Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

NOTICE: Inside Opinion has moved.

With the launch of our new website, we've moved Inside Opinion.
Visit the new section.

Fife PD’s eruption of bad behavior has heads shaking

Post by Cheryl Tucker on May 25, 2011 at 7:19 pm with 7 Comments »
May 25, 2011 5:22 pm

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Night shift at the Fife Police Department apparently was quite a lively scene at times. At least one assumes that the past tense is appropriate.

According to an outside investigation, 17-year veteran Lt. Jeff Westover exposed himself on numerous occasions to a female subordinate and had sex with her once in the police station while they were working the night shift.

The woman and several other female employees also claim that Westover showed them pornographic images on his cell phone – highly inappropriate behavior by anyone in the workplace and especially a supervisor.

The investigator, an Auburn police commander, concluded that Westover may have committed indecent exposure, but that the statute of limitations for prosecution has elapsed. Besides, he said, it appears the acts “were with consent” of the woman.

But the woman told the investigator, “I couldn’t say anything.” Westover was, after all, her boss.

When she did tell someone – complaining to Lt. Doug Burrus that Westover had been sexually harassing her for nearly a decade – he didn’t follow through. For failing to report the complaint, as required, he was punished with a three-day suspension without pay.

But Westover resigned before any action could be taken against him. That means he can apply to another department with nothing negative on his record regarding the sexual harassment complaint.

The same holds true for another Fife officer. Detective Roy Shane Farnworth got drunk while on call Dec. 27 and totaled his unmarked patrol car before driving it home. His wife, a Fife police dispatcher, was his passenger. Farnworth won’t be charged with a crime – the accident happened in Tacoma and no physical evidence was taken at the time that would prove he was drunk.

Farnworth resigned earlier this month, possibly anticipating being fired. Besides the fact that he put the city in liability danger, an audit of his cases showed “numerous examples of deficiencies,” according to Fife City Manager Dave Zabell.

Fife is not a huge department, with fewer than 35 sworn officers. That magnifies this convergence of problems it is experiencing. Had the incidents become public a few months or even weeks apart, no one would be asking, “What’s going on in Fife?”

As for Farnworth, any workplace can have an employee with a drinking problem who has one very bad night. This one, however, involved someone authorized to carry a weapon who put lives in danger with his behavior.

From a workplace culture standpoint, the sexual harassment case is more problematic for Fife.  The fact that nothing was done even after a potential victim came forward indicates that Chief Brad Blackburn’s department could use a refresher course in how to respond to sexual harassment complaints.

If people weren’t reporting a supervisor’s bad behavior, it might have been because they didn’t feel as if they could. Victims need to know that if they speak up, they’ll be taken seriously.

Categories:
Sneak preview
Tags:
Leave a comment Comments → 7
  1. Westend253 says:

    While this may look bad on the surface, it is good to know that they are taking both of the issues seriously and addressing them.

    It would have been easier to not do anything, the city manager and police chief seem to be taking them seriously and taking corrective action as soon as they knew about it.

    every organization has a few bad apples, but they should not taint the rest of the good people that do good things all the time.

    too bad that is not in the paper sometimes….

  2. LibertyBell says:

    As if this is any suprise?

    How does one get to the top, and make Chief?

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2008272654_webborderofficial15.html

  3. LibertyBell says:

    Vote Lt. Jeff Westover for Governor.

    He fit’s the State Employment Requirement perfectly!

    http://www.seattlepi.com/local/opinion/article/This-good-deal-for-taxpayers-1148688.php

  4. Do yourselves a favor TNT, and make a public records request for Christopher Coy Clark-the WSP trooper that crashed at 104th and Canyon in his personal vehicle March 27, 2010, called an onduty(in King County) subordinate trooper down to assist him, left the scene of the accident, was breathalyzed 3 hours later at a .07…..arrested for DUI and possible coverup. End result-ton of paid time off, 30 days alcohol treatment, NO charges, NO jail time, and yep, he is still a Washington State Trooper today. …

    Many of our law enforcement ranks are corrupt. And to restore confidence in the men and women protecting us, it is time to get rid of the bad apples that negatively affect all the good, honest, ethical, caring LEO’s.

  5. ratujack says:

    Ms. Tucker you are being fare and balanced. Fife is a good little town, though. Next to the big bad Tacoma must be hard on the crime.

  6. Chaser414 says:

    Do us all a favor and do a records request on these files from the city. You will see the ‘victim’ has been deemed not credible by the investigation, according to the Tribnet, which leaves one to wonder how someone can make such an accusation, be deemed NOT CREDIBLE, agree that it was CONSENTUAL, and then be allowed to cause one officer to resign, another to be disciplined, and lives turned upside down. I think the true story is anyone can cry wolf after they were caught, even if they lie and consented, then destroy lives, jobs and families. Do the research people, you will see the truth.

  7. Chaser,

    The truth is while police officers exposed themselves and had sex at work, while on the clock, cases of reported rapes of children were not investigated.

    The only lives destroyed here are the lives of the children.

    The female officer that you now wish to deem, “not credible” was credible enough to be hired as a police officer in Fife.

    I suggest you do some research on ethical workplace behaviors for police officers. Unless, you wish to lower the standards by which we should judge the police.

*
We welcome comments. Please keep them civil, short and to the point. ALL CAPS, spam, obscene, profane, abusive and off topic comments will be deleted. Repeat offenders will be blocked. Thanks for taking part and abiding by these simple rules.

JavaScript is required to post comments.

Follow the comments on this post with RSS 2.0