A Seattle police officer fired for violating the department’s social-media policy was deemed “threatening” by the U.S. Secret Service and was investigated for possible federal criminal charges for posts implying violence against former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
A disciplinary document released late Friday by the Seattle Police Department (SPD) identified the officer as Duane Goodman, 43, an 11-year department veteran who worked patrol.
In a written rationale for terminating Goodman, Police Chief Carmen Best said Goodman’s social-media posts — which included rants against “illegal immigration” and “appeared to endorse violence” against Obama and Clinton — had caused her to lose confidence in his ability to protect and serve the Seattle public. She noted that Goodman had recently been suspended for escalating another incident to the point where a fellow officer feared for their safety.
“Your posts were malicious and threatening,” Best wrote in a formal Disciplinary Action Report terminating Goodman from the SPD signed last November. “For you to … embrace violence as a ‘solution’ for public figure with whom you disagree is a betrayal of the values of our profession.”
The case became public in the past week after a synopsis was posted on the Office of Police Accountability’s (OPA) website.
Best said Goodman’s profanity-laced criticism of what he called “illegal” immigration potentially undercut the department’s mission to fairly serve “all members of the community, regardless of immigration status or beliefs.”
“The department’s ability to fulfill its public safety duties depends on communities believing that officers will treat them equally and with dignity, regardless of their immigration status,” Best concluded. “Your comments suggest that you will not do so. They could have substantial negative consequences to the relationship between members of the Department and those that we serve and showed exceeding poor judgment.”
The documents do not mention that Goodman has been charged with drunken driving, stemming from an August 2018 arrest in Renton by King County sheriff’s deputies.
Goodman has pleaded not guilty. A conviction would be a violation of SPD policy.
The prosecution has been continued several times and is pending in King County District Court in Kent. A hearing is set for February, according to court records.
An internal investigation into Goodman’s social-media accounts came after a civilian acquaintance of the officer complained anonymously about posts that “attacked[ed] certain groups of peoples … [and] people’s political views,” according to an OPA investigation. The complainant found several of the posts “unprofessional” and worried that multiple hashtag alerts used in the posts, including #maga and #trump2020, could give his “inappropriate posts” a wide audience, according to a report on the incident compiled by the OPA.
According to that case summary, the officer used “extremely profane language” in the posts, which were made under the Instagram username @officerdg, which Best said clearly identified him as a police officer.
One Instagram post included a photograph of a package bomb and the message: “I don’t condone sending package bombs but god it would be nice for Killary and Anti-cop Obama to finally STFU! Maybe Obama will stop lying and claiming the good economy is from him.”
Best noted this post was made “at a time that numerous packages containing pipe bombs were mailed to several public figures,” including Obama and Clinton. The department turned the information over to the U.S. Secret Service, which opened a criminal investigation, according to the disciplinary documents. The case was referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which declined to file charges, Best said.
Another post includes a photo of the officer raising the middle finger to the camera. The text underneath states, “If you support illegal immigrants coming into our country so much then make a difference and bring them into your home and YOU support them you (expletive),” according to OPA documents.
Goodman, in a hearing with the chief, promised to learn from the incident and not repeat his mistakes, according to the documents. Best, however, concluded that allowing him to keep his badge and gun wasn’t worth the risk.
“I cannot, and will not, take the risk of subjecting the public we serve to another lapse in judgment that could further impact members of the community and the department,” Best wrote. “I do not have confidence in your ability to effectively function as a member of this police department.”
The emergence of social media and its impact on the department and public perception were recognized by former Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, who in 2015 implemented tough new policies for officers who venture into the virtual social milieu.