crime and did not have enough evidence to demand the people inside exit the tent. In a similar case from 2018, Rawlins went searching for a suspect in an encampment and twice ordered people out of their tents without cause. He also cut into several tents to look inside, despite another officer telling him to treat the tents the same as he would a house. The Chief of Police at the time issued a written reprimand for Rawlins’s actions in that case.

The OPA also pointed out in this most recent case that Rawlins should have ensured the man had no injuries before questioning him about the alleged crime, and he also should have Mirandized the man before interrogating him. The OPA recently investigated Rawlins for failing to Mirandize a 13-year-old, who he and three other officers tried to bully into falsely confessing to a burglary, a case I covered in my last Bad Apples

The OPA ultimately sustained two policy violations against Rawlins in this complaint and no violations against his partner Coe. Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz orally reprimanded Rawlins, one of the lowest forms of discipline for a police officer.

Failing to Report an “Aw, Shiiiiiiiiit” Moment 

Case #2023OPA-0234

On May 9, 2023, while searching for a suspect in a domestic violence call, Southwest Precinct Officer Jeremy Montgomery hit a parked car and then failed to report the accident, according to a recent finding by the OPA. In the in-car video that recorded the crash, an audible crunch can be heard followed by Montgomery clearly saying, “Aw, shiiiiiit.”

Listen for yourself. 

After a Southwest Precinct supervisor noticed the damage to the patrol car, Sgt. Simon Edison investigated the incident and spoke with Montgomery. Edison said Montgomery seemed surprised to learn that the car sustained damage. Body-worn video revealed a loud crunch noise followed by Montgomery parking, exiting his patrol car, and speaking with two people who were sitting inside the car he hit. He asked them if they were alright, according to the initial complaint to the OPA filed by Edison. 

Nevertheless, Edison told the OPA he believed Montgomery failed to realize he’d hit the parked car, made an “indistinct” sound when the crash happened, and then spoke to the two people sitting in a parked car in the context of checking on two people sitting in a car and talking in the early hours of the morning.

OPA apparently disagreed with Edison’s assessment that Montgomery failed to report the crash simply out of ignorance. While the OPA has not yet published its full investigation, the agency’s complaint tracker shows they sustained a policy violation under Montgomery’s self-reporting obligations, earning him an oral reprimand.

Dawdling on a Call

Case #2023OPA-0197

At 8:42 pm on May 3, 2023, a man called 911 to report that a car prowler had just broken the window of a vehicle outside his apartment building. Dispatchers marked the call as mid-priority. North Precinct Officer Hayden P. Hogg, a field training officer, logged into the call with his student officer, a signal to other officers that they’d handle the call. However, Hogg allowed his trainee to finish a report before responding, which took more than an hour. Meanwhile, the 911 caller repeatedly dialed 911 asking for a police response.

When Hogg and his trainee finally arrived at the man’s apartment building, Hogg’s trainee said he could not see anything and then said something inaudible. In response, Hogg said “No. I would… we’re not going to make it easy for him. Like, he’s going to come down and talk to us if he’s gonna…” followed by another inaudible statement. The man eventually spoke to the trainee officer, who asked a few questions before getting back in the patrol car with Hogg. The trainee told Hogg the caller said he’d drunk a couple beers that Wednesday night, which prompted Hogg to openly speculate that the man may have been an alcoholic. 

The OPA ultimately recommended just a training referral for Hogg, saying he needed some coaching on professionalism and appropriate response to criminal activity.