Civil rights

Cop sues city

A decorated gay ex-cop whose reinstatement to the Seattle Police Department was denied by Chief Norman Stamper has gone to federal court to get his job back. Former officer Dan Mathewson claims in a new US District Court lawsuit that Stamper and other police officials discriminated against him during and after his employment, from 1990 to 1997, when he resigned. The case was recently moved from the state courts so Mathewson could claim damages under US civil rights laws.

Stamper and the others deny the claims, and a city attorney notes the lawsuit seems opportune, coming in the wake of a dust-up over Stamper's recent admission that his actions as a young cop in San Diego were sometimes racist and homophobic (a confession in part intended to show how his thinking had changed, he said).

Mathewson, a bike cop on Capitol Hill—epicenter of the city's gay population—says that after his sexual orientation became known around the department in 1993, he and a second officer were subject to a whispering campaign alleging false arrests, beating street kids during the 1994 Broadway riot, lying in court, and falsifying reports. To bring the issue to light, he filed an unusual internal investigation complaint accusing other officers of lying and slander (see "Broadway Riot: Cops vs. Cops, SW, 3/19/98). The complaint later was declared unfounded.

Two days after he filed the complaint, Mathewson says, he was wrongly accused of "double dipping"—working while on duty at a coffee cart he co-owned on Capitol Hill—and was also told by a commander it was "inappropriate, especially for you, to be spending so much time in the gays bars on Capitol Hill" during duty, even though the bars are part of an officer's beat. Chief Stamper took a direct interest his case, Mathewson says, and ordered a rare administrative review of his file, terming Mathewson's work on Capitol Hill "inappropriate." Mathewson filed a Human Rights complaint and resigned in February last year—after, he says, becoming sick with stress and ulcers. Mathewson also claims Stamper personally held up his attempts to get a liquor license at the Safari, a gay bar he later invested in on the hill.

Despite his experiences, Mathewson later sought to withdraw his resignation, but his return was denied.

City Attorney Mark Sidran's office says the Police Department acted properly in Mathewson's case and will move to have the civil claim dismissed.

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