BY BRANDI KRUSE
In the first interview since his arrest last year, a Seattle police officer who was fired after posting sexually-explicit photos of an ex-lover online said he would like understanding, forgiveness, and his badge back.
David Blackmer, 44, claims the city was in violation of his union contract when Interim Police Chief Harry Bailey fired him last month.
Blackmer, of Snohomish County, was an 18-year veteran of the Seattle Police Department when he was arrested in July 2013 for investigation of felony identity theft, domestic violence and cyberstalking.
According to court documents, Blackmer, who was married at the time, began an affair with a woman he met on Match.com in the fall of 2012. The affair ended when the woman confronted him at his home on July 17, 2013, and exposed the relationship to his wife.
The woman contacted Seattle police after Blackmer created a fake Facebook account under her name and used it to post graphic, sexual photos she sent during their relationship.
In a deal with prosecutors, Blackmer pleaded guilty to misdemeanor cyberstalking and domestic violence on Dec. 19, 2013, and spent 59 days in the Snohomish County Jail.
The Seattle Police Department placed Blackmer, who was a member of the Criminal Investigations Unit, on paid administrative leave while the Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) investigated his actions.
He was ultimately fired by Interim Chief Bailey on May 5.
Blackmer, who is a member of the Seattle Police Officers' Guild (SPOG), claims that his termination violated a section of his union contract (3.6 B, 1-2) that requires OPA to complete its investigation within 180 days. After that time, according to the contract language, "no discipline may result from the investigation."
According to a Seattle Police Department memo, OPA investigators thought the 180-day deadline to wrap up the Blackmer case was April 15. Blackmer, however, claims that OPA miscounted and that the investigation should have been completed more than 20 days earlier, on March 22.
Blackmer said some may see it as a technicality, but he sees it as a blatant violation of the rules.
"The same department that says, ‘You have to know everything in the manual (...) and we're going to enforce these rules and if you violate them you're going to be disciplined,' is the same department that has to abide by its own rules as far as the contract goes," Blackmer said. "Both sides have to abide by the rules, not just one side."
The police guild agrees with Blackmer and will represent him in arbitration, a set of hearings officially referred to as a Disciplinary Review Board.
Guild President Ron Smith said this is not the first time OPA has bungled the 180-day deadline. In fact, he said half of the cases currently set for arbitration involve alleged violations of the 180-day rule.
One such case involves a finding of dishonesty against an officer. According to the guild, it took OPA 292 days to complete their investigation.
Another case set for review involves an officer convicted of driving under the influence. Once again, Smith said OPA failed to complete the investigation on time. Should the guild succeed in that case, Smith said Blackmer stands a good chance of getting his job back.
"I'm not so much defending David, I'm defending David's right to be treated fairly and by the terms of the agreement," Smith said.
Although he does not believe Blackmer is fit to serve as a police officer, Smith said he has a duty to protect the contract on behalf of the guild's 1,250 members.
"Once (Blackmer) chose to take the actions that he chose, he forfeited the right and the honor to wear the Seattle Police Department uniform and the badge that goes with it," he said. "But I have a duty of fair representation for all my members regardless of what they did, regardless of who they are."
'I accept what I did'
Blackmer said he has come a long way since the decisions he made last year that landed him behind bars.
He admitted that his actions were "retaliatory."
"In retrospect, I should have stepped back from the situation and really thought about what I did," he said in an interview with KIRO Radio at his home near Everett.
Blackmer detailed how he used a fake Facebook page to post sexually-explicit photos of his mistress following an encounter at his home. He said he used her name on the account, uploaded a photo of her on the profile, and then added several of her friends and family members so they could see the graphic images.
"They were not flattering to her," Blackmer said of the photos.
"Obviously, I apologize for what I put her through. It was wrong and I'll take responsibility for that," he said.
Blackmer did, however, disagree with some of the information the woman gave investigators.
He said she knew he was married early on in their relationship.
"I explained to her about being married, she was OK with that," said Blackmer, who claims he told the woman he planned to divorce his wife after the younger of their two children went off to college.
Blackmer described his relationship with the woman as "unhealthy" for both of them, and admitted to KIRO Radio that he was involved with other women as well.
"I see where I was destructive and I needed to stop," he said.
Following his arrest, Blackmer sought 30 days of treatment at a facility in Stuart, Florida for "attachment disorder," which he claims prevented him from being able to form normal, healthy relationships.
Blackmer said had he not been contacted by SafeCallNow.org, a 24-hour crisis intervention service for public safety employees, he would have killed himself the day after he was arrested. He said he planned to rent a car, drive out of town, and take as many pills as he could.
He said as hard as it is to believe, the ordeal has actually saved his marriage.
"This is what it took, something so terrible like this, to get my attention," he said. "I accept what I did and I am suffering for it and there's been a lot of tears and a lot of sadness and a lot of hurt, but there's been a lot of growth out of it."
Blackmer said he truly thinks he deserves to have his job back.
"I do, and that comes with the caveat of paying penitence, admitting my wrongdoing, being proactive and going to the domestic violence classes and participating," he said. "Everybody has their problems. Police officers are human too and we have our problems just as much as everybody else does."
He said he hopes he can be forgiven.
"To the public, and to the men and women of SPD, I apologize for my actions," he said. "I was caught up in something really bad, that fortunately I was able to get out of."
OPA has 'ultimate responsibility' for investigations
The 180-day deadline laid out in the collective bargaining agreement is one that the Office of Professional Accountability should be familiar with. In fact, investigators are routinely reminded of the importance of meeting the deadline throughout the review process.
In a July 2013 memo on the Blackmer case, Lieutenant Jim Fitzgerald, assigned to the Office of Professional Accountability, stressed the importance of completing the internal investigation into Blackmer on time.
"This investigation is TIME-SENSITIVE," read the memo. "Any investigation that results in discipline must be fully completed within 180 days from the time of classification(...)."
The same memo said that OPA would maintain "ultimate responsibility for the quality, thoroughness, and timeliness" of the investigation.
"It's beyond me how, when it's spelled out in plain English on paper, especially in a case like this, they could fail to take seriously the terms of the collective bargaining agreement and make sure that they did their due diligence on behalf of the people of Seattle," said SPOG President Ron Smith.
Smith said the guild would not have represented Blackmer in an appeal if they did not believe OPA had missed the 180-day deadline. He added that the guild would gladly have given OPA an extension on the timeline had investigators asked.
"If I fail, at this point, to provide Dave Blackmer with an appeal process to challenge the city's failure to meet a basic 180-day timeline, then the next time they decide to discipline somebody, why should they abide by the 180-day timeline?" he said.
Pierce Murphy, head of the Office of Professional Accountability, declined an interview for this story, except to say that his office sometimes disagrees with the guild over how investigations are conducted. He would not acknowledge the guild's claims that a deadline was missed in the Blackmer case.
"If the arbitrator rules in favor of the guild, the city will have no choice but to either put David Blackmer back to work or to work out some type of alternate arrangement with him," Smith said. "As unfortunate as it is, the real blame lies at the foot of the door to the Office of Professional Accountability."
Should Blackmer succeed in arbitration, not only could he be reinstated to full duties, but the city may be required to pay him for lost wages. According to public records, Blackmer had an annual salary of $101,385 in 2013.
"This once again demonstrates the need for significant improvements to our police discipline and accountability process," said Mayor Ed Murray, who was briefed on the Blackmer case.
The Seattle Police Department and the City Attorney's Office, which will represent the city's interests at arbitration, declined to comment.
Councilmember Bruce Harrell, who chairs the city's public safety committee, is currently working to help reform the OPA system. Vinh Tang, a spokesperson for Harrell, said his office is considering recommendations from the Community Police Commission that would modify the 180-day timetable.