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13-year deputy given boot

Kitsap County Sheriff Deputy Brian LaFrance, a 13-year veteran with the force, was fired in late November amid strained relations between the Sheriff’s Administration and the Deputy Sheriff’s Guild.

A seven-month long internal investigation was launched in February on LaFrance after officers searched his cruiser and found key evidence to criminal investigations in the trunk.

The investigation, summarized in 40 pages, details a laundry list of other alleged violations, including LaFrance’s failure to respond to direct orders, to forward reports to the Prosecutor’s Office in a timely and efficient manner, and to appropriately maintain case records, paperwork and key pieces of evidence.

Internal investigators say LaFrance, when confronted with accusations of unprofessional conduct, was “less than candid” in some cases about why he wasn’t completing cases and why he had mishandled investigations.

LaFrance was placed on paid administrative leave while the internal investigation was underway.

Kitsap Sheriff Deputy Guild attorney Jim Cline said the union plans to examine the investigation and report over the next few weeks to determine whether a grievance should be filed on behalf of LaFrance.

“We see a lot of questions and a lot of problems,” said Cline, the Seattle attorney representing the deputies’ association. “We are looking at the timeliness and the procedures in the investigation. It took a long time to conclude the investigation and we are looking at whether the progressive discipline requirement was fulfilled. Some of these allegations weren’t brought to his attention until he was being transfered from the detectives unit.”

When the internal investigation was complete, a pre-termination hearing was held on Nov. 13, during which the findings of the internal investigation were discussed and LaFrance was given an opportunity to formally respond to the report’s findings.

All told, the investigation and subsequent hearing addressed 136 violations to codes of conduct, policies and procedures. Of those, 116 were sustained, meaning authorities at the hearing determined LaFrance violated protocol innumerable times over the last year.

“Your failures involved skills and responsibilities that any newly trained deputy possessed,” the report reads. “With your 13 years of experience, there is no excuse for your dereliction of duty and lack of candor. The integrity and success of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office is directly dependent on the quality of the case preparation and proper handling of evidence. These are not specialized skills, but basic skills possessed by all newly trained deputies.”

From about the middle of 1999 until last December, LaFrance worked on several cases in the detectives’ division of the Sheriff’s Office.

Trouble allegedly brewed to the surface, however, when LaFrance was informed on Oct. 24, 2000 that he would be reassigned beginning Dec. 15 to patrol duties.

On Nov. 6, 2000, LaFrance was asked to turn over all the cases he hadn’t been able to complete during his short stint at the detectives’ division, clean out his office and return all issued equipment by Nov. 10.

By Dec. 13, his supervisors sent him an e-mail requesting a response.

They also asked LaFrance to turn in overtime slips before transferring.

LaFrance responded two days later, saying he’d clean up his office that evening. He didn’t, and detectives and other personnel cleaned up his office and boxed up material, which was then held in property for safe-keeping, to make room for another detective.

By Jan. 30, LaFrance had already been suspended for two days for failure to turn in overtime slips and he still hadn’t turned over pending cases to the detectives’ division.

The detectives’ division submitted another official order to LaFrance, demanding he hand over all the cases he hadn’t concluded during his stint at the division. A similar order was issued on Feb. 5 with a Feb. 13 deadline.

Not until officers searched LaFrance’s cruiser on Feb. 14 and Feb. 15 did they recover the case material in question, according to the investigation.

In addition to finding evidence in LaFrance’s cruiser, investigators cited a plethora of other alleged violations, including, but not limited to, the following:

• LaFrance allegedly bungled a child molestation investigation he was assigned to handle. Kitsap County prosecutors say they were concerned with how he handled a search warrant in the case. Some charges were reduced or dropped because of those errors and the case was plea-bargained to a lesser charge.

• Investigators were also concerend with how LaFrance handled a child pornography case. Pertinent reports, they say, weren’t submitted in a timely manner to a prosecutor’s office and a VHS tape related to the case and considered evidence by the Sheriff’s Office was found in his patrol vehicle.

• According to the investigation, LaFrance left a Glock 23 pistol in an unlocked drawer in his office, although the former deputy says he doesn’t know how it got there. When a sergeant asked LaFrance in early January to return the handgun, LaFrance said he had already returned it and had the paperwork to prove it.

That turned out to be untrue, however, because the sergeant later discovered that another detective found the pistol in one of LaFrance’s unlocked drawers in December while looking for a case file.

LaFrance said at the pre-termination hearing he returned the weapon to the lab and had it locked in a secure cabinet.

• The investigation found LaFrance hadn’t put together paperwork and reports in a child molestation case in a timely manner. He was assigned the particular case on July 10, 2000 and interviewed the suspect, who confessed to the crime, on July 31. It ended up taking him more than two months to forward the case to the prosecutor’s Office after receiving a typed confession from the suspect.

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