A King County Superior Court jury on Monday found that Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole retaliated against two of three officers who were transferred out of the South Precinct amid a dispute over the handling of overtime pay.
The jury found O’Toole retaliated against a veteran sergeant, Ella Elias, and Capt. David Proudfoot, the precinct commander. The jury ruled that O’Toole did not retaliate against the third officer, Lt. Steve Strand.
The jury awarded $1.9 million to Elias and $932,000 to Proudfoot.
Jurors had deliberated for a day and a half before reaching their verdict a short time ago. The three officers were not present when the verdict was announced.
Afterward, Elias thanked the jury.
“I’m just grateful that they listened to us,” Elias said. “For me, it’s been five years this has been going on. So it’s been a long time.”
“I think it’s a fair ruling and I appreciate it,” Proudfoot said, while expressing disappointment that Strand didn’t prevail.
He said the message to all parties was that we need to “learn to communicate better.”
Strand said he was “puzzled” by the verdict in his case, but realized the jury heard individual accounts. He said now was the time to “rebuild relationships” in department that have been strained for two years.
During the trial, the 12-member jury heard allegations that O’Toole retaliated against Elias after she complained that lucrative overtime pay had been improperly steered to four favored black officers.
Jurors also heard claims O’Toole retaliated against Proudfoot and Strand, the precinct’s second in command, when they opposed the department’s plan to transfer Elias to another precinct.
An attorney for the city painted a different picture, telling jurors that Elias, a white officer, was a divisive leader who ultimately was removed from the South Precinct over a racially charged comment.
Proudfoot and Strand were transferred for failing to address a festering situation that had become bogged down in polarizing conflicts, attorney Jessie Harris told jurors at the outset of the trial.