Police union leader accused of anti-protest Twitter trolling

Activists say a deleted account espousing controversial views belonged to an Everett police sergeant.

EVERETT — An Everett police sergeant is under scrutiny for potentially running a private Twitter account that condoned violence against protesters.

Sgt. James T. Collier is president of the Everett Police Officers Association. Activists alleged this week that he is behind the Twitter handle @JTC2014. The account was deleted, apparently after claims surfaced on social media that it was Collier’s.

The Twitter account engaged with posts:

• Promoting a self-defense theory for Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager who has been charged with two counts of intentional homicide for shooting protesters to death in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

• Depicting protesters getting hit by a car (remarking, “This guy IS A BEAST!!!”).

• Justifying the killing of Rayshard Brooks, who was shot by Atlanta police.

• And supporting the notion that Black-on-Black crime was the true threat to Black people, not police.

The Twitter account often replied to local news stories and proclaimed support for President Donald Trump.

Collier is a 19-year veteran of the police department. He did not respond to a Herald reporter’s request for an interview. And he has not acknowledged whether the Twitter account — or the opinions it espoused — belonged to him.

City spokesperson Kimberley Cline said the city of Everett “cannot make any assertions regarding the ownership of that account.” In a tweet, Mayor Cassie Franklin said she has asked the city’s Human Resources department to look into the matter.

“I’ve received concerns via Twitter regarding posts reportedly from a private account of an EPD member,” Franklin wrote. “I take matters like this very seriously and will take action as appropriate after the investigation.”

Cline clarified that the police department had not launched its own internal investigation; rather, it is a personnel matter being looked into by Human Resources.

As mayor, Franklin has generally supported local police. She helped sway the city council to vote in favor of a $6 million grant on Sept. 2 to hire more officers. And in the face of nationwide calls to defund police and reallocate funds to social services, she spared the department of significant losses in her proposed budget.

The mayor, who has filed for re-election in 2021, received a $200 campaign contribution from Collier on Sept. 5 and a $1,000 contribution from the Everett Police Association on Oct. 1.

Cline did not name what policies, if any, might have been violated. The Everett police policy manual does not appear to make any direct reference to an officer’s use of social media. It does have a section on “Unbecoming Conduct.”

“Employees shall not engage in conduct which may bring discredit upon the Department or the City of Everett, or which would cause a lessening of public confidence in the ability of the Department to perform its functions,” the manual says.

Police Chief Dan Templeman declined to comment about the account or its contents.

Natalia Tune, 37, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Everett, said they wanted to see Collier reprimanded by the city, at the very least, and also removed from his position as union president.

“The level of inappropriateness of his tweets is just beyond anything any public official should put out there,” Tune said.

The city has no control over who serves as president of the police union. That person is selected by fellow officers to represent roughly 170 members.

One of the people who made the connection between @JTC2014 and Collier was Ben Karpelman, 26, a member of the Snohomish County Democratic Socialists of America and a frequent critic of Everett local government on his blog. Describing himself as “Twitter-obsessed,” he said he had been following the account since he had a tense exchange with the person behind it in September.

The account @JTC2014 responded to a tweet from The Daily Herald’s account, linking to a story about a Black Lives Matter rally in Everett that ended with a woman driving into protesters who were blocking traffic. Video footage showed two protesters being carried north on Broadway on the hood of an SUV. Two protesters were arrested. The driver was not.

@JTC2014 concluded that the Black Lives Matter protesters broke the law and “harassed & terrorized an innocent motorist.” Karpelman argued the driver should have been the one taken into custody.

Karpelman wrote, “ok so the next time I see a person in the road, I’ll strike them with my car and then smugly remind as they’re struggling to breathe on the ground that the streets are for cars then drive away.”

“Correct just before they go to jail though …” responded @JTC2014.

There were instances in which other users, including a customer service representative with T-Mobile, referred to the account’s owner as James. The Twitter account also commented that another user was a “TRUE Collier.” Karpelman believes it was directed at one of James Collier’s family members.

The Everett Police Officers Association account apparently became more active on Twitter in July after the fatal shooting of Bothell officer Jonathan Shoop and in the wake of civil unrest throughout the nation in response to police brutality. In the past four months, the police union account retweeted stories — often by conservative talk show hosts — condemning Black Lives Matter protests and violence against police.

Collier has been a guest on one of those radio shows.

The union account also weighed in on the shooting of Breonna Taylor, the Black woman fatally shot by police in Louisville, Kentucky; the movement to defund police; the Everett city budget; and local elections.

Collier himself called out another local official this fall for a controversial post on social media. He demanded that Snohomish County Councilwoman Megan Dunn resign over a photo she posted on her personal Facebook page: a cross-stitch depicting a Molotov cocktail, captioned with the quote, “Be the light you want to see in the world.”

Dunn wrote that it was “a good reminder.”

The Everett police union took to social media and waged a short-lived campaign against Dunn. Collier called the meme “shocking” in an interview on the Seattle-based “Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH-AM.

“It was tough to see that coming from an elected official,” Collier said.

After Dunn apologized and took down the post, the police union president said he was no longer calling for her resignation. But he expressed some reservations when talking with Rantz on the radio.

“I’m not sure the apology goes super deep,” he said. “I read it, and there’s some ‘yeah, buts’ in there. I would’ve wished that she would’ve fell on her sword and just apologized and that we moved forward.”

Now, it appears Collier is being questioned about his own use of social media.

Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; zbryan@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @zachariahtb.

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