Seattle police officer Cynthia Whitlatch was making the rounds downtown last summer when she spotted an older black man with a golf club in his hand. He was using it as a cane.
The cop lady insisted that she saw him swing the club at her as she was making a turn on 11th Avenue and Pike Street. The 69-year-old and 20-year military vet William Wingate seemed baffled at her accusation and denied ever swinging his club at anybody.
She eventually arrested him for obstruction for not putting his golf club down when instructed to, and for harassment. He spent the night in jail.
Everything was recorded on the cop’s dashcam video. Even the police officer informs the man that he’s being recorded. But at no point do you see the man swinging his golf club at anyone. Here’s the footage of the encounter and arrest:
When I saw it, I wondered if maybe the swinging took place before the video started. So, I found a longer video that starts before the one above does. But even this longer one doesn’t show anything.
Even the cop’s superiors don’t buy her story. The deputy chief met with Mr. Wingate, apologized and gave his golf club back. Officer Whitlatch has since been placed on desk duty following the golf club non-incident. And of course, Wingate has obtained an attorney to sue for false arrest.
I can’t imagine what it was that she saw Wingate do that convinced her that he swung his golf club at her. If it was something serious, she would have stopped immediately and taken care of the situation. From the video, she drives around casually and stops when Wingate is in view. Did she just completely lie, even claiming in the video that his swinging was caught on video?
Well, that wouldn’t be surprising. Police lie all the time in their reports. And it’s those lies that often lead to the arrest and incarceration of innocent people. Dashcam video footage is the only remedy available that will convince a judge and prosecutor that the arrestee wasn’t guilty. But even in those cases, the arresting officer who falsified the report usually gets little more than a slap on the wrist.