Fired veteran deputy accused of misconduct

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

LaFrance was the subject of a seven-month internal investigation after officers found evidence key to criminal investigations in the trunk of his cruiser.

A 40-page summary of the investigation also accused LaFrance of failing to respond to orders that he quickly and efficiently forward reports to the county Prosecutor’s Office.

The report also said he disregarded orders to appropriately maintain case records, paperwork and key pieces of evidence.

Investigators accused LaFrance of sometimes being “less than candid” in explaining why he wasn’t completing cases and why he 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,” Cline said. “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.”

The findings of the internal investigation were discussed during a Nov. 13 pre-termination hearing, at which LaFrance was given the opportunity to formally respond to the report’s findings.

The investigation and subsequent hearing addressed 136 violations of codes of conduct, policies and procedures. Of those, 116 were sustained.

According to the report, LaFrance’s “failures involved skills and responsibilities that any newly trained deputy possessed ... These are not specialized skills, but basic skills possessed by all newly trained deputies.”

The report also accused LaFrance of “dereliction of duty and lack of candor.”

LaFrance worked on several cases in the detectives’ division of the Sheriff’s Office from mid-1999 until December 2000.

LaFrance apparently first came under suspicion on Oct. 24, 2000, when he was informed that he would be reassigned to patrol duties beginning Dec. 15.

On Nov. 6, 2000, LaFrance was asked to turn over cases he hadn’t completed and clean out his office by Nov. 10.

By Dec. 13, his supervisors sent him another e-mail, requesting a response. They also asked LaFrance to turn in overtime slips before transferring.

Two days later, LaFrance responded that he would clean up his office that evening. He didn’t, and other Sheriff’s Office personnel cleaned out his office to make room for another detective.

By Jan. 30, LaFrance had been suspended for two days for failure to turn in overtime slips. He still hadn’t turned pending cases over to other detectives, according to the report.

The detectives’ division again ordered LaFrance to hand over all the cases he hadn’t concluded. A similar order was issued on Feb. 5, with a Feb. 13 deadline.

When officers searched LaFrance’s cruiser on Feb. 14 and Feb. 15, they recovered the case material in question, according to the investigation.

In addition to finding evidence in LaFrance’s cruiser, investigators said:

• LaFrance allegedly bungled a child molestation investigation to which he was assigned. Kitsap County prosecutors were concerned with how he handled a search warrant in the case. Some charges were reduced or dropped because of those errors.

• Investigators also were concerned with how LaFrance handled a child pornography case. They said pertinent reports weren’t submitted in a timely manner to a prosecutor’s office, and a VHS tape considered evidence in the case 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 said he didn’t know how it got there. When a sergeant asked LaFrance to return the handgun in early January, LaFrance said he had already returned it and had the paperwork to prove it.

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 compiled paperwork and reports in a child molestation case in a timely manner. He was assigned the case on July 10, 2000, and interviewed the suspect (who confessed to the crime) on July 31. It took him more than two months after receiving a typed confession from the suspect to forward the case to the Prosecutor’s Office.

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