The former sergeant was demoted after retaliating against a citizen by sitting in a chair in full uniform in the parking lot of the man’s workplace for most of an hour and telling passers-by he was waiting for an apology,
For some 40 minutes, he sat in a rolling chair, sipping on sparkling water, engaging in what he called “community-oriented policing stuff.”
Seattle police on Wednesday released video from former police Sgt. Frank Poblocki’s body camera that shows him seated outside a man’s workplace while passers-by and other officers asked what he was doing. Poblocki explains to one officer that he “got a little disrespected earlier today and I think I deserve an apology,” the video shows.
Police Chief Carmen Best demoted Poblocki to the rank of officer and suspended him for 10 days without pay Oct. 12 after an internal investigation found that, while on duty and in full uniform, he sat in the chair outside an AutoZone in Seattle’s Central District waiting for a man who worked there to apologize to him for hurling insults at him during an earlier confrontation over towing a car.
The Seattle Times previously reported on Poblocki’s actions based on a leaked disciplinary-action report and an Aug. 2 internal police memo obtained under a public-disclosure request. The Times subsequently requested the newly released video.
Poblocki exchanged sharp words with the man and his girlfriend Feb. 10 as their car was being towed for having expired license tabs.
According to the bodycam video and the Aug. 2 memo, the man called Poblocki a “ ‘ho’ ” and, as Poblocki drove away, the girlfriend called him a “bitch” and a “punk,” prompting Poblocki to roll down his window and reply, “I’ll see you guys, good night.”
Nearly three hours later, Poblocki drove to the AutoZone parking lot, where he removed the rolling chair from the back seat of his patrol car, planted himself in front of the business and chatted with citizens and patrol officers who passed through the area.
When an officer drove by, Poblocki informed him he was “cold kicking it” and doing some “community-oriented policing stuff,” the video shows.
“Some guy called me a ho and a bitch,” Poblocki remarked on the video to one man walking his dog. Poblocki said he planned to stay until he got an apology.
Poblocki explained to another officer who drove by that he “got a little disrespected earlier today and I think I deserve an apology,” the video shows.
About 23 minutes after he sat down, according to the memo and video, a witness confronted Poblocki, saying he’d heard why Poblocki was there and considered it “harassment” and “bad form.” Poblocki responded, “OK,” providing his name and badge number.
That witness — not the man who had been upset over the car tow — complained to the Police Department, according to the memo. The witness emailed the department’s Office of Police Accountability (OPA) the same day, describing Poblocki’s actions as “a complete waste of taxpayer money” that “promotes poor relations with the community.”
The witness, who is white, noted the man being targeted was African American and, in an apparent reference to the large black population in the Central District, asked, “whether the same treatment would be given to a citizen if … they and the community were predominantly white.”
Another citizen, an African-American man who walked out of the AutoZone, lectured Poblocki, saying he was unnecessarily escalating the situation.
Poblocki thanked the man, shook his hand and walked back to his patrol car.
Poblocki, who is appealing his discipline, defended himself during the internal investigation, saying he stationed himself in front of the store to keep his eyes on a historically high-crime location. He acknowledged that sitting in the chair was unusual, but because he planned to be there for more than 30 minutes he wanted to be “comfortable and approachable.”
He told the OPA he didn’t go there to obtain an apology from the man and had “no intention of initiating contact” with him, according to the memo.
Poblocki denied that racial bias played any role, noting he was in a “mixed-race marriage.”
Andrew Myerberg, the civilian director of the OPA, wrote in the memo that while he shared the concerns of the complaining witness, there was insufficient evidence to prove or disprove biased policing.
His memo concluded that it was “embarrassing” for Poblocki and the Police Department that it took a community member to convince him his actions were inappropriate.
Myerberg also noted that even though multiple officers came to the scene, “none found it necessary to do so, even given their extensive collective training on professionalism, community oriented policing, and de-escalation.”
The OPA has since opened an investigation into the conduct of the other officers, along with an inquiry into whether Poblocki lied during the initial investigation, according to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential proceedings.
During the OPA interview of Poblocki, a Seattle Police Guild representative objected to the inquiry, according to the memo, calling the sergeant’s behavior “minor misconduct.”