On Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, the King County Sheriff Mitzi G. Johanknecht announced that she has terminated former Detective Michael Brown for his social media posts.
The King County Sheriff’s Office contracts its police services to the City of SeaTac.
On July 6, 2020, the King County Sheriff’s Office initiated an internal investigation after receiving an “unprecedented number of complaints” from community members regarding social media posts made by Brown.
One of Brown’s most well-known posts in question (see below) was published on his Facebook page on July 4, 2020, when he said “All Lives Splatter” with a meme that depicted a vehicle striking a person. Brown reportedly posted it shortly after a fatal incident on I-5 when protesters were run were over by a driver. Summer Taylor died from injuries from that incident, and Diaz Love was severely injured.
“The current cultural and political climate should have been more obvious to you than even other Office members,” the Sheriff said in her decision. “Based upon your assignment, you viewed some of the protests and riot activity in real time. Clearly this is a challenging time to be in law enforcement with the scrutiny focused on this profession. That challenge does not diminish our obligation to conduct ourselves in a manner that preserves and deserves the public’s trust in the Sheriffs Office.”
On Nov. 9, Brown exercised his right – per a collective bargaining agreement – to an in-person hearing with Sheriff Johanknecht to provide his perspective. The discipline proposed to the Sheriff was termination of Brown’s employment with the King County Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff Johanknecht, following a “thoughtful and comprehensive review of the facts of this investigation,” concluded that the posts, and the overwhelming negative response, “badly damaged confidence and trust in the Sheriff’s Office.” The Sheriff further noted, “Several of your posts endorsed and advocated unnecessary/excessive use of force and violence. They demonstrated extreme indifference to life and racial equity.”
Concluding Mr. Brown could no longer effectively serve as a law enforcement officer, Sheriff Johanknecht decided to terminate Brown’s employment effective Feb. 11, 2021.
Brown is also the cousin of Gov. Jay Inslee, who distanced himself via Twitter:
I'm deeply disappointed and totally reject the language of my cousin Mike Brown who made inflammatory comments about recent protests. The language is unacceptable and just flat wrong, particularly from a law enforcement officer, as we try to heal the divisions of our community.
— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) July 7, 2020
Sheriff Johanknecht’s Final Loudermill Results letter, including her detailed analysis, can be viewed and downloaded here.
Brown is entitled to challenge his termination, through a union grievance procedure.