Orting police and city officials acted quickly to stop the distribution of a racially charged email and to make clear it didn’t reflect the city’s policy or practices, an investigation of the Nov. 30 incident concludes.
Seattle attorney Robert Christie investigated the email, which was sent by then-City Councilman Guy “Sam” Colorossi to all members of the Police Department.
Christie found “no evidence of racial insensitivity in the Orting Police Department,” which acted within minutes of receiving the message to distance itself from the views expressed by an Internet commentator on the attached video.
The video, titled “Dear White Cops: Do Not Put Your Lives & Careers On The Line Policing Savage Negros (sic),” was produced by controversial YouTube personality TJ Sotomayor.
It urged white officers not to respond to incidents in black communities lest they be labeled “racist” by blacks who didn’t like their enforcement activities.
Sotomayor, who is African American, said in the video that blacks were using the racist label to foment violence and discord in their and other communities.
After Colorossi sent the email message, the Police Department’s sole minority officer, Nile Teclemariam, complained about the contents.
Colorossi commented in his email message that “a lot of what he (Sotomayor) has to say is true. I hope I never see the day when any one of our officers have to deal with unruly citizens as described in this video.”
Orting, a city of about 7,000 residents southeast of Puyallup, has few minority residents. Colorossi said the city’s police might encounter more minorities if called to help officers in larger urban areas nearby.
Christie found that Colorosssi, 76, in hindsight was concerned that some who received his message would think it reflected his own viewpoint.
“He did not intend to offend the individuals to whom he sent his email, and is sorry that occurred,” the lawyer wrote in his report.
Police Chief William Drake had advised his officers and others in the city not to forward or open the email when he discovered its contents. Mayor Joe Pestinger and City Administrator Mark Bethune quickly sent out an email disavowing Colorossi’s email and condemning its contents.
“Given the strong affirmative steps take immediately by Chief Drake, Mr. Bethune and Mayor Pestinger, this isolated incident certainly did not fester in the workplace,” Christie wrote.
“Instead, it presented an opportunity for city management to re-emphasize to all city personnel and to the broader community the non-tolerance for discrimination of any kind.
“In my view, there is no need for further corrective action on this matter.”
Colorossi, who had a long career in Orting as a councilman, mayor and deputy mayor, was defeated in his bid for re-election by three votes in the November election.
The email came in the wake of a black former Orting police officer’s filing a $5 million civil rights lawsuit early last year against the city alleging racial discrimination.
The city maintained the officer wasn’t retained beyond his probationary period because of performance issues.
John Gillie: 253-597-8663