Seattle officer put on administrative leave after racist comments surface
Sep 25, 2023, 8:30 AM | Updated: 10:22 am
(Photo: Bill Kaczaraba, MyNorthwest)
Seattle Police Department (SPD) Chief Adrian Diaz said in a statement posted on the SPD Blotter Friday afternoon he has taken steps to place an officer on administrative leave following the release of an audio recording with comments by the officer that led to the filing of a complaint.
“This morning I listened to an audio recording that includes comments by an off-duty Seattle police officer,” the statement begins. “A bias/hate complaint was filed with the Office of Police Accountability (OPA).”
Diaz’s statement was released after The Stranger published a report Friday morning with audio of Officer Burton Hill, who was not on duty at the time, allegedly calling his Asian American neighbor racist and sexist slurs during an argument in 2022. Diaz did not mention Hill by name in his statement.
More from SPD: Diaz asked to suspend Auderer for offensive comments
The Stranger detailed the story about “an ongoing campaign” by Hill, who is also a realtor, and his wife, Agnes Miggins, to drive a Chinese-American woman, Zhen Jin out of the Kenmore condominiums where they all live. Zhen Jin also lives with and takes care of her blind, elderly Palestinian-American uncle.
In his statement, Diaz called out racist language as “completely unacceptable and is inconsistent with the high standards the department sets for its employees.” He later added “racist comments and behavior by department employees will not be tolerated.”
Diaz also said that he will “ultimately defer, as I am required, to the outcome of OPA’s investigation.” Citing past cases, The Stranger noted OPA has recommended firing officers “for making derogatory comments or using racial slurs, even when not on duty.”
In addition, the police chief said that while he is also “grateful the complaint was filed with OPA, not knowing about this for one year causes me concern.” Given the development, Diaz said he has instructed his staff “to review this officer’s arrest and investigation history.”
From Ursula Reutin: More work needs to be done to transform SPD
Seattle City Council member Tammy Morales released a statement to the press Friday afternoon in response to the story from The Stranger making several points. Her statement begins by “demanding a plan of action from (SPD).” From there, she discussed the department being held accountable.
“When it comes to SPD, we need to focus on accountability first,” Morales’ statement reads. “The only way to rebuild public trust is to create a system that can act quickly and effectively to hold officers accountable.
“We know (Washington) law empowers police unions, like (Seattle Police Officers’ Guild), to negotiate away police accountability,” Morales continued. “It’s well past time to change that state law.”
Diaz concluded his statement by apologizing to “the person who was subjected to these offensive remarks, as well as to the community.”
“We clearly have more work to do to build trust between the department and the people we serve,” Diaz said.