Fake card identified Granite Falls sergeant as chief

GRANITE FALLS — A Granite Falls police sergeant was demoted in August after city officials discovered that he had an identification card saying he was the police chief.

The fake identification even had the city’s authentic hologram seal.

Cops were called in from the Mountlake Terrace and Stillaguamish police departments to conduct an internal investigation for Granite Falls. In the final report, they wrote that they believed the sergeant may have committed felony forgery, according to documents obtained by The Herald under state public records laws.

Even so, the case never was forwarded to prosecutors. That was at the mayor’s insistence, the former police chief in Granite Falls says.

Patrick White, the Granite Falls sergeant who was found with the bogus identification, was demoted to patrol officer and given two weeks’ suspension without pay. White, 46, returned to duty in September and is appealing his discipline.

Investigators found no evidence that White used the card for illegal activity.

They shared their findings with city leaders during a time of upheaval at the Granite Falls Police Department. Mayor Haroon Saleem fired police chief Dennis Taylor earlier this month.

Saleem did not respond to requests for comment.

Last week, City Clerk Darla Reese and White both said they could not discuss the matter while his appeal is pending.

White also was found to have been dishonest and insubordinate, according to the documents. A review of his work in recent years showed that he failed to file 46 percent of his reports — essentially half of his work.

Information regarding his conduct was forwarded to Snohomish County prosecutors for consideration regarding his ability to serve as a potential witness in court. That’s a necessary step, because prosecutors by law must alert defense attorneys to questions regarding police officer credibility.

Police departments in Washington have found it increasingly difficult and expensive to off-load troubled cops. The issue has drawn local scrutiny in recent months as officers’ issues were detailed in a Mountlake Terrace police discipline tell-all memo, and in an ongoing Lake Stevens murder prosecution.

In Granite Falls, White reportedly told investigators that the chief identification card was supposed to be “a novelty, a kind of fun thing.” He told others he needed the card because he sometimes served as the acting chief.

A missing badge for the police chief’s hat also was found in White’s patrol car. He denied knowing how the chief’s hat badge ended up there, according to the records.

During the investigation, 11 witness statements also were found at White’s workspace that never were filed or followed up on, the documents show. Most of them were believed to be for White’s cases.

The documents also say White ignored and violated orders from Taylor. This included White refusing to return his patrol car while he was on leave. White also allegedly threatened to bankrupt the city, and to pull over city staff and give them traffic tickets.

In a March 25 letter from Saleem to Taylor, the mayor said White’s threats caused him “deep concern for the safety and well being of City employees, for myself and for my family.”

Saleem fired Taylor on Oct. 2 and hasn’t provided a reason. Taylor said the mayor told him not to forward the White case to prosecutors because such an action could be viewed as retaliation against the officer.

“All decisions regarding White’s discipline were made by the mayor,” Taylor said last week.

In an Aug. 22 letter to White, Saleem said the officer’s explanation for how he ended up in possession of a fake chief identification card was “muddled and did not serve to exonerate you.” The mayor wrote that he considered firing White. He also wrote that creating the card was “extremely poor judgment at best and possibly criminal forgery at worst.”

White has been a Granite Falls police officer since 1993 and worked as a reserve officer starting in 1990.

With Taylor gone, the city is revisiting the idea of disbanding the department, which has four police officers and 10 reserve officers. Then the city would contract for police services with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, an option used by several local cities, including Stanwood, Sultan and Snohomish, in order to save money.

The Granite Falls City Council voted on Oct. 16 to give the idea a fresh look.

As of last week, the sheriff’s office had not heard from anyone at the city about renewing negotiations, sheriff’s spokeswoman Shari Ireton said.

“We look forward to any opportunity to partner with a Snohomish County community,” Ireton said.

Saleem’s term expires Dec. 31. He is not seeking re-election, citing health problems.

Joshua Golston and Edward Lee are vying for the mayor’s job in the Nov. 5 general election.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449, rking@heraldnet.com.

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