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New details emerge in Cornelius police flap

Forest Grove officer adamantly denies DeHavens version of arrest

Recently released records provide more details about the internal strife within the Cornelius Police Department and the conduct of one particular officer.

For the past year, the city of Cornelius refused to release the personnel file of Officer Dustin DeHaven, who was accused of untruthfulness in a 15-page letter signed by four fellow officers in October 2012.

Cornelius Police Chief Ken Summers said city officials originally denied media requests for the records, but released them on Dec. 5 after the Washington County District Attorney's office ordered them to do so.

“We hope that the release will quell concerns about the credibility of Officer DeHaven,” Summers said.

DeHaven's truthfulness continues to be an issue in Washington County courtrooms, where defense attorneys have begun to question his credibility as a witness during criminal cases. (See accompanying story.)

The personnel file confirms what Summers has been saying for months: DeHaven, a relatively new officer, has had some problems but has never been disciplined for untruthfulness.

At the same time, the file includes new information about one of several incidents brought up in the October 2012 letter and examined in a state police probe sparked by the accusations. (“Truthfulness and Consequences," News-Times, Oct. 16, 2013).

Among the newly released documents is an investigation conducted by the Hillsboro Police Department at the request of Cornelius officers Joe Noffsinger and Ed Jensen into the allegations of DeHaven’s alleged untruthfulness during an arrest of a man in Forest Grove in April 2010.

According to the report from the Hillsboro investigators, DeHaven was looking for a man who he believed had visited a suspected drug house in Cornelius and had left on a bicycle heading west.

Forest Grove officer Jennifer Smith responded to request for help locating the man and spotted someone fitting the description at Ace Hardware in Forest Grove.

The Hillsboro investigators found discrepancies between DeHaven's version of events and what Smith recalled.

For example, DeHaven's arrest of the man for Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants was based on the officer's claim that Smith had reported seeing the man riding his bike and that she had suspected him of being under the influence of drugs. Smith disputed that account, saying she made it clear to DeHaven that she had not seen the suspect riding the bike and “adamantly denied providing statements to DeHaven that would establish probable cause" for making an arrest, the investigation report states.

Smith told the Hillsboro investigators that she feld DeHaven was looking for a reason to search the man. "I just felt like he was just trying to get into his pockets,” she said. DeHaven did, in fact, search the man, but did not find any drugs.

DeHaven arrested the man anyway, based on statements he made and on what DeHaven said was Officer Smith's contention that she had seen him riding his bicycle. While a breathalzyer test in Forest Grove showed a blood alcohol level above the legal limit, the Washington County District Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute the case.

Smith also told investigators she had concerns about DeHaven’s use of force in the arrest.

Smith said that at one point during the arrest she turned away from DeHaven and the man. At that point she heard what sounded like a watermelon hitting the ground and turned back to find the man lying beneath DeHaven. The use of force “perplexed Smith,” the investigation report stated, because up to that point, Smith recalled, the man "was just being mouthy." But DeHaven told Smith the man “squared up” at him, “requiring a force response.”

The impact sounded so bad that Smith said she inquired whether the man needed medical attention. She said DeHaven explained the force by saying that he'd "been working out lately" and didn't realize how hard he'd put the man down on the ground.

Smith concluded by saying she later reviewed DeHaven's police report and felt his account of the force used was misleading. Investigators were not asked to examine these concerns, but included details for the Cornelius Police Department to review. No other documents in DeHaven’s personnel file question his use of force.

The personnel file also includes information about two other incidents referenced in the 2012 letter.

The allegations made against DeHaven created significant internal stress and discomfort, as evidenced by another document in his personel file.

About two weeks after the four officers sent their letter to members of the Cornelius City Council, former Police Chief Paul Rubenstein, who had been criticized inthe letter, issued a memo to all Cornelius police employees.

“Our number one goal each day is for all members of this Department to go home safely at the end of your shift," Rubenstein wrote. "This means that we must and will ensure everyone’s safety. Everyone in the Department is expected to and will cover each other in an appropriate, timely manner. In addition, everyone is expected to and will request cover when it’s appropriate.

"Personal feelings are not allowed to interfere with our duty and obligation to protect each other and the community," the chief continued. "A failure to cover another officer or a failure to request cover simply because you do not like or have a disagreement with the individual with whom you are working will not be tolerated as justification for any one of us or a member of the public getting hurt, injured or worse.”

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