Jailed Hillsboro ex-cop was subject of internal investigation

Information contained in personnel files released by the Hillsboro Police Department last Saturday paints two very different pictures of ex-cop Tim Cannon.

One is of a man who struggled with alcohol for years and who sometimes found it difficult to make it to his patrol job on days after COURTESY PHOTO - Tim Cannon wore a Hillsboro Police Department uniform for almost 14 years before he was arrested at his Forest Grove home in January.

Another portrays a dedicated officer who succumbed to job pressures — some brought on by what he considered to be oppressive administrative policies — and later was targeted for reprisals by his superiors for speaking up.

Either way, things came to a violent end the evening of Jan. 20, when Cannon’s wife called 911 during a domestic disturbance at the couple’s Forest Grove home.

Lisa Cannon, a civilian employee of the Forest Grove Police Department, hid in an upstairs bathroom with her 6-year-old daughter while her husband, who was off duty, engaged officers from three different Washington County law enforcement agencies in a gun battle. She told emergency dispatchers that her husband had been drinking in the days leading up to the shootout. No one was killed, and Cannon eventually let his family members go and surrendered.

He remains in the Washington County Jail awaiting a July trial on multiple felony charges of assault and attempted aggravated murder.

Despite Cannon’s having been the subject of several internal investigations since his hiring in March 1999, department spokesman Lt. Mike Rouches said Monday he observed nothing leading up to the standoff that could have foreshadowed his behavior.

“He had alcohol issues, obviously,” said Rouches. “Alcohol was a factor that day. He was inebriated and he did these things. But there wasn’t talk around the department that this was an out of control officer.”

Cannon’s attorney, Ray Bassel of Hillsboro, said disclosure of the documents didn’t come as a surprise and that they represented only “part of what happened.”

The department, whose former chief, Carey Sullivan, resigned less than two months after Cannon’s incarceration, had “a lot of problems,” Bassel said, Cannon’s case being “only the most public” of them.

“Mr. Cannon was a good police officer,” he said.

Beyond perspectives and conjecture, though, there’s more of a backstory.

Since May 2012, Cannon — a former U.S. Army sharpshooter — had been working under a “last chance agreement” with the Hillsboro Police Officers Association and the city of Hillsboro that required him to participate in a substance-abuse program and show up to work his scheduled shifts. Otherwise, he would face termination.

On Jan. 4, two weeks before the incident at his home, Cannon filed a hostile-work-environment complaint against the city of Hillsboro.

In that document, Cannon claimed to be a “whistleblower” who called out Sgt. Bruce Kelley, his on-duty supervisor at the time, for allegedly damaging a TriMet bench while on duty in the summer of 2012 by pouring syrup on it to “deter young kids from spending time on or around the bench.”

He also said morale in the department was “at an all-time low” following the resignations of Officer Rob Ward and Sgt. Matt Weaving in 2012.

Cannon lodged his complaint two days after receiving notice that an internal affairs investigation into his use of two weeks’ time off in November 2012 was about to begin. He participated in a recorded interview with police union attorney Mark Makler and Lt. Doug Ehrich of HPD’s Professional Standards Unit Jan. 7, during which he was questioned about whether his absence fell under guidelines of the federal Family Medical Leave Act.

“I feel like I’m running from a storm,” Cannon told investigators during the session at the department’s West Precinct headquarters, insisting Kelley and others were retaliating against him.

Cannon had been in trouble before. He’d been disciplined for misuse of sick time, high absenteeism and alcohol issues over four of the nearly 14 years he worked for the department:

• In November 2003, he was reprimanded for provoking a verbal exchange that was unprofessional.

• In March 2009, he was reprimanded for misuse of sick time and high absenteeism.

• In October 2011, a memorandum was added to his personnel file indicating he had used 106 sick leave “family” hours and 278 sick leave “self” hours in the 34 months since January 2009.

But there were favorable comments, too. In July 2004, then-Chief Ron Louie — who returned as interim chief in the wake of Sullivan’s sudden departure in March — signed an evaluation that praised Cannon for “working hard daily to complete necessary work” and for working well with others, “always willing to help them out.”

In the nearly 1,000 pages of personnel and disciplinary records turned over by HPD May 4, Cannon calls upper echelon police administrators a “fraternity” that made him “one of their many projects of destruction.”

“I am considering all means available to protect my character and my employment,” he wrote.

Departmental tensions — evidenced by a pair of labor complaints and a lawsuit settled after Sullivan left — had apparently bothered Cannon, who said in his work-environment complaint that he had consumed his last alcoholic beverage in November 2011.

Cannon resigned from the Hillsboro Police Department on Jan. 22, 2013, while in jail.

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