King County Sheriff’s Officer Patrick “K.C.” Saulet was the untouchable.
A veteran law enforcement officer who spent almost three decades racking up more than 100 complaints of abuse and misconduct against him with only a single demotion to show for it. A burly cop who was the epitome of the modern-day police officer, secure in the fact that he could get away with anything, even allegations from fellow deputies.
That is, until he came across Dominic Holden, a hipster-looking, bicycle-riding journalist with a smartphone and a pair of glasses to boot. Nothing Saulet couldn’t handle. Nothing he hadn’t seen before.
Or so he thought.
Holden, editor of the alternative weekly, The Stranger, followed through on his promise last year to ensure Saulet was disciplined for violating his right to take photos in public.
It may have taken six months, but Saulet was stripped of his badge Monday, terminating a 27-year career where he was renowned for being one of the worst cops in the department, if not the worst.
But history tells us that fired cops have a tendency to get their jobs back once the media hoopla dies down. We recently saw that with the Omaha case that resulted in two cops criminally charged for destroying evidence after confiscating a man’s camera and destroying footage from it.
However, that might not be the case here because the King County Police Officers Guild tried its best to save his job during the six-month investigation, only for Sheriff John Urquhart to fire him anyway.
Urquhart’s termination letter details just how hard it is to fire a cop, even one who has demonstrated numerous times over the years he has no business being a cop.
Suffice it to say, in my judgement, the evidence shows that (i) you abused your authority in your dealings with Mr. Holden on July 30, and (ii) thereafter, rather than be accountable, you attempted to recast events in a light more favorable to you. Stated broadly, for example, you claim you interacted with Mr. Holden in a civil, professional manner that was nothing more than ‘social contact’; you did little more than tell him for his benefit that he couldn’t ride on Metro property because doing so is a $66 infraction; [you claim that two other deputies] Shook and Mikulcik told him the same thing; and you once calmly pointed him in a direction you were suggesting he leave. But the evidence is that you approached Mr. Holden because you took exception with him lawfully exercising his right to take photographs of you and your colleagues while lawfully standing on public property; you were agitated and confrontational; you essentially ‘squared off’ with him; you expressly and/or implicitly threatened to arrest him if he did not leave immediately in the specific direction you pointed, not once but five times (misidentifying public property as private property in the process); and Shook and Mikulcik deny the statement you attribute to them.
In other words, he acted like thousands of other cops have acted throughout the United States over the years who are also secure in the knowledge that they will never get disciplined, despite the video evidence against them.
In fact, Seattle police officer John Marion who also tried to bully Holden from taking photos that day ended up receiving a one-day unpaid suspension for his intimidation tactics, a day’s wages he can easily make-up with a few hours of overtime.
And that, in itself, was a rarity, even though the video above, taken from a police dash cam, demonstrates he is another Saulet in the making, so maybe he’ll end up losing his job in a couple of decades.
But the Saulet termination is a victory nonetheless, even though he will probably still collect his pension. But with no badge and plenty of attitude, it might not be long before we hear of him again.
After all, this is a man who probably still believes he is untouchable.
As for Holden, he proved that the power of the media, including the use of public records requests and relentless pressure on the heads of the two agencies as well as pressure from the National Press Photographers Association, can sometimes overcome the institutionalized protections afforded to police throughout the country.
But let’s not forget that power lies in all our hands these days.