An initial decision about whether to uphold the firing of Kent Police Officer Michael Morfoot is expected within the next couple of weeks.
Pat Fitzpatrick, city of Kent chief administrative officer, held a grievance hearing Sept. 7. Morfoot is fighting his firing in July by Police Chief Rafael Padilla. Morfoot’s grievance to object to his firing was filed with Fitzpatrick by the Kent Police Officers Association, the local union.
“I have not made a determination or issued a decision and won’t for a couple of weeks,” Fitzpatrick said in a Sept. 8 email in response to a Kent Reporter email with questions about the case. “Until then, I am not willing to comment.”
Padilla fired Morfoot after he told staff during a response call to The BLVD Apartments on the West Hill after they reported trespassers to exact “street justice; whoop their ass and swing a big bat,” rather than calling police for assistance.
Apartment staff filed a complaint with the police department, which led to an internal investigation of Morfoot. Because of the incident and six previous disciplinary actions or investigations against Morfoot during his 21 years with the department, Padilla fired him, according to police records obtained by the Kent Reporter through a public records request.
Padilla fired Morfoot July 21, 2023, for conduct unbecoming, a violation of the department’s code of conduct policy.
Following Fitzpatrick’s decision, the case could potentially go to an arbitrator with the Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission, Padilla said. That agency oversees public employee labor-management disputes, including the termination of police officers.
Morfoot told Padilla, during his interview to investigate the incident, that his statements were made out of frustration because staff at the apartments had not taken adequate steps, in his opinion, to dissuade trespassers from reentering the property, according to the notice of discipline document. He also was frustrated by the state Legislature limiting officers in their ability to do their jobs. He claimed he was not intending to incite violence.
“Regardless of your intent, your willful and reckless statements evidence shockingly poor judgment on your part, which has been a recurrent problem in each of your prior disciplinary matters,” Padilla wrote in Morfoot’s disciplinary document. “Additionally, had staff at The BLVD Apartments or their temporary employees acted on your reckless statements, the city would have been exposed to potential civil liability, and you could have exposed yourself to potential criminal liability.”
Padilla wrote that despite his 21 years of experience with the department, Morfoot failed to take steps where he could have arrested the trespassers and instead argued that the laws did not give him the tools to do so.