|William Wingate, 70 arrested for using golf club as a cane|
But it did get Blake a personal private sit-down and apology from the mayor and the police commissioner of New York in a case where celebrity profile and security videotape made a difference; when an average Joe probably would have earned a night in The Tombs courtesy of the NYPD until the whole thing got straightened out.
Videotape also ended up making a difference in the wrongful arrest of 69-year old William Wingate (pictured above) back in July of 2014 when Seattle police officer Cynthia Whitlach spotted him standing on a downtown street corner in broad daylight leaning on a golf club he's used as a cane to help him walk for 20 years.
What made this case so interesting (and disturbing) is how Whitlach aggressively initiated the encounter, then within about thirty seconds began shouting at Wingate to put the golf club down after telling him "it's a weapon."
The outraged braniacs over on Fox News who've been ranting about the peaceful civil rights activist group Black Lives Matter being an "anti-police" "hate group" should probably take a look at the
unfettered ease with which Whitlach suddenly accuses Wingate of "swinging the golf club" at her - which he rightfully and adamantly denies.
Watch the footage taken from the dash cam video of Whitlach's police car for yourself, it's only about three minutes long - she falsely accuses him of swinging the golf club at her at least three times when all he's doing is leaning on it like a cane. He's not even close to her.
Listen to her concocted Barney Fife-like radio call for assistance that brings fellow SPD officer Chris Coles to the scene: "I have a subject with a golf club who's refusing to put it down."
|William Wingate being taken to jail, July, 2014|
According to an article posted on Rawstory, former Washington state Rep Dawn Mason decided to intervene in the case "after seeing footage of Wingate needing a footstool to be able get into the paddy wagon."
Wingate was placed under arrest by SPD officer Chris Coles, taken to a police station where he was charged with harassment and obstruction before spending the night in jail in what the outraged 69-year old called "...the most miserable night I've ever had."
The case quickly captured local then national media attention as local citizens, local politicians and activists including the local chapter of the NAACP began lobbying on his behalf.
Officer Whitlach was placed on modified desk duty so she would no longer have any contact with the public while the case was being investigated.
|Ex-Seattle PD officer Whitlach|
Rather than just admit that she'd been out of line, she began posting quasi-delusional messages on her Facebook page about "black racists" and "black people's paranoia" which were scrutinized by SPD police officials.
The Facebook posts, which "shocked" Seattle police Chief Kathleen O'Toole when she read them, later became part of the evidence used in the internal police investigation of Whitlach's actions - including examinations of her previous arrests which came under suspicion for possible racial bias.
As reported in the Seattle Times, after an extensive review of the facts in the case, last Tuesday SPD chief O'Toole fired Whitlach from the force, stating (in part) in her Termination Report:
"Without this ability to learn from your mistakes, understand how you can improve and do better, and recognize your own errors, you are unable to effectively function as an officer,”
It's truly regrettable that this incident ever occurred to William Wingate.
As the SPD chief's statement makes clear, even throughout the investigation, Whitlach stubbornly maintained that she'd done nothing wrong - even though the video taken from the dash cam of her own car Cleary shows that she lied about Wingate swinging the golf club at her.
An innocent senior citizen who served his country for 20 years being arrested and carted off to jail on trumped up charges based on the flagrant lie of a police officer is bad enough, but to me the more deeply disturbing aspect of this case is Whitlach's attitude.
Sure, her Facebook statements are troubling, but they're more reflective of the kind of ignorant garden variety bigotry peddled on conservative radio and television on a daily basis.
To me what's more disturbing is that like NYPD officer James Frascatore who falsely arrested James Blake, Whitlach had been disciplined by her superiors back in 1997 and 2002 over incidents in which her temper and lack of emotional control "brought discredit" on both her and the SPD as detailed in an article on The Stranger blog.
If people like Frascatore and Whitlach have shown a documented history of being overly aggressive with civilians and have demonstrated a troubling lack of emotional control in public situations that can be particularly dangerous for someone with a badge licensed to carry a firearm and use deadly force - why are they still on the force?
James Blake and William Wingate both endured humiliating encounters at the hands of cops with records of issues with civilians - and in both cases race was a factor.
But ultimately Blake and Wingate were lucky, they were just a trigger pull away from being added to the ranks of The Counted in America.
Like the Rolling Stones warned about war in the song Gimme Shelter, James Blake and William Wingate were both "Just a shot away."
But at least the Seattle Police Department made sure Whitlach will never do it again - the jury is still out on NYPD officer Frascatore.