Former Bend officer subject of five internal investigations

Carney investigated three times for sexual misconduct

By Shelby R. King / The Bulletin

Published Mar 13, 2014 at 12:01AM

Former Bend Police Lt. Chris Carney was the subject of five internal investigations during his 20-year career with the department, according to Bend Police documents.

Carney resigned from the police force in January following the most recent investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct. Investigators determined he had sexual contact with several city employees and a member of the media over several years while on duty and sometimes in uniform, in places such as patrol vehicles, a police substation, his office, a storage area and the womens’ bathroom at the police department. Carney did not return a call for comment.

Two of the four other internal investigations, which The Bulletin obtained through a public records request, involved allegations of sexual misconduct, while a third alleged Carney and another officer harassed a suspect and a fourth alleged Carney defamed a woman who was the subject of a theft investigation.

In April 2008 an unnamed woman reported to a school resource officer that, sometime between March 2000 and March 2001, Carney had “molested” her in a storage area where she worked by “forcibly holding her hands above her head” and initiating sexual contact, according to investigation documents. She said she consensually kissed Carney prior to the alleged forcible act and alleged he began “stalking” her at her place of work. She said she had met Carney when he came to her workplace to investigate a theft.

When interviewed about the alleged contact, Carney admitted to consensually kissing her during one meeting but denied all other allegations, according to the documents.

Investigators determined the woman’s allegations were unfounded and she was an unreliable source of information. She changed her story several times during the investigation, provided the names of several witnesses who she said would corroborate her story but did not, according to investigative documents, and appeared to investigators to be under the influence of drugs. She also had several convictions for assault and criminal mischief as well as prior contacts with police, including an attempted suicide.

New system

Carney was cleared of wrongdoing in the case partly because of the accuser’s unreliability. But the investigation that led to Carney’s resignation concluded Carney was untruthful in interviews, calling into question his credibility. That doesn’t mean the police department will reexamine the earlier sexual misconduct case against him.

“To what ends?” said Interim Police Chief Jim Porter. “We are continuously looking for ways to improve our investigations and are implementing a program that tracks complaints against officers.”

Porter said with Carney’s resignation there could be no reasonable sanction leveled against him on the prior accusations, were they determined upon re-examination to be founded. He also said the statute of limitations for any criminal prosecution had expired.

“That said, the new program includes a lot of facts in a matrix that will alert administration if there is a possible problem,” he said. “It puts officers into categories of ‘green,’ ‘yellow’ and ‘red’ and gives administrators a clear picture of where an officer is in relation to those categories.”

The second internal investigation into sexual misconduct occurred in 2013 after an ex-wife of a Bend Police employee sent “a series of emails” alleging “several officers of the Bend Police Department had acted in an unprofessional, unethical and in a possible criminal manner between 1995 and 2007,” according to a memorandum dated March 11, 2013, from Porter to then-Chief Jeff Sale via Capt. Ken Stenkamp.

“Upon completion of this investigation it was determined that while some of the allegations were unsupported, some were affirmed,” Porter wrote.

The unnamed woman alleged Carney came to her house several times in September and October 1995 while he was a patrol officer. He “arrived riding his police motorcycle, in full uniform,” the investigation documents state.

The woman disclosed three separate encounters where she and Carney engaged in sexual acts at her home. When interviewed, Carney denied some allegations and admitted to others, but claimed he was “sure he was at her house having sex for a very short period of time, for his work ethic would not have allowed him to neglect his duty for a long period of time,” according to investigation documents.

Carney was reprimanded for unbecoming conduct and neglect of duty.

Carney claimed he was attentive to his police radio during the encounters, but investigators determined that was unlikely.

“While this policy does not specifically forbid (having) sexual relations while on duty, it clearly identifies officers are not to engage in activities or conduct that will cause them to be distracted or inattentive of their duties,” the documents state.

Investigators exonerated him from leaving his duty post on the grounds that, as a member of the traffic enforcement team, he was able to schedule his lunch and mid-shift breaks.

“While Lt. Carney’s actions were clearly unbecoming conduct his choice of when and where to take a break, rested solely on him,” the documents state. “Thus, when applying the policy in the narrowest of terms, Lt. Carney was authorized to choose his location and time for a break.”

Investigators did note that Carney used “a great deal of deflection, justification and shifting of responsibility” when interviewed, according to documents, and noted that “this is the second incident in which a female has filed complaints against Lt. Carney for making sexual advances towards them, while he was in uniform, and on-duty.”

Other allegations

The other two internal investigations involving Carney occurred in 2002. In February of that year an attorney filed a tort claim notice with the city alleging Carney had “defamed the reputation of” his unnamed client by telling her employer she “was involved in credit card fraud and pornography, both of which allegations are totally false,” according to the letter.

The woman alleged Carney told her current employer about a theft investigation at her former place of employment, and she was subsequently fired, according to investigation documents. She had been investigated by Bend Police in a separate incident on suspicion of stealing money from her former employer, according to documents. That employer chose not to file charges, though investigators believed they had enough information against the woman to do so,

No action was taken on the tort claim, according to Assistant City Attorney Gary Firestone, and a document shows police found no violation and counseled Carney on the matter .

The fourth investigation, in which Carney and another officer were cleared of any wrongdoing, alleged Carney had harassed a man who hit a fire hydrant with his car and left the scene without informing authorities.

In late 2002 Carney responded to the scene of a hit-and-run crash, according to investigation documents. He and the other responding officer followed a “trail of oil” leading from the scene to the suspect’s home. The man was arrested and charged with hit-and-run, though officers also determined he had a blood alcohol content of 0.11, according to investigation documents.

Following the incident the suspect’s mother wrote a letter to the police chief alleging the officers called her son a liar and “verbally attacked him the whole way” to jail, “treating him as a dirt bag.”

The investigation cleared both Carney and the other officer of any wrongdoing in the incident.

Porter said it isn’t unusual for an officer with 20-plus years on the force to have five internal investigations brought against him. Many suspects cited or arrested for alleged crimes level complaints against the officer in an attempt to avoid conviction, he said.

“What you have to look at is if there is a pattern and practice of complaints,” he said. “Until the allegations came about in March or April of 2013 he had an impeccable record. Once we figured out it was starting to look a little different, and we were starting to see a pattern, we launched an investigation. We take these allegations very seriously.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0376, sking@bendbulletin.com