Two senior Bellevue Police Department commanders have been demoted for failing to report their involvement in an extramarital affair, a scandal that Chief Linda Pillo said will “impact this department for years to come.”
Pillo issued disciplinary letters to former Major John Manning and his subordinate, former Capt. Autumn Fowler, condemning their poor judgment in failing to notify superiors of their eight-month affair. Manning and Fowler were both demoted to the rank of lieutenant, removing them from Pillo’s command staff.
Manning is married. Fowler was legally separated when the affair started, according to Lincoln County records, where the paperwork was filed. Her divorce was finalized in November 2012.
The relationship was reported to Pillo and to Manning’s wife by another, unnamed Bellevue police captain, according to disciplinary letters released by the department following a public disclosure request by The Seattle Times.
Officer Carla Iafrate, the department’s public information officer, said the investigation has been completed and no other discipline is anticipated.
Manning was one of three majors in the department; Fowler was one of eight captains. Majors and captains make up the department’s command staff.
The letters of discipline do not contain specifics, except to say that Manning and Fowler began an affair in January 2012. Department policies discourage mixing personal and professional relationships and demands its officers avoid conflicts of interest or the appearance of impropriety.
Manning and Fowler showed extremely poor judgment in beginning the relationship and, worse, hid it for eight months, Pillo wrote in the disciplinary letters.
Policy requires that any personal relationships that do develop be reported so the department can avoid liability and conflicts of interest, according to the letters.
Their affair has subjected the city to “a variety of legal or employment claims for biased or discriminatory treatment” either from the captain who turned them in or from others he managed, Pillo wrote. The relationship subjected them to “potential extortion” from someone who might expose them.
Manning, the chief wrote, “consciously disregarded the interests of the Department to further your own personal interests. … You chose your personal wants and needs over the Department’s for eight months.”
Fowler’s letter said she “did report alleged threats to a deputy chief,” although the details of the threats, or who made them, was not specified. The chief criticized her for putting the other captain in the position of having to report the affair, causing a “rift” in their relationship.
In booting her from the command staff and back to the rank of lieutenant, Pillo said Fowler’s “deceit and personal priorities have severely damaged my trust in your ability to be a member of the command staff who must as a group and individually obey the Department Manual and guide others to do the same.”
Both were given “last chance notices,” and Pillo said she would fire them if they violated that portion of the policy again.
“It cannot be emphasized enough how much our line sworn officers and professional department employees look to Command Staff actions as a benchmark for what is expected of them and for establishing the honor and integrity of the department,” Pillo wrote. “I believe they are watching my actions in this investigation to determine whether I do hold Command Staff accountable for their violations.”
The officers could not be immediately reached Tuesday morning for comment.
The shake-up comes a month after Pillo demoted a supervisor on the department’s bomb squad and disciplined two other officers for the drunken off-duty behavior of two of the officers at a Seattle Seahawks game in which a Seattle police officer was taunted and showered with obscenities after she stopped them for littering.
Two of the Bellevue officers were thrown out of the game in the first quarter for drunken behavior in which they repeatedly used foul language in front of another fan and his young family.
Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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