Personnel file shows pattern of early reprimands, recent accolades for Olympia officer involved in May shooting

Olympia Police Officer Ryan Donald — under scrutiny since shooting two suspects in May — has been reprimanded during his three-year career with the department, including in 2013 when supervisors wrote in a memo that Donald put himself in situations in which using force would become necessary.

A written warning from November 2012 also shows that Donald once arrested the wrong person.

But records from Donald’s personnel file also include commendations painting a picture of a dedicated officer who supervisors say has a strong work ethic and commitment to the job — especially in the past year.

Donald has been under scrutiny since May 21, when he shot half brothers Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin on Cooper Point Road. The two men were suspected of stealing beer from the west Olympia Safeway, and Donald shot them following an alleged altercation.

A task force of local law enforcement agencies investigated the shooting and are awaiting crime lab results before compiling a report that will be sent to the Thurston County prosecutor.

Donald has hired Olympia attorney Saxon Rodgers to represent him, but Rodgers declined to comment on his client’s police department personnel file when contacted by The Olympian.

For the most part, Donald’s personnel file is typical, said Olympia Police Lt. Paul Lower. He said many officers receive reprimands early in their careers, and department supervisors work hard to correct any issues.

“It’s rather normal for an officer to make a few mistakes in the beginning,” Lower said. “It’s our job as managers to get in front of it right away and correct them.”

These mistakes are dealt with through a series of actions, depending on how serious the mistakes are. After smaller mistakes, an officer will receive a verbal warning, Lower said. The next step is a written warning. For more serious errors, an officer can be demoted, placed on unpaid leave, or fired.

When Donald mistakenly arrested the wrong person on Nov. 28, 2012, he was issued a written warning.

“Officer Ryan Donald arrested a person for a warrant. He failed to confirm the arrestee’s identification upon arrest. While attempting to book the person into jail, Officer Donald realized that he had arrested the wrong person. ... Officer Donald transported the person home,” the warning reads.

Lower said department supervisors initiated disciplinary action after they learned about the incident — and that the person who was mistakenly arrested did not file a complaint.

“There doesn’t have to be a complaint for us to issue a warning,” Lower said.

According to records, Donald was counseled by a supervisor following the incident, and he was told that any similar actions in the future could result in “escalation of corrective action.”

On April 13, 2013, Sgt. Rich Allen sent a memo to a department supervisor expressing concerns about how Donald handled an altercation at a west Olympia apartment complex. Allen wrote that he had two concerns about the incident:

“Officer Donald did not wait for backup, and placed himself in a position where the use of force was inevitable. ... Once Officer Donald was in that position, he made the decision to go ‘hands on’ with the aggressive suspect, exposing himself to attack from the other three suspects that were present,” he wrote.

According to the memo, two of the suspects had to be “placed on the ground” during the incident, and one of the suspects was injured as a result.

Allen wrote that he talked to Donald about his mistakes and that he would continue to monitor the officer’s behavior.

Donald’s personnel file contains two other reprimands: one for improperly handling evidence while booking a suspect into jail and another for improperly writing a report.

He began receiving accolades from department personnel at the beginning of this year. In January, Sgt. Dan Duncan wrote that Donald has a strong work ethic, and in February he commended Donald for arresting a man on several felony charges.

In March, Duncan commended Donald for his work on the graveyard shift.

“Officer Donald was the most active officer on the shift throughout the first quarter of graveyard. I appreciate his committed work ethic and strong performance throughout the quarter,” Duncan wrote.

On May 13, he was given an Olympia police Commendation Award for his “proactive and innovative” work investigating a series of bicycle thefts and for his work on an Olympia High School burglary case.

Lower said that this pattern is typical for officers: They make some mistakes in their first two years, and in year three they become more comfortable in the job.

“That’s when a lot of our officers really start to shine,” Lower said.

Department supervisors also approved Donald’s request to carry a second on-duty weapon, commonly referred to as a backup gun. Lower said the request to carry an additional weapon is common, and that between 25 and 30 percent of Olympia officers carry a backup gun.

Officers provide their own backup guns. In August 2012, Donald’s request to carry a .380-caliber Smith and Wesson Bodyguard was approved.

Personnel files also show that during his three years with the Olympia Police Department, Donald has undergone dozens of hours of training. He completed training for TASER deployment, spike strip deployment, driving, defensive tactics and crisis intervention.

Lower said officers participate in training days every month.

“We provide as much training to our officers as we can,” Lower said. “We know it’s important.”