(Reuters) - A Seattle police officer was fired on Tuesday over her arrest of an elderly black man last year who refused to drop a golf club he was using as a cane to help him walk, the police department announced.
“Officer Cynthia Whitlatch was served today with a termination notice for sustained policy violations involving bias, abuse of police discretion, and escalation of a contact on July 9, 2014,” Seattle police said in a statement.
Whitlatch stopped William Wingate, now 70, as he walked down a city sidewalk leaning on the golf club, according to court documents.
In dashboard video of the incident, Wingate can be seen standing on a sidewalk, casually leaning on the club before the officer approaches and yells at him to drop his weapon. He refused for several minutes before he was arrested.
Whitlatch said Wingate had swung the club at her before she took him into custody. Nowhere in the roughly seven-minute clip can he be seen swinging the club.
The department’s release of the video led to calls for Whitlatch’s dismissal. The incident was also highlighted during waves of nationwide protests demanding reform in policing tactics following the deaths of several unarmed black men at the hands of white police officers in the United States.
The Seattle Police Department, which has been under federal monitoring for excessive force, promised a full investigation into Wingate’s arrest.
Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said in a letter to Mayor Ed Murray on Tuesday that she was terminating the officer’s employment based on findings by the Office of Professional Accountability that the arrest was motivated by racial bias and marked by “abuse of police discretion.”
An email to Whitlatch seeking comment was not immediately returned. She could not be reached by telephone.
Charges against Wingate were dropped after his arrest and the police department has apologized and given back his confiscated golf club.
Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere