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Seattle cop looked at porn, chewed tobacco in front of teens at community center

A Seattle police officer was given a two-day suspension after a teenager at a community center where he worked claimed to have seen "Officer Joe" looking at porn on his phone. (Photo: KIRO Radio/File)

A Seattle police officer was given a two-day suspension without pay after he was caught looking at porn and chewing tobacco in view of teenagers at a community center, according to an internal investigation into his conduct.

Officer Joseph Belfiore was also found to have handcuffed a 17-year-old girl at the Bitter Lake Community Center as a joke, releasing her when she started to cry, according to documents just released through public disclosure.

When the incidents occurred, Belfiore was working off duty, but in his Seattle Police Department uniform, as a security officer during the community center’s Late Night program on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Sometime in June 2013, a 15 or 16-year-old boy reported seeing “Officer Joe” watching pornography on his personal cell phone and that he was “100% sure” it was porn. Another employee at the community center also claimed to have seen Belfiore viewing porn in an open area of the facility, “but he thought a police officer wouldn’t do that,” according to a statement the employee made to investigators with the Seattle Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability.

During the investigation, Belfiore admitted that he had used his phone to access the internet while working at the community center and “there have been a couple times where the pornographic pages have come up.”

“Once or twice I’ve scrolled through a few of the pages,” Belfiore stated.

He claimed that he did not think the screen was visible to anyone else and viewed the images with his back against a wall.

Belfiore also admitted to handcuffing a teenage girl.

“While they were joking around he placed one handcuff on her and she immediately became upset,” according to investigators. “He told her that he was joking, immediately removed his handcuffs and apologized to her.”

An employee at the center also told investigators that Belfiore was regularly chewing tobacco and spitting it “into a cup in front of the kids.” Belfiore admitted to chewing the tobacco, but said he thought “no smoking” signs around the facility only applied to cigarettes.

Officer Belfiore received sustained misconduct findings for violating department policies on professionalism and arrest procedures. He accepted a two-day suspension and declined to pursue an appeal in order to accept accountability for his actions, according to his guild representative.

A Seattle police spokesperson said the department’s off duty program, which allows officers to work secondary jobs in uniform with prior approval, is currently under review.

“This is one of the many things that Chief (Kathleen O’Toole) took an interest in when she first started,” Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said.

Whitcomb noted that review of the program has nothing to do with Officer Belfiore’s actions. He declined to comment on specifics of the case.

It is unclear if Belfiore is still working at the community center. An employee of the Late Night program deferred comment to the police department, which could not confirm whether Belfiore still worked in that role.

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