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State commission should look into Fife fiasco

Post by Cheryl Tucker on June 21, 2011 at 7:17 pm with No Comments »
June 21, 2011 5:20 pm

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Fife could have done other cities a favor by reporting the misconduct of two police officers to the state, so that it could determine if their behavior warranted decertification.

Instead, those officers are eligible to be hired by other cities because Fife officials decided that the behavior didn’t meet conditions for losing their state certification.

We beg to disagree; many civilians likely would consider the officers’ conduct grossly unbecoming someone charged with protecting and serving the community. To wit:

• Detective Roy Shane Farnworth got drunk – while on call – and totaled his unmarked city patrol car in Tacoma. Tacoma police did not test his alcohol level. He resigned May 5, two months after City Manager Dave Zabell told him in a letter that he faced possible disciplinary action. In fact, a predisciplinary hearing had been scheduled.

• Lt. Jeff Westover exposed himself to a subordinate on several occasions and had sex with her in the Fife police station while they were on duty. Several women say he showed them pornographic or offensive images on his cellphone. He resigned in January.

Those behaviors warrant consideration by the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission – which can require Fife to turn over all its records on the two officers so that it can conduct its own investigation and determine whether decertification is called for.

Fife should have reported the officers’ misconduct, but it didn’t. The rationale appears to be that the two officers didn’t violate misconduct statutes because both resigned instead of being discharged.

However, the training commission says that officers can be considered discharged if they resigned in anticipation of discipline.

Farnworth had been informed by letter that he could be disciplined, and Westover had to know he was the subject of an outside investigation into his sexual misconduct. That investigation, conducted by Auburn police Cmdr. Mike Hirman, is dated Jan. 6 – the same day Westover submitted his resignation. Is that just an amazing coincidence?

Since 2002, the state has revoked the credentials of 122 officers, none from Fife. One – a Tacoma police officer – lost his certification for using law enforcement databases to run checks on his ex-wife and her boyfriend. Compare that behavior to getting drunk on duty and wrecking a patrol car. Or having sex with a subordinate on public time and in a public workplace.

Most cities do intensive background checks on prospective police hires. Should the training commission not take action, we hope the two former Fife officers don’t slip through the cracks if they decide to work elsewhere in law enforcement.

Employers should make use of that wondrous new tool in ferreting out past problems: Google. It will turn up several edifying News Tribune articles.

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