Last week, Seattle Police Chief John Diaz announced he would temporarily suspend Det. Shandy Cobane as punishment for an incident that happened April 17, 2010, where Cobane was filmed telling Martin Monelli he would “beat the…Mexican piss” out of him as Monelli lay prone on the ground.
City Attorney Pete Holmes declined to charge Cobane, saying the kick Cobane delivered to the head of the man in custody was in keeping with acceptable police tactics.
As it happens, the Department of Justice (DOJ) was in town the day Chief Diaz announced his decision; among other things, the DOJ is investigating cases of lenient discipline of officers by the department. Diaz insisted he would have fired Cobane if Diaz hadn’t been counseled against it by lawyers.
After a year of no action on the chief’s part, suddenly, when the DOJ comes to town, he’s ready to hand down a punishment he says is the harshest before outright termination.
A true representation?
When the video of Cobane aired in Seattle — and then around the country — the detective held his own press conference, during which he tearfully insisted the man on the video didn’t represent the man he truly is.
One might be tempted to give detective Cobane the benefit of the doubt — perhaps it was a one-time thing. Perhaps the stresses on the job caused him to snap. Perhaps he’s never behaved that way before or since the video came out.
Or perhaps he has.
Last month, Superior Court Judge Joan DuBuque threw out a case of alleged assault against a police officer by David Rengo. Rengo was accused of assaulting the Seattle officer a few weeks after the Monelli incident.
With just days before the case was scheduled to go to trial, and in open court, Judge DuBuque chastised the Seattle Police Department, saying the case was the most “poorly investigated” she's seen in her 22 years on the bench.
The alleged victim cop was Shandy Cobane.
The assault investigation against Minelli was handled by Cobane’s buddies on the Gang Unit, which the judge pointed to as a conflict of interest.
DuBuque also noted Cobane failed to follow protocol when he didn’t turn on his dashboard camera. Others suspect Cobane did have his camera on, but later tampered with it to get rid of any evidence of his wrongdoing.
Either way, no tape from inside the car exists.
But it’s not just Cobane’s account that matters. David Rengo’s account of the event to the Seattle Weekly is frightening:
“I was laying on my back. They threw me from the street side into the passenger side, back of the car. He came around the passenger side, opened the door up and just choked me until I lost, I couldn’t…. When I started kicking because I was about to pass out, he let me go. I took a breath, then he choked me again.”
Questions of stability
That’s two incidents that we know of. The first we could all see for ourselves; he made racially laced threats against a man in his custody and kicked him in the head.
And while the second incident remains under investigation, it’s at least seemingly bolstered by the outcome of the criminal charges against the man who says the detective attacked him, not the other way around.
Cobane’s emotionally charged public apologies do nothing to shore up confidence in his judgment as a cop but raise questions about his stability on or off the job.
Cobane is under investigation for allegedly choking Rengo in the back of his patrol car — an incident Chief Diaz is well aware of. Yet, he believes Cobane is worthy of a second chance.
SABLE VERITY covers social and political issues for KBCS Radio and a number of on-line and print news outlets.[[In-content Ad]]