By Scott Schaefer
At Monday night’s (May 15, 2022) Burien City Council meeting, Burien Police Chief Ted Boe spoke about a recent TikTok video involving two police officers that has gotten a lot of attention.
The video, created and posted by @slvt4csh (aka “kitty coco”) on May 10, 2022 shows their encounter in downtown Burien with two police officers from Burien and the King County Sheriff’s Office (Burien contracts its police services with KCSO). Coco describes themself as “epileptic” and “mentally ill” in their profile, and believes they were the victim of profiling.
Chief Boe said that the encounter happened at 2:17 p.m. last Thursday, after a 911 call from a local business requested a police response. The business reported that someone was tagging the back wall of their business, trying to turn their propane gas supply on and off, and dancing around behind their building in a manner they described as “twerking.”
Boe said that three police officers arrived; one went inside the store to speak to the business, and two went outside to speak with the subject.
“It was determined that there was no probable cause to arrest the person for vandalism, as the paint was dry and there was no evidence of them having used or possessing paint,” Boe said at the council meeting. “The store still wanted them issued a trespass warning for their other behaviors. The officers attempted to issue a formal trespass warning, which is a written document that explains the law as it pertains to being banned from a private business. The person refused this document and was informed verbally that they could be subject to arrest if they returned to this private business.”
Boe said that the two officers and the TikTok creator were together for just under five minutes. In the video, which includes adult language, coco repeatedly asks the officers if they “see any paint?” Coco yells at the police, who remain mostly silent but are allowed to look through their bag, where they find nothing suspicious. The TikTokker then demands an apology, but the officers remain silent as they move away.
“That contact was apparently filmed in its entirety and then edited down by the person to a very brief clip that some of you may have seen,” Boe said. “Unfortunately, some have taken the lack of information in the edited video and added information other than what occurred in this incident.”
Most commenters of the video showed their support of the subject:
“They accuse you, are proved wrong, don’t apologize and still give you no trespassing. Please fight this. I’m so sorry this happened to you,” one viewer wrote.
“I hate videos like this, these officers were nothing but calm. Seemed like you were trying to escalate the situation,” wrote another.
INVESTIGATION WILL BE LAUNCHED
Boe announced that the King County Sheriff’s Office’s Internal Investigations Unit will conduct an investigation into the incident at his request. That investigation could take three to four months to complete.
“Once that investigation is completed, it will be submitted to the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight, OLEO for review as we are required to demonstrate to them a thorough, complete and unbiased investigation,” Boe said. “After their certification, I will review the entire investigation to determine if any misconduct is present. My determination will then be reviewed by my commanders as well as the independent oversight body OLEO to assure my findings are consistent with the facts and the investigation, department policy and all laws as they apply to this matter.”
Councilmember Hugo Garcia said he wants to make sure that the investigation is not prolonged.
“I looked up data and like, femme and women are more than twice as much, twice more likely than white women to be incarcerated or have other impacts,” Garcia said. “I just want to make sure we really are very proactive about doing better in deescalation … it seems like a simple apology for just finding nothing to the tagging incident would have really deescalated things.
“Building trust I think comes along with trying to and it’s hard to not, you know, force your sometimes stubbornness and just saying sorry, so I’m really concerned because as we have seen in current events over the weekend, it tends to be our black and brown residents who bear the brunt of interactions at times, so I just want to make sure that we’re proactive and not waiting for six months to get through the investigation and see if any sort of updated deescalation training or emotional training,” Garcia added.
“The purpose of the investigation is to see if those are factors on what occurred that day,” Boe responded. “Councilmember Garcia, I will not look at a 45-second video and conclude that the officers conducted anything that’s misconduct based on what I saw – that’s the purpose of an investigation, is to get to that end and I don’t want to legislate this on the dais.”
Here’s the video that was posted, which has received 295,500 views so far according to TikTok, and has also been posted on Newsweek.com (WARNING: contains adult language, specifically the ‘f-word’):