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NEWS > 30 November 2005

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 Article sourced from

Sequim Gazette - Sequim, WA, U
30 November 2005
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Opinion: Responsibility begins

The day after a Clallam County Sheriff's Department deputy was fired and two supervisors resigned, a Seattle Police officer was fired, two sergeants disciplined and another resigned.

Across the state in Spokane, Mayor Jim West faces an election recall this December over allegations that he misused his mayoral powers to entice young men into sexual relations. Previous to his mayoral stint, West was a Spokane County Sheriff's deputy, during which time he allegedly molested young boys.
It seems we have a problem, one that appears to be contagious.
The recurring and unfortunate themes of misconduct and scandals in the law enforcement arena certainly aren't restricted to Washington state, nor are they new. Corruption is widespread, as we have witnessed in well-known stories that include police brutality and now, the allegations that have rocked our own Clallam County law officers.
Internal investigations at the sheriff's department have uncovered a series of scandals that reads like the latest installment of a daytime soap opera.
While the reports are somewhat lengthy and complicated, the final results boil down to at least three sheriff's department employees having violated a trust that comes with the office by exhibiting astonishingly poor judgment and behavior that was against county policy.
Dave Fontenot, a detective sergeant who had been with the department since 1994, resigned in September after two internal affairs investigations. One alleged unprofessional and inappropriate behavior, including ongoing sexual harassment. The other alleged taking evidence from a crime scene and later trying to cover it up.
Undersheriff Steve Snover resigned Nov. 22, the same day Deputy Dwane Hayden was fired. Hayden, who has been with the Clallam County Sheriff's Department since 1999, was nominated for the department's Employee of the Year award last year. But instead of being honored for his stellar work ethics, Hayden was fired for an alleged extramarital affair - conducted while he was on duty - that began in October 2004.
Interestingly, the Seattle Police officer was fired, in part, for having sex with a woman in the locker room in a downtown precinct.
Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske was vague in his statement after the Seattle Police Department incident.
To his credit, Clallam County Sheriff Joe Martin, was more forthcoming, saying he was unaware of the sexual harassment allegations within his department.
Sorry, Sheriff Martin, but that is unacceptable. And, it is equally unacceptable that, as reports show, the top brass in the department seemingly glossed over a long list of circumstances that now has the Clallam County Sheriff's Department's credibility at risk.
Because you have to ask, if Sheriff Martin didn't know what was going on in his own department, are these recent allegations just the tip of the iceberg? What else might be happening down at the local sheriff's office? Is this a train wreck waiting to happen or did the cars leave the rails a long time ago?
Extramarital affairs, sexual harassment, taking evidence for personal use, falsifying statements, upper management making excuses for sloppy work ethics are certainly behaviors law enforcement personnel should avoid. Police officers, like teachers, clerics and those in the medical field, are held to a high moral standard that should and must be followed.
After all, the police are paid to be public servants who protect our civil and property rights.
The corruption and cover-ups we have recently seen in local law enforcement departments have their origin in a broad lack of oversight and accountability. Simply put, most police departments, including the Clallam County Sheriff's Department, don't have anybody looking over their shoulder to keep them honest.
The responsibility for current and past actions must fall on the shoulders of our elected officials.
The incidents at the Sheriff's Department should be a wake-up call for the citizens of Clallam County and Sheriff Martin, who says he plans to seek re-election in 2006.
It is time to clean house. Whether Joe Martin is able to do so remains to be seen.

--by Mary Powell

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