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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.

Phyllis Forister August 29, 2012 at 08:01 PM
The old saying “Birds of a feather flock together.” comes to mind as I look at the three policemen named below. For Renton citizens to feel safe with their police protection all three need to leave the Renton Police Department. “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.”
Phyllis Forister August 29, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Question: Did this investigation only delve into the transgressions of these three policemen? If so, then it didn't delve enough. This situation was ignored and allowed to fester which means that management is ineffective.
Jenny Manning August 29, 2012 at 08:10 PM
It appears there were more than three officers investigated; however, it's hard to tell due to all the redactions. You can read the report via the pdf attached to this article. I'll have more posted later today, but I have to step away for a short while to cover Barbara Mitchell's memorial at Valley Medical Center.
Robert Ten August 29, 2012 at 08:41 PM
It's always the same people. Troxel has had about a dozen internals and demotions over his career. As much as he spouts his dedication in a memo to the Chief, he has been more of a drain than asset. The chief AGAIN lets Troxel off the hook from facing termination to a letter of reprimand. How does that work? Frazier was let off easy AGAIN after his last internal investigation with Troxel. Summers has been demoted and under an internal so often, there is a IA file cabinet just for him. It is too bad that unless you are a 'protected class', no rules were broken. But then again, Frazier insulted female officer T. Jarrett in an email. I would hope that at least women are protected. But never mind, Frazier got away with that one too. None of this would ever had been made public if not for Bill Judd's cartoon. There is still so much that has happened, internals that are ongoing still, that the department is doing everything it can to not disclose to the public. We have operated with 100% impunity and continue to do so by not producing not a single alphanumeric character more than required by law, and even then, the city holds back the information. The media is not a friend of the City of Renton and we treat them that way.
M R J August 30, 2012 at 03:53 AM
Isn't it shocking that people at high levels do not understand that their behavior is unacceptable? I work at a global company & I would never send any thing like this.
Phyllis Forister August 30, 2012 at 04:31 AM
These horrible e-mails exhibit why the entire Police Department needs to be investigated beginning at the top. I can't even imagine how awful it would be to work in the sick atmosphere that has been allowed to grow. No wonder Mr. Fuddle Sticks was created. Too much cover up going on and that does not bode well for the police force or citizens. This kind of ugliness can't have been secret in the City Building....could it? If so....then how come? Bigger investigation necessary???
Jeremy Schwartz August 30, 2012 at 05:46 AM
There has yet been an investigation of the entire department as far as I can tell. These individual internal investigations are only the after effects of poor leadership and mismanagement of a government police department. My belief, although ignorant, is that I would imagine the weekly city council meetings being full of citizens demanding action to fix the police department. Realistically, I think most people are content not knowing, because if they really knew, they would not want to ever call 911, even if they needed.
taped mouth August 30, 2012 at 04:03 PM
there wont be a department wide investigation. the problems are being attributed to a few malcontents rather than a department culture issue. as long as the 'few' malcontents are seen to be disciplined, then the real problems will be ignored. its wag the dog.
Renate Beedon August 30, 2012 at 05:33 PM
I am surprised about some of the above comments. Like I said in another post, in my 32 years as a citizen of Renton I personally have had only good experienced with the police. Every one of the officers I have met were professional, courteous and helpful. If there really is such a problem in the police department it needs to be investigated and fixed for the benefit of the "good" employees in the department. Working in a poor environment is demoralizing and depressing and no one deserves that, especially not the people who are watching out for us citizens. "taped mouth" - I appreciate your frankness - isn't there a way you can shed more light an what's going on? Best of luck to you and your fellow officers!
taped mouth August 30, 2012 at 05:54 PM
there is absolutely no way for any police officer to come forward. none. even if the mayor himself allowed it, the internal pressure would be too great and a target would be tattooed on the officer's back. judd brought up jail issues to the chief and was ignored, flat out ignored and told to forget it. his frustration made him create a cartoon that got him demoted and nearly fired, and did end with marsalisi being demoted and forced out. the mrfuddlesticks is still facing charges of cyberstalking because of those cartoons. that officer or officers could go to jail for cartoons, and at a minimum, have their employment terminated. a big issue is that many of the leadership, from sgt to commander (there are no more deputy chiefs) have gone through internals after internals, skirted punishment, been demoted and re-promoted over and over again. these are the ones conducting investigations on others yet their misdeeds are protected. i would say to listen to the fuddlesticks cartoons to get an idea of the history of the department has evolved. the public records requests over the past year or two has cost officers their jobs, their positions, their reputation, and the trust of the department. but that is only because of we have acted as if no citizen or group can touch us and we do and say what we want.
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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