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human & civil rights | police / legal

CCSO and Sandy PD: Another cover-up by the good old boys in blue

While I am grateful to have the local community newspapers because they have devoted more than just a few words to this issue as the Boregonian did, I must again take exception to the tone and lack of meaningful substance these articles nonetheless show.

A "voluminous," 500+ page report from the Clackamas County sheriff was released last Friday (October 17th) detailing "the sexual habits of a 14-year seasoned deputy who served the Mt. Hood Corridor communities." This is the report on the probe that led to Clackamas County Sheriff's Deputy Brandon Claggett resigning.

One article, the one I will critique here, states that the "report on that probe answered the questions that local residents have been asking..."

Sorry, but I beg to differ.
The report may indeed have answered the questions we've been asking, but I'm sorry, this article (see:  http://www.sandypost.com/news/story.php?story_id=122464223677727900) on the report does not.

The article refers repeatedly to the "voluminous" Clackamas County sheriff's report.

Then why so few concrete details from this "more than 500-page report"? We are left with the impression that possibly nothing was proven or substantiated in any way and that this is little more than a "he said, she (and she, and she, and she) said" scenario. We are told that "investigators were challenged by a lot of contradictory testimony," and we are treated to a few titillating tidbits (did he use handcuffs or not?) but we are no more enlightened about the facts of the case than we were months ago.

Once again, I'm left with far more questions than I had prior to reading these accounts. To wit:

From the article:
"After evidence that suggested "official misconduct" was made public last week, Clackamas County Sheriff's Deputy Brandon Claggett resigned."

I could be wrong, but it appears that the "evidence that suggested 'official misconduct'" was made public at the same time the news of Claggett's resignation was made public (see CCSO's news release dated 10/7/08 here:  link to web12.clackamas.us) But if they indeed already had evidence of misconduct, why was Claggett allowed to just resign? Here's why:

"That action [Claggett's resignation] officially ended the investigation which was looking for violation of law or misconduct."

It's pretty darn convenient for Claggett, Craig Roberts and the CCSO, the DA, and the rest of the apologists that the investigation ended - despite the creation of a more than 500-page report - allegedly prior to them actually and definitively finding a violation of law or misconduct. Apparently, 3 months time and 500+ pages isn't sufficient enough to do more than just SUGGEST any impropriety occurred. Or so we are expected to believe.

"...detailed reports of interviews with young women and teenage girls that Claggett allegedly sought for sexual flirting..."

Detailed reports, hmmm?

Well, exactly how many women and how many teenage girls were involved and/or interviewed? How about giving the ages of some of these girls - especially the teen aged ones - at the time of these occurrences? Were they 13, 15, 17, 19? Not to condone Claggett's disgusting behavior in any way (as, I'm sorry, but this article seems to really downplay, see: "sexual flirting"... more about that later) but it makes a HUGE difference if the girls were under 18 or not. Like, a CRIMINAL difference. Several commentors to these various stories have remarked on Claggett's alleged penchant for attending high school keggers in which he picked up on many a minor girl after first having run off the teen male "competition" with threats of arrest. C'mon man, aren't we entitled to know if Claggett sexually harassed minors or not?

And, by the way, how far back are we talking here?

What time frame does the hallowed "voluminous report" cover? Has Claggett been doing this throughout his 14-year career, or just more recently? Do we even know? Was this even addressed? The use of the plural in "women" and "teenage girls" implies at least four females and possibly more. Was Claggett "involved with" at least four women in a one-year time span or a ten-year time span? Again, not to condone Claggett's disgusting behavior in any way, but this also matters. Why? Because:

"Claggett was involved with the women while he was on duty, in uniform and in his patrol car.

Now, excuse me, but is this not a clear cut case of "official misconduct"? If not, what the hell is for these cops? As a taxpayer, I am highly pissed off that my hard-earned money gets wasted on cops getting paid and using public resources for harassing young women or even chasing chicks. Why aren't all the fiscal conservatives in an uproar about this?

And as a human being who also happens to be a woman, I am more than a little offended that the author of this article chose to minimize Claggett's actions by repeatedly using such phrases as "sexual flirtation."

"Flirtation" is most often defined as: "playful behavior intended to arouse sexual interest" and "playing at courtship; coquetry."

Playful. Playing. I do not think Claggett's actions were "playful" in any way. I bet these women don't either.

Although you'd barely know it by the tone of this article, word on the street is that Claggett's advances were most definitely NOT welcomed or encouraged by at least some of the girls involved. These girls speak of being harassed to the point that they were afraid. Even though the author soft soaps us with words like "flirtation" and "relationship," eventually the article notes (but not until the third-to-the-last paragraph) that a "girl told investigators she was scared because she felt Claggett would retaliate when he discovers she has talked to investigators." Stunningly, she even says " ... coming to you guys (investigators) is like I might as well just end up face down in the Sandy River."

Wow. Sounds pretty "playful," huh?

And, why, pray tell, would this obviously terrified girl, talk about ending up "face down in the Sandy River" of all things???

What a freaking can of worms that little tidbit opens up. Locals know the story of the man the CCSO and Sandy cops (including Claggett) chased into the woods one night up on Mount Hood. They'd been after him relentlessly for weeks to no avail. He was indeed, a slippery one who knew the woods well and was always giving them the slip - much to their chagrin and increasing anger. After going to the trouble of traveling up the mountain to get him, they caught sight of him at a campfire. He ran off, they all gave chase, and then came back a very short time later sadly shaking their heads that he'd gotten away yet again. Suddenly, the pressing man hunt for this guy ended. They seemed to have stopped looking for him in the local bars and his known hangouts as they'd been doing for weeks prior. He was found later that summer... FACE DOWN IN THE SANDY RIVER. He was so decomposed they could only identify him by his dental records.

Did anyone ask this girl why she would make such an astounding and specific comment as this? Did her time with Claggett make her privy to inside information on that case, and/or did it give her reason to fear for her life from him like this? Good God, is this not news? Can we please get some investigative - or even just mildly curious - reporting out here in the sticks?

Anyway, previous articles clearly state that the only way this investigation came about was because a private citizen was so disturbed by the stories he was hearing that he personally hired a private investigator. The PI - a self-avowed "staunch supporter of law enforcement" - felt the evidence was such that it "was his duty to pass along what he learned" to the Oregon DOJ. The DOJ thought the PI's findings were sufficient enough evidence of wrongdoing to pass it along to the CCSO. These are straight-up facts, not rumor. Do this many people get involved with "flirtations?" C'mon. I think not.

"Claggett defended his actions by saying he only flirted with the girls through text messages and photos sent to cell phones. But some of the girls talked about his actions on ride-alongs.

OK. So here we see where the author of this article (and possibly those of the report) probably got the euphemism "flirt." From Claggett. Fabulous. Because he'd have no reason to misrepresent himself right? Oh, but he does such a good job of it IN THE SAME SENTENCE by claiming he ONLY "flirted with the girls through text messages and photos sent to cell phones." Yet later, "Claggett admitted taking the girl through two locked gates to Camp Namanu near Dodge Park... [where] he just gave her what he described as a '15-second hug.' "

Plain and simple. Cut and dried. Claggett lied.

I'm sorry, but after that, how can anything he said be given any credibility whatsoever?

Yet the author insists on minimizing the appearance of Claggett's guilt by stating:

"But investigators were challenged by a lot of contradictory testimony."

We are then treated to more of the old "he said, she said" crap:

"For example, the girl said she was handcuffed, but Claggett says he never handcuffed her. He says he didn't suggest sexual activity, but she says he tried to drag her out of the car to have sex."


"No inappropriate photos or messages were found on his phones or computer, investigators reported. He told investigators he had recently received a new phone and new computer.

Photos were found on at least one of the girls' phones, but she said Claggett took the photos on her phone and sent them to his phone."

Yada yada yada.

And all we're left with is this:

"His resignation ends the investigation, which is why the transcripts were made public Friday."

And again, despite the fact that an accompanying piece tells us that Sandy PD's Bill Bergin has now also resigned, apparently due to "information revealed during the investigation of Clackamas County Sheriff's Deputy Brandon Claggett," there's no mention of this obviously systemic problem that's affected both the CCSO and Sandy PD. And since Bergin has now been allowed to retire allegedly "voluntarily to pursue a job in the private sector," I suppose THAT investigation will end as well. Excuse me, but if a county deputy and a Sandy cop are involved in this, doesn't it point to at least the possibility that others may have known of this and/or also been involved in this or similar behavior? I guess we'll never know.

The "good old boy" mentality up here on the mountain has got to go. Here's hoping Spence will help us show 'em all the door. No wonder the Sandy PD has finally divested themselves of this sad excuse for a cop. But never say die, right Chief Skelton?

"He was a good officer," Skelton said of Bergin.

That says a lot for the rest of the "good officers" on your force, and about your obvious lack of judgment, does it not Skelton?

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Thanks, MH 27.Oct.2008 18:23

rural oregonian

Thanks for writing this. I, too, would like answers to all of the questions you have raised here.

The good old boys have got to go.