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Racist, Raunchy Emails? City of Renton Hires Firm to Investigate its Own Police Force

The City of Renton hired an outside law firm to read Renton Police emails. The investigation found apparent racist, sexual emails among department staffers and officers. Tell us what you think in the comments section.

*Editor's Note: WARNING — This report contains adult language and sexual references.

OUTSIDE SEATTLE, WA -- The Renton Police Department . Instead of , this time . The exchanges came to light through a series of public disclosure requests.

About this time last year, a . Police Chief Kevin Milosevich spoke to Patch about “unprecedented” personnel issues that led to multiple internal reviews, disciplinary action against several police supervisors, and eventually a .

The City of Renton eventually for the cartoon’s creator, or creators, and instead embarked on an internal investigation to uncover the identity of the cartoonist(s) in hopes of imposing disciplinary action.

Patch has requested the outcome of that internal investigation and is waiting for an answer from the City.

Now a lengthy investigation into Police Department employee email communications has resulted in the early retirement of Deputy Chief Tim Troxel, although the recommended disciplinary action was “termination.” Sergeant Todd Frazier was reassigned and given a 12-hour suspension and a third party, Sergeant Paul Summers agreed to receive verbal counseling and waived his right to appeal the department’s disciplinary action. 

According to a complaint filed with the City, “The emails discovered included exchanges that demonstrate a lack of professional conduct that is expected of a leader within the Police Department. These emails, dated December 2008 through May 2012, openly disparage other members of the department and in some cases could be viewed as racist or biased towards some individuals.”

The complaint goes on to mention that the emails outline a “deliberate attempt to covertly watch other Department members.”

The City hired Inslee Best Attorneys at Law to assist with the investigation.

Katherine Weber, and investigator with Inslee Best Attorneys at Law, conducted in-person interviews with the officers involved.

“Perhaps the most notable aspects of these email communications is the level of informality between the Deputy Chief (Troxel) and his subordinate (Frazier) — the tone, and in some cases content, of these emails arguably belie the fact that DC Troxel is second-in-command and two ranks above Sgt. Frazier,” Weber wrote. 

The casual tone of the emails, she said, “could be construed as unprofessional and/or as ‘blurring the lines’ within the chain of command.

The emails included inappropriate comments, including:

  • sexual innuendos about spousal “workouts” (in reference to sexual activity)
  • calling their colleagues names such as “Officer Fatpants”
  • poking fun at a soon-to-be fired officer
  • raunchy nicknames (Be-otch, MoFo, Phatty, MF)
  • plans to install surveillance equipment in the Police Department office to monitor another employee’s work productivity. This was done without the knowledge of the chief or the employee, and was referred to as “Operation Deep Throat,” “Deep Undercover,” and “Operation Something Smells Fishy.” Troxel justified his decision to implement the secret surveillance because “at the time of the surveillance, he was in charge of support operations, including internal investigations.”

Weber called the exchanges, “arguably insensitive and unflattering and also a violation of Renton Policy 210-15, 5.6 (email communication).”

The policy states that, “E-mail is to be used for professional business communications. Use of language and subject matter should reflect business purposes…” 

The email exchanges detailed in the investigation were anything but. In fact, the investigator broke down the email communications between Troxel, Frazier and another officer into three categories and game examples of each:

First category: “Innocuous banter”

Frazier: We have 3 seized vehicles that were recently forfeited. I will ask the Chief to convert them for police use. . . .

Other Officer: Could I have one for a take home car, or just for local beer runs???

Second Category: With language and/or context of a “potentially-discriminatory nature”

Frazier: This guy stole a credit card at the Bellevue LA Fitness and Charged it up in Renton. Please let me know if you recognize the guy.

Other Officer: Todd [another officer] is very disappointed in the lack of information in your email …. What store is this?

Frazier: [Name redacted] relay this message for me…WHO REALLY GIVES A FLYING FUCK? I only set it for Bellevue PD, I don’t know anything about him or the case. If it helps, the suspect is a black male.

Other Officer: WHOA [name of another employee] we are all part of a team when you say black male are we talking urban? Rastafarian? Somolian?

Frazier: Here’s what my collegues call a CRTTD (can’t really tell the difference) or a SBTHI (so black that he’s indistinguishable) but really the UCR’s would classify him as a DFC (don’t fucking care).

Other Officer: Am I detecting a pissy tone mister todd?

Frazier: HOW DARE YOU CALL ME MISTER! Hey, it’s screw-around Wednesday for me. All my guys are helping DET on an operation, so I’m available for important coffee drinking today.

Third category: “Unflattering/negative discussions or commentaries about coworkers”

Frazier: Did you write this crap? . . .

Sgt. Coleman: Kinda funny he works for me and I have no idea who wrote it Im guessing [another officer].

Frazier: Haha, maybe the idiot whose ass he threatened to kick on-duty will read about how caring he is in the newspaper. [Officer’s] an idiot.

Weber pointed to Frazier’s exchange about a black suspect as the most concerning.

“The evidence sustains a finding that the second category of emails exchanges between (unnamed Sgt) and Frazier include “disparaging terms,” as identified by Renton Policy 340-02 (UNLAWFUL DISCRIMINATION, HARASSMENT AND RETALIATION), in that these terms could be construed as degrading or inferring a negative characteristic pertaining to race, color, national origin, ethnic group, sexual orientation and/or disability.”

Weber concluded that Troxel and Frazier engaged in “unprofessional” and “unproductive” email communications, which are a violation of the City’s email policy.

Since the investigation into the emails, an unnamed officer has filed a grievance with the Police Department.

Patch has reached out to the Chief, Mayor and City of Renton Communications Department for interviews; however, they have not responded to our requests.

 

Click here for a topic page, which includes all Patch reporting on the Renton Police Department.

Old Cop August 30, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Must not be much crime in Renton if so much time can be taken to investigate "raunchy" e mails. Tell me who was a victim in this whole e mail debacle other than a couple of officers who were otherwise doing their job.?
Phyllis Forister August 30, 2012 at 08:21 PM
The public is the victim as well as others within the Police Department! The disgusting nature of these unprofessional e-mails by police officers is a sign of a bigger problem with the management thereof. This is bullying.
Robert Mariano September 01, 2012 at 11:06 PM
Guess if i'm caucasian or not. I had an encounter with Renton traffic police officer where the officer could have shown more sensitivity or at least, leniency but decided to write ticket pronto for minor, harmless traffic violation (avoiding slow moving intersection) in my attempt to respond to a what sounded like an "emergency" call from the house. To me, it looks like that for Renton traffic enforcers, writing tickets comes over and above any situation pining for compassion. Reading this report about this internal investigation certainly puts my experience into context. I've written an appeal about my $124 fine. Let's see if other parts of the system would be more compassionate.
Jeremy Schwartz September 05, 2012 at 12:48 AM
The most concerning issue is that there is no remedy for misbehavior by the police department. One Sgt can be demoted for a parody cartoon, yet another Sgt is not for raciest, sexiest, and homophobic emails. The impartiality of discipline seems to be based on who you know rather than the act itself. Two early retirements support that conclusion as well.
Old Cop January 30, 2014 at 05:05 PM
Problem half solved. Frazier quit. Now works at Microsoft. Makes more money. Chief gives VanValey a high-five.

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