The Washington State Patrol will handle an internal investigation of Bingen-White Salmon Police Department Officer Joshua Gines, who was recently charged with one count of alleged child molestation in the first degree, and one count of alleged incest in the second degree.
On March 3, the White Salmon City Council voted unanimously to approve spending up to $6,000 for the investigation. The WSP was chosen to avoid any "conflict of interest" charges.
"If there is going to be discipline, the investigation has to be done by a neutral party," explained BWSPD Police Chief Bruce Brending. "The Skamania County Sheriff's Office is the arresting agency, and the Klickitat County Sheriff's Office has worked closely with Officer Gines over the years. And obviously, the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department can't do the investigation without conflict."
Gines, who lives in Carson, is currently on paid administrative leave pending disposition of the charges against him.
White Salmon City Council member Bob Landgren said he didn't like the fact that the officer was still getting paid while the case is under investigation.
Brending pointed out that until there is an investigation, there was no effective way to determine how the city should proceed regarding Gines.
"Once we have the facts in hand, the ultimate decision will be made if there is discipline to be done," Brending said. "Officer Gines is on paid leave. The investigation must be done before we go into disciplinary mode."
Brending requested that the White Salmon City Council authorize the expenditure.
"It's not in the budget, so I hope the City Council moves it forward," he said. "The investigation will take approximately two weeks from the time we give WSP the go-ahead."
The city of White Salmon's attorney, Ken Woodrich, supported having the WSP conduct the inquest.
"I concur with Bruce," Woodrich said. "We have to do this the right way. It's not sufficient for the city to wait for disposition of the criminal action; that's just going to take too long. These cases are not pretty. Someone has to do a report professionally, and it has to be from someone we can rely on. I would encourage the council to proceed. It's a bitter pill to swallow, but it's needed."
Council member Mark Peppel asked Woodrich what would happen if the charges against Gines were dropped.
"The investigation would still be needed," Woodrich said. "This ultimately will be the evidence on whatever action we take."
Clinton Bryan, a member of the Bingen City Council who also serves on the Bingen-White Salmon Joint Police Committee, came to White Salmon's council meeting to read a letter of support for the inquest. Bryan also pointed out that Bingen will pay its share of the cost involved.
"We need to move forward with this," Bryan said.
White Salmon's City Council members voted to approve the measure 5-0.