An ex-cop from Seattle is suing the city’s police department for terminating him after he punched a handcuffed woman in the face in 2014. The Black man claims he tried to de-escalate a dispute, but since he couldn’t, he responded with the level of force to which he’d been trained.
He finds race and revenge to be major factors in his firing, saying the former police chief had a “vendetta” against him.
According to the Seattle Times, Adley Shepherd filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Seattle, the latest in this eight-year-long drama.
In 2016, the then Chief of the Seattle Police Department, Kathleen O’Toole, fired him after assessing that he was wrong for striking Miyekko Durden-Bosley, 23, in the face with a closed fist two years prior.
Shepherd was called on June 22, 2014, to secure a disturbance at a residence. Reports say Durden-Bosley was “intoxicated and verbally and physically abusive,” and was being originally detained for domestic violence.
However, the young woman reportedly started to curse at and assault the officer when he attempted to arrest her. As he put her in his patrol car, she kicked him in the head. In reaction, he punched her in the face.
As a result of the hit, the victim suffered fractures to the orbit of her right eye. The altercation was captured by the police car’s dashcam and sparked public outrage. Durden-Bosley later filed a civil lawsuit against the city, settling for $195,000 around the time of Shepherd’s termination.
A three-member disciplinary review board overturned his firing and, instead, gave him a 15-day suspension. Years later, a King County Superior Court judge (2019) and the Washington State Court of Appeals (2021) vacated that decision and upheld Shepherd’s original 2016 termination.
On April 6, 2021, after the state appeals court’s decision, the Seattle Police Officers Guild said it was “disappointed” with the ruling and announced via social media its plans to appeal Shepherd’s termination to the Washington Supreme Court.
Shepherd maintains he was wrongfully terminated, and in the lawsuit details his perspective on how he handled that night’s event. He stated he attempted to de-escalate the situation, but to no avail and only resorted to force after being assaulted himself.
He asserts he was fired because O’Toole buckled under the pressure of local politics and public opinion. The altercation happened right around the time she was named the first female chief of the department and the dawn of the Black Lives Matter protests around the Michael Brown shooting and aftermath. The former officer believes his firing was a knee-jerk response to the police chief’s reform agenda.
O’Toole, during her three years as the city’s chief, was honored by U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch for her dedication to cleaning up the department, Crosscut reports. She even joined the Obamas at the 44th president’s last State of the Union address because of this work.
She shifted the way that the force promoted officers within the department by working with the Seattle Police Management Association and fired other officers, outside of Shepherd, for misconduct.
She also implemented department-wide crisis intervention and de-escalation training as a requirement mandated under the consent decree. At the end of 2017, she stepped down from her post.
Shepherd further claims he was more harshly reprimanded for the assault than other instances of questionable force committed by white officers.
“There were no prior or subsequent disciplinary actions exactly comparable to Shepherd’s by the SPD or the City of Seattle,” the lawsuit presents. “While discipline has been handed down at times for public incidents, no one has been discharged or terminated for similar actions — even those that became public.”
“Shepherd was trained to use this level of force and then subsequently discharged and terminated when he did so,” it says later in the filing and alleges that he was exposed to negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress as a result of doing what he was taught to do. Moreover, the former officer believes because he is Black, he is the target of “adverse employment decisions and disparate treatment.”
“Other officers who are not African-American have been accused of similar questionable use of force incidents and were never terminated either before or since Shepherd’s incident,” the document states.
While he believes race played a part in her decision, the filing claims, O’Toole had personal reasons she wanted to get rid of him.
The lawsuit reads, “Shepherd brings this case to shed light on his wrongful termination and to prove that he has been damaged as a result of the defendant’s vendetta against him and his unfair and unequal treatment by defendants, as well as their egregious breach of the contracts they have with the Seattle Police [Officers] Guild, of which Shepherd was a member at the time of their wrongful actions against him.”
This allegation may not be far-fetched. In 2016, after a King County Superior Court judge determined O’Toole retaliated against two senior police employees, the city was ordered to pay a $2.8 million settlement.
Shepherd had never been in trouble in the department before this incident and after six years of back and forth does not want to return as an officer.
The lawsuit states he will be seeking financial damages “in an amount to be determined at trial,” rather than reinstatement.
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