On July 29, Cottage Grove Police Department (CGPD) Chief Scott Shepherd and Captain Conrad Gagner were put on paid administrative leave pending the results of an investigation. The reason the investigation is taking place remains unknown. To learn how the absence of the city’s police chief and captain might impact local safety, as well as how such investigations are triggered in the first place, the Cottage Grove Sentinel reached out to Jake Boone, the Assistant to the City Manager of Cottage Grove.
Boone has taken the lead in fielding media questions about the situation.
CG SENTINEL: It is understood that you cannot expand too much on the information that's already been released regarding the alleged acts of misconduct committed by employees of CGPD, but could you break down what the investigation timeline/process will look like for our readers?
JAKE BOONE, ASSIST. TO CITY MANAGER: I'm afraid we don't have a timeline for the investigation; it takes as long as it takes (it's kind of like asking a taxi driver how long it'll take to get to a given destination before the driver knows what the destination is).
I can say that the investigation won't waste any unnecessary time; dragging something like this out does no favors for anyone involved. Once the investigation is concluded, the results will be compiled and a determination will be made whether any policies were violated and, if so, what the appropriate corrective action might be. At that point, we'll announce that the investigation has been concluded, but that's likely to be all the information we announce (personnel issues that don't rise to the level of criminal charges are confidential, and specific information about them is not required to be shared with the public).
In short, your readers are likely to find this process (perhaps frustratingly) opaque, but it's set up that way to protect the rights of everyone involved.
CG SENTINEL: Who is in charge at CGPD right now; how has the investigation impacted how things are handled at CGPD, if at all?
JAKE BOONE, ASSIST. TO CITY MANAGER: Our interim police chief is Jeffrey Groth; he was police chief in Sherwood for a number of years before retiring to La Pine. He's here now, making sure the police department keeps running and serving the community.
CG SENTINEL: What types of things, generally speaking, can trigger a situation like this for CGPD employees? For example, do these things happen only when police conduct at work is under review, or could it be related to something that happened "off the clock"? Can complaints trigger an investigation, and if so, is the number of complaints made against an officer a more important factor or the severity of a complaint?
JAKE BOONE, ASSIST TO CITY MANAGER: There are a number of ways for an administrative leave/investigation to be triggered. One way it could be triggered is by outside complaints, in-house complaints, noticing that something doesn't appear to be working properly, etc. Remember, the triggering of an investigation doesn't necessarily mean that anything untoward has happened; the investigation exists to find out if something untoward happened.
As far as the at-work versus off-the-clock distinction, obviously there's a wider range of things that could be triggered for on-the-clock behavior than off (if you're throwing paint around at home, we don't care; if you're doing it in the office, that might be an issue). Some allegations of off-the-clock behavior, however (drinking and driving, for example), could indeed trigger leave and investigation.
Severity and number of complaints are both factors; investigations can be launched over a single complaint if the alleged behavior is serious enough to warrant it.
CG SENTINEL: I know in Eugene, there is an independent group that goes through complaints the public submits regarding police conduct. Who processes the investigations into the police here in Cottage Grove?
JAKE BOONE, ASSIST. TO CITY MANAGER: The City Manager determines the need for and who should handle a given investigation. Sometimes the investigator is in-house, and sometimes it's an outside group, often depending at least partially on how many "layers" exist between the investigated person and the City Manager.
Further updates about the situation at CGPD will be posted here as they are released.