Seattle police officer fired for off-duty racist comments

Jun 20, 2024, 7:56 PM

SEATTLE (AP) — A Seattle police officer was fired for calling his Chinese American neighbor racist and sexist slurs while off duty in 2022, according to a news report.

Officer Burton Hill was fired in May, The Seattle Times reported.

The termination stemmed from an altercation with his neighbor, Zhen Jin, over the disposal of dog bones at the condominium complex where they lived in suburban Seattle.

The Seattle Office of Police Accountability had recommended a range of disciplinary actions, from a 30-day suspension to termination of employment. Hill was fired by then-police Chief Adrian Diaz on May 2, police spokesperson Eric Muñoz said.

Attempts by The Associated Press to reach Hill for comment weren’t immediately successful.

The former police chief himself was removed from his post in late May by Mayor Bruce Harrell after lawsuits alleging Diaz’s police force was unwelcoming and discriminatory toward women and people of color. Diaz has vehemently denied the allegations.

Audio originally published by The Stranger newspaper of the altercation between Hill and Jin, which was quoted at length in the final OPA report, includes Hill barraging Jin with threats and insults over Jin allegedly throwing food scraps outside that Hill’s dog tried to eat.

In the recording, which was given to the accountability office by the nonprofit Chinese Information and Service Center, Hill uses derogatory terms for women and East Asian people, also repeatedly calling Jin “stupid.” At one point, Hill told her, “You’re going to jail.”

OPA Director Gino Betts Jr. sustained two of the three allegations against Hill related to officer professionalism and bias-based policing. A third allegation about officers not using their authority for personal gain was found inconclusive. The OPA report was published earlier this month.

Messages seeking comment from The Seattle Times to the Seattle Police Officers Guild and Office of Police Accountability were not returned Thursday.

Michael Itti, executive director of the Chinese Information and Service Center, which launched its Anti-Hate and Bias program in 2020 to address anti-Asian behavior or action, said Jin “showed tremendous courage” by filing the complaint against Hill. Itti said he has heard from many people involved with his group who are pleased with the result.

“They want to know the Police Department is upholding its values of professionalism,” Itti said.

According to the investigation, after hearing the recording, Hill told investigators, “Sounds like me, yeah,” but also said “you shouldn’t say those things … And it actually it makes me sick that I actually said that to her.”

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Seattle police officer fired for off-duty racist comments