Gig Harbor Police Chief Mike Davis had had enough. For months, rumors circulating within his department suggested that Davis had lied under oath during the 2009 trial of one of his officers, Sgt. Matthew Dougil, who was charged with falsifying police records during a drug investigation.
Davis initially dismissed the rumors as “outlandish.” But he was riled after hearing from his boss, City Administrator Rob Karlinsey, in late January that the police guild had raised the perjury allegation again at a grievance meeting.
He asked Karlinsey to open an investigation. He later explained to Washington State Patrol investigators that if he hadn’t responded to the accusation, he essentially would have been agreeing with it.
“Ya know, it’s my integrity, it’s my character, I’ve got a 27 (year) career here, it’s my reputation we need to do something about it,” Davis said, according a copy of the 146-page investigation obtained by The News Tribune.
A deputy state attorney general cleared Davis of the allegations in a letter on March 31 following a month long WSP investigation.
But records show the festering wound the Dougil case left on the department and how it strained the relationship between guild leadership and Davis, who took the chief’s job in Gig Harbor in 2004 after 20 years with the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Department.
‘THE P WORD’
The documents are also provocative for what they don’t show. No formal guild complaint against Davis was filed related to the allegation. And there are conflicting views about whether anyone connected to the guild ever specifically accused the chief of perjury – what Karlinsey calls “using the P word” – at the grievance meeting, if at all.
The two state agencies involved in the investigation will not bill the city for their work. The News Tribune estimated the cost between $6,300 and $7,200, based on the number of hours provided by WSP investigators to conduct the investigation and the assistant attorney general to review it.
Karlinsey said the city is working to put the matter behind it and start the healing process. He said that he, Davis and Mayor Chuck Hunter have discussed ways to mend fences with the guild, including bringing in a facilitator.
He said the episode should not overshadow the work Gig Harbor police officers do daily to protect lives and property.
“We have our internal struggles, but I don’t want to lose sight of the bigger picture of what our cops do for the community,” Karlinsey said.
On Aug. 12, 2009, Davis testified as a prosecution witness in the trial of Dougil. The sergeant had been charged with two felonies and a misdemeanor for allegedly providing false information on two police reports and a search warrant affidavit later used to convict two men during a 2006 drug investigation.
Dougil used a confidential informant to purchase the drugs, and he wrote in the documents that he had searched the informant beforehand – an important step among drug officers to ensure a transaction isn’t tainted.
Fellow officers testified that the prior search never happened. Dougil blamed honest mistakes.
The jury acquitted Dougil, but the convictions against the two men were vacated. One of those men, as well as third man who was sent to drug court due to Dougil’s investigation, received financial settlements from the city totalling $220,000.
Davis testified that his department’s policy for searching arrested persons requires that officers of the same gender do the search. In fact, that restriction applies only to searching confidential informants. Gig Harbor’s policy on arrested persons requires officers to “conduct all searches in a legal manner consistent with the training they have received and in accordance with current law.”
Dougil later read the two policies on the stand, correcting the chief’s testimony.
Deputy prosecuting attorney Brian Leech later told investigators that Davis’ errant testimony wasn’t material to the case because an expert witness testified on how to conduct a proper search.
Dougil’s attorney, Brett Purtzer, told them it was material “because he was trying to show that the department was not running as smooth and organized as the state was trying to portray,” according to the State Patrol investigation.
After the acquittal, Davis demoted Dougil to officer for violations of department policies.
Davis, whom Karlinsey said was on vacation and unavailable for comment this week, acknowledged to investigators that he should have been more complete in his answer in the courtroom. But he denied committing perjury.
POLICY ‘DOES NOT EXIST’
The perjury allegation was apparently first insinuated in the latter half of 2009 in a 64-slide Power-Point presentation that Officer Dan Welch prepared in the wake of Dougil’s acquittal. Welch is president of the Gig Harbor Police Guild.
The presentation highlighted the problems with the criminal prosecution and was intended to save Dougil’s job. Davis told investigators Welch was “shopping around” the presentation to city leaders. Davis, Karlinsey and at least one City Council member viewed it.
Welch was out of town and unavailable to comment for this story.
One PowerPoint slide notes Davis’ testimony “under oath concerning GHPD Policy on opposite sex searches for a policy that does not exist.”
Both Karlinsey and Davis said they heard the perjury allegation raised a second time prior to the Jan. 21 grievance meeting, which was scheduled after Welch protested Davis’ decision not to promote him to sergeant. Welch maintained the chief’s decision was in retaliation for Welch’s support of Dougil.
Officer Michael Allen, Welch’s guild representative who attended the meeting, told investigators that the perjury allegation “was a rumor that was floating” around the department.
At the police station, he said, “rumors float like there’s no tomorrow.”
Allen declined comment for this story.
Davis attended the first part of the grievance meeting but had to leave because of another commitment. Allen told investigators perjury was never brought up, but that the guild attorney, Sean Lemoine, mentioned something about a lack of confidence in the chief.
Welch told investigators that Lemoine might have used the word “perjury” because he was irritated and frustrated over the direction of the meeting. But Lemoine told The News Tribune that neither he nor anyone else accused the chief of perjury at the meeting and the guild didn’t request an investigation. He declined further comment. (He also declined an interview request by the Washington State Patrol during its investigation.)
Karlinsey said he recalled Lemoine “using the P word.” Although no complaint was filed, Karlinsey treated the verbal allegation as a complaint.
“If they raised it several times, don’t you think the expectation is for us to look into it?” Karlinsey said Friday, adding, “They rung the bell, and the bell couldn’t be unrung.”
On Jan. 31, Mayor Hunter asked the State Patrol to investigate the perjury allegation after being briefed on Davis’ request.
On Feb. 2, the day before the agency agreed in writing to take the case, someone leaked the information to the news media, prompting the city to issue a statement verifying that a complaint against Davis had been received and an investigator would review the allegations. There were no further details.
The Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office declined to review the investigation because of a potential conflict of interest: Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist, then chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney, had testified during the Dougil trial.
The investigation then went to state lawyers. Assistant Attorney General John Hillman reviewed it and declined to file charges against Davis.
“The trial record reflects that Chief Davis answered the questions put to him as best he could,” Hill-man wrote. “There is no evidence that he knowingly offered false testimony.”
Guild members didn’t directly answer when asked specifically by State Patrol investigators whether Davis perjured himself.
Welch told investigations he was “way too close” to the case and Davis’ testimony was somewhere between not knowing the policy and perjury. Allen said he didn’t know, that he wasn’t in the courtroom at the time, and that he hadn’t read the transcripts.
And Dougil himself, who pointed out Davis’ erroneous testimony to his lawyer during the trial, told investigators he didn’t believe the chief had committed perjury.
“I actually think it’s, um, just kind of an incomprehensible thing to accuse a police officer of after having gone through it.”