A Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office deputy who was under internal investigation for eight months for making inappropriate comments retired before the investigation could be completed, according to newly released email records.
The sheriff’s office won’t reveal details of its case against Grant T. Johnstone, who told The Bulletin the accusation against him was true.
Johnstone worked for the sheriff’s office from July 2013 until February, when he retired after 25 years as a law enforcement officer.
}Johnstone began his career in law enforcement in Alaska in 1995. Ten years later, he was hired at Tualatin Police Department, where he worked until transferring to the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office. He was promoted to sergeant in 2017.
On April 17, 2020, a sheriff’s office employee complained Johnstone made inappropriate statements. In response, the sheriff’s office retained an outside investigator to examine the allegations, a sheriff’s spokesman told The Bulletin.
On June 16, 2020, Johnstone took a leave of absence, according to state police records.
On Feb. 11, he retired prior to completion of the investigation.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the citizens of Alaska and Oregon as a law enforcement officer for 25 years,” Johnstone wrote to Sheriff Shane Nelson. “I have come to a place in my life where I recognize the toll the career has taken on me and I am informing you that I am resigning my position as a Patrol Sergeant with the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office.”
The sheriff’s office would not turn over records from Johnstone’s conduct investigation, nor explain the nature of the complaint against him, citing an exemption in Oregon’s public records law against disclosing information about a personnel investigation of a police officer if the investigation doesn’t result in discipline.
“Thank you for all your service to our community,” Nelson wrote to Johnstone Feb. 11 in response to his resignation. “I wish you all the best in your new adventure!”
For his part, Johnstone told The Bulletin his retirement had nothing to do with the conduct investigation. He said the accusation of unprofessionalism was true and he was “absolutely in the wrong.”
“My retirement was due to a medical condition that did not allow me to return to law enforcement by a specific time,” Johnstone wrote. “The internal issue and the retirement were unrelated.”
In November, the office assigned two detectives to temporary roles as patrol sergeants, because several patrol sergeants, including Johnstone, were on leave at the time.
Since Nelson took over as sheriff in 2015, several department employees have sat out for long periods during internal investigations.
Former Lt. Tim Leak, thought to be the right-hand-man of disgraced former sheriff’s Capt. Scott Beard, was investigated for 21 months before he was offered a severance package.
Nelson’s onetime election opponent, former deputy Eric Kozowski, was on leave for 14 months until Nelson fired him for policy violations. A trial in Kozowski’s federal wrongful termination lawsuit is scheduled for late summer.
Former deputy Richard “Deke” Demars was also on paid leave for 14 months before he retired prior to the completion of an internal investigation. While he was in a relationship with a subordinate, DeMars was investigated by Redmond Police Department for allegedly sexually assaulting a different woman. He also resigned before his conduct investigation was complete and the sheriff’s office declined to release records in the case.