Rantz: Police officer cleared of wrongdoing after smear by Seattle Times

May 26, 2021, 4:47 PM | Updated: May 27, 2021, 10:54 am
renton police...
A Renton Police officer was cleared of serious wrongdoing after the Seattle Times ran what comes off as a hit piece. (Photo: Renton Police Twitter)
(Photo: Renton Police Twitter)

A Renton Police officer was cleared of serious wrongdoing after the Seattle Times ran what comes off as a hit piece.

The officer caught the attention of Times reporter Lewis Kamb. The left-wing reporter learned the officer once partnered in two failed business ventures with Ethan Nordean years ago. Nordean, however, was charged in the Capitol Hill riot on Jan. 6.

Kamb framed the relationship by arguing it has come to light “at a time of growing public concern and scrutiny over the ties between law enforcement and extremist groups.” That concern, of course, is contrived — forwarded by anti-police organizations and activists claiming police are white supremacists.

The piece seemed tailored to destroy the officer’s career while currying favor with the city’s anti-police crowd. It backfired. Not only was the officer cleared, but the investigation shined a giant spotlight on the Times’ misleading reporting.

Allegations against the officer

The officer, who joined the Renton Police Department in 2018, met Nordean in church back in 2014 and then “sporadically” would bump into him at the gym. As is my traditional practice, the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH rarely identifies officers when doing so could lead to further harassment or additional smears.

According to an investigation summary by the Renton PD, the pair shared a common interest in physical fitness. In 2017, they started an online workout supplement company together, but it dissolved less than two years later, in March 2019.

They attempted another supplement business in May 2019, but it didn’t last. The state officially closed the business in October 2020, though they hadn’t worked on it through that date.

In the Seattle Times, Kamb tried hard to portray the officer and Nordean as close friends, not merely business associates. Relying on an unnamed co-worker who said the two had dinner together two times, the reader was supposed to believe the two were close. Thus, the officer had to know about Nordean’s alleged political extremism.

“He [the officer] came in a couple times to eat with Ethan,” the unnamed witness told the Times. “It didn’t seem like a purely business relationship. They were definitely buddies.”

According to an interview between the officer and the investigator, these meals were shared at some point in 2015.

As such close buddies, the officer must have known what Nordean was up to?

Policy on association

Renton officers are prohibited from associating with individuals or groups involved in criminal behavior. Beyond that, they must conduct themselves in positive ways in and out of uniform.

Kamb’s report wondered if the officer violated both these policies. He chided the officer for possibly running into “public trust and perception problems,” though this only could have come from his own reporting. Perhaps that was the point?

According to the Renton PD investigation, the officer knew about Nordean’s involvement with the Proud Boys. At the time, he “believed the organization to be a patriotic conservative group.”

But in early 2020, the officer “realized Nordean’s involvement in the group was growing more extreme and ended his business and personal relationship with him.”

Seattle Times’ witness was apparently wrong

Though Kamb’s unnamed witness suggested the officer and Nordean “were definitely buddies,” the investigation found the opposite.

An investigator interviewed Nordean’s parents. He lived and worked with them throughout the time he and the officer were in business together.

“Neither recall ever meeting or knowing” the officer.

The investigator even interviewed Nordean. He “stated that he believes that he has not had contact with [the officer] in two to three years, that they had lost contact after their businesses had not taken off.” Presumably, this refers to the kind of contact the witness said he or she saw.

Guilt by association

Arguably, the most troublesome part of Kamb’s reporting is that it was based on little more than guilt by association.

At the time the officer knew the activist, “Nordean had no criminal history,” according to the investigation. It continues:

The only criminal history he has comes from his arrest following the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol. This would be close to a year after [the officer] said he had stopped communicating with Nordean upon recognizing the extent of Nordean’s involvement in the Proud Boys organization.

The officer did everything right when learning of Nordean’s alleged extremism: He severed ties. Is he supposed to suffer career consequences because Kamb is upset the officer knew an alleged rioter?

The investigation and Renton PD panel cleared the officer of any serious wrongdoing. They did offer a written reprimand because the officer failed to properly notify the department of his businesses, per policy.

Kamb stands by his reporting

The investigation chided the media for implying “there was an inappropriate relationship” between the officer and Nordean. It was right to. Even if the original report was wholly accurate, it was little more than guilt by association.

Kamb stands by his reporting.

But what was the basis for his report? Activists don’t trust cops and believe they’re withholding a culture of white supremacy. This officer knew someone who was arrested and charged in connection with the riot on Jan. 6. The entire piece implied that something unethical or worse happened to play into the anti-police beliefs of activists.

But the investigation cleared the officer of any wrongdoing. Why would Kamb stand by his report? It was wrong to imply an inappropriate relationship unless the Seattle Times has evidence that suggests the officer is lying. If that’s the case, then report that.

But what could the officer lie about? Having a closer relationship with Nordean than he admits? That’s also not a story unless the officer somehow knew about what would happen on Jan. 6. Or if he was rooting on some insurrection that day. If that’s the case, the officer is unfit for duty.

But there’s no evidence presented even remotely hinting at that. All we have is a report that wants you to think there’s evidence of that. It was a smear.

Did you like this opinion piece? Then listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz  on  Twitter,  Instagram, and Parler and like me on Facebook

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Rantz: Police officer cleared of wrongdoing after smear by Seattle Times