On April 18, Sgt. Bruce Brending of the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department voluntarily checked in to an inpatient alcohol rehabilitation program in Yakima. He is expected to be there for treatment until mid-May.
"All I can do is confirm it. He is in inpatient treatment," said Police Chief Ned Kindler. "He has taken responsibility for it and is getting treatment for his disease. I think he'll be a better person for it."
The treatment program comes in the wake of the March 19 arrest of Brending in Hood River County. On that date, Brending was pulled over and charged with driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII).
In a March 29 appearance in Hood River Circuit Court, Brending entered a guilty plea to the DUII charge.
Judge Paul Crowley sentenced Brending to 12 months of probation. The court record shows that the judge also ordered Brending to meet several conditions, including:
Perform 80 hours of community service;
Pay $1,000 in fines;
Meet with a Victims' Impact Panel, where victims of drunk drivers share their stories; and
Drivers' license is suspended for one year.
Kindler noted that the city had not yet heard officially about the suspension of the driver's license.
"We still don't know for sure what the ramifications are," Kindler said. "He does have, like any other citizen, the right to apply for an occupational license."
An occupational license would allow Brending to drive while on the job.
The judge's order does allow Brending to possess firearms.
White Salmon Mayor Roger Holen said he could not comment on the matter.
"On the record, there is nothing I can say. One, it's a personnel matter; and two, it's medical information," Holen said. "He's on a medical leave of absence for the next few weeks."
Holen said he believed the decision to keep the matter private was justified, noting that the incident happened on Brending's own time, as a private citizen.
Bingen Mayor Brian Prigel said he supported the way Holen has handled the matter.
"There is a fine line between personnel issues and the need for the public to know," said Prigel.
As far as potential disciplinary action, Kindler said that was an internal matter.
"I won't comment on that," he said.
Kindler pointed out that Brending has never had a problem with alcohol while on the job.
"To my knowledge, it has never been on the job. I'm around him quite a bit, and I've never seen it and never had anybody come to me about something like that," Kindler explained. "From what I've seen, it has never affected his job. He's a good employee, and we want to keep good employees."
Members of the White Salmon City Council were supportive of Brending.
"It's very unfortunate. But we're human, and we all make mistakes," said Jeff Bruce.
"As the chair of the committee that handles the Police Department, I can say we're all behind Bruce 100 percent," said Penny White Morris. "He was up front about it, and owned up to it to the judge."
Prigel said he believes Brending deserves the benefit of the doubt.
"Provided he follows through with his commitments and gets the help he needs, we should support him," Prigel said.
Brending will be back from the treatment facility sometime in mid-May, and is expected to rejoin the police force after that.
Holen said the Police Department will schedule around Brending's absence until his return.
Brending, who was recently honored as the city of White Salmon's top employee for the year 2000, has served as a police office in White Salmon since July 1989. He was promoted to sergeant in September 2000.