Seattle Journalist Threatened with Arrest for Taking Photos; Vows to Take Action

King County Sheriff’s Officer Patrick “K.C.” Saulet

For more than two decades, King County Sheriff’s Officer Patrick “K.C.” Saulet has been able to keep his job despite a string of sustained complaints that prove he is a thug, a bully and a genuine asshole.

So it’s no wonder he was the first cop to approach a Seattle journalist Tuesday and threaten him with arrest for having the gall to take photos of a group of cops surrounding a man in typical intimidating fashion.

Not to be outrivaled, Seattle police officer John Marion then approached the reporter and threatened to harass him at work for daring to ask questions about Saulet.

But Dominic Holden, reporter for Seattle’s weekly newspaper, The Stranger, did not allow those two to deter him from publishing his photos and his article.

In fact, it empowered him to file official complaints against the two officers and vow to keep readers informed of the developments of those complaints.

Here is how he described yesterday’s encounter in The Stranger:

From 20-25 feet away, I couldn’t discern exactly what was happening, but the man eventually stood up to leave. That’s when one of the officers eyed me and yelled something like, “He’s got a camera!

King County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Patrick “K.C.” Saulet rushed over and told me to leave or be arrested. He claimed I was standing on transit station property; the plaza belongs to King County Metro’s King Street Station and I could not stand there, he said. I backed up about two feet over the line that he pointed out (two parts of the same walkway) until I was unambiguously on the City of Seattle’s sidewalk, near a utility pole by the curb. But Officer Saulet then insisted that I would be arrested unless I left the entire block.

Now, let me pause for a second to say this: When the US Department of Justice alleged that the Seattle Police Department was routinely using excessive force, federal prosecutors stressed in their report that officers were escalating ordinary interactions into volatile, sometimes violent, situations. Now a federal court controls the SPD under a reform plan, and the King County Sheriff’s Department has faced extensive scrutiny for officer misconduct, so the two agencies should be showing more civility on the beat. Or so you’d think.

Back to Saulet: “You need to leave or you’re coming with me,” he said while repeating his arrest threat yet again. Commuters, shoppers, and vagrants were milling about the sidewalk and plaza—some people were passing closer to the center of the police activity than I was—but I was the only one on that busy block told to leave (the guy watching the police and taking their picture). I hadn’t tried speaking to the officers or bothering them in any way, I hadn’t even identified myself as a reporter, and I was standing on public property. The officers did not accuse me of any offense other than standing there. At this point, the man police were questioning had left. So I asked for the officer’s name—I wanted to know who was threatening to arrest me—and he pointed to his embroidered shirt breast; as I took a photo of it, he lifted his hand, apparently in an attempt to block the shot.

Holden later learned that Saulet has a long history of misconduct and abuse  – even complaints from fellow officers – so we already know he can do whatever the hell he wants.

Seattle police officer John Marion

As for Marion, who was displaying the behavior we’ve come to expect from Seattle police over the years, he should be made an example by the department’s new ombudsman of police accountability, Pierce Murphy, who started his job with much promise on July 1.

According to Real Change News:

Murphy joins Seattle at a pivotal time in the Seattle Police Department. A 2011 report from the Department of Justice (DOJ) found that Seattle officers have a pattern and practice of excessive force.

The city entered into a court-ordered settlement agreement with the DOJ that includes changes to the OPA as recommended by the newly formed Community Police Commission, a 15-member panel of citizens, police accountability advocates and SPD officers and sergeants.

Before coming to Seattle, Murphy served as the Boise, Idaho, police ombudsman, a position he held since 1999, following a high-profile shooting there. He has since become a well-known figure in the police accountability world.

According to city of Boise reports, Murphy has fielded fewer complaints against the police department every year since 2006.

Murphy credits that decline to the work he did building relationships between the police and the community.

“I saw that there was a crisis of trust between the community and the police that served it,” Murphy said.

He hoped to do the same thing in Seattle and promised to hold weekly meetings with the community.

And now we have Holden to hold his feet to the fire.

Because it shouldn’t be considered professional conduct in our county police force to threaten law-abiding citizens with arrest. It’s rank intimidation. I also can’t imagine that when that civilian asks a question of city officers—am I breaking the law?—that it is considered professional to threaten the civilian with visiting his place of work and harass him. If either of those things are considered acceptable, we should change the code of police conduct, because both are insane. And if they aren’t considered acceptable, I expect the departments to punish the cops involved.

Call the Seattle Police Department at (206) 625-5011 and the King County Sheriff’s Office at (206) 296-3311.

About Carlos Miller

Carlos Miller is founder and publisher of Photography is Not a Crime, which began as a one-man blog in 2007 to document his trial after he was arrested for photographing police during a journalistic assignment. He is also the author of The Citizen Journalist's Photography Handbook, which can be purchased through Amazon.

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  • rick

    The perks of intimidating journalists, PAID vacation!–218792461.html

    Even better, Officer Saulet has at least 120 complaints against him! At what point does unemployment become an option?

  • rick

    The perks of intimidating journalists, PAID vacation!–218792461.html

    Even better, Officer Saulet has at least 120 complaints against him! At what point does unemployment become an option?

    • Tim

      As soon as you elect a Mayor and Sheriff who will fire these thugs. And if they are protected by a union, then elect a state congress who will pass a law and bust the union like Wisconsin did with their state union problem. These things are ALL solved at the ballot box by supporting, promoting and electing INDEPENDENT Liberty candidates and getting rid of the corrupted 2-major-parties.

  • Erik Jay

    Quantify and examine away, pal. I suggest you start with RISE OF THE WARRIOR COP by Radley Balko. It is a national (rather, international) problem, getting worse nearly everywhere. There are, of course, some departments going against the grain — but it’s hard when the Feds tempt you with such great toys as armored cars and drones! You have quite a bit of catching up to do. And I am betting you or your family are cops, bureaucrats, teachers, or some other kind of government lackeys. However, I am even skeptical OF MY OWN THOUGHTS, so maybe you’re just confused in general. Oh, well!

  • Erik Jay

    You’re funny! Right! No socialist authoritarians anywhere! What f’ing planet are you on, man? You need to read a WHOLE lot more in poli sci, bro. This is not even an adult matter of discussion — unless you want to classify Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Honecker, and the rest as CONSERVATIVES. What a complete dope. Been to Venezuela lately? I have — scary, man — SOCIALIST SIDE SCARY. A pox on the left AND right, which are not poles apart at all, but quite similar forms of authoritarianism, using different assumptions, excuses, and cultural coercions. You have a LOT of studying to do, fella.

  • Erik Jay

    You have ZERO knowledge on the subject. Mussolini was a declared socialist. Read him, for God’s sake. I mean, for Dog’s sake. He was born to pop Alessandro, a socialist, named after Benito Juarez, Mexican nationalist/socialist of an early model, and proudly carried on the tradition. Fabian (look it up if you need to) G. B. Shaw heaped eloquent praise on him. For crying out loud, come back when you FINISH school.

    • ExCop-Lawyer


      Gee, since that’s what I was saying. Jaybone was claiming that Mussolini was not socialist, but was right-wing. Vet claims the same thing. Mussolini formed the Fascist party because the Italian Socialist party wasn’t socialist enough.

      Try reading some of the other posts.

      Here’s your sign…

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