Saturday, February 2, 2008
Officer William Bergin: Killer, Liar, Perpetrator, Convicted Criminal
from Portland IndyMedia
On March 8th, 2007, a year and a half after he gunned down Fouad Kaady in the streets of Sandy, officer William Bergin had another kind of showdown, in another kind of town... A town where police officers are not so quick on the trigger, and not so shy on the truth.
Bergin, a violent and angry man, showed up at the home of his former girlfriend, in the wee hours of the morning, around 3am. He was drunk, he was frightening, and he was despicable. His ex girlfriend was terrified. With a shaking voice, she called the Sherwood police in tears, requesting assistance. When the police arrived at her home, they found the drunk and belligerent Bergin, and arrested him. He was charged with DUI, and taken downtown. So far as I know, despite the presence of intoxicants in his system, and despite his bizarre behavior, no one tasered him, and no one shot him. Apparently, Sherwood is a more enlightened town than Sandy.
According to the police report detailing this disturbing event, Bergin initially refused to take a breath test to determine the alcohol content in his bloodstream. He was belligerent and non-cooperative with the Sherwood police, at one point demanding that they just let him go, just drop him off at detox. He told them that he has done that for other officers in his situation many times. (An interesting revelation, to be sure.) He also made it clear to them that, in Sandy, cops do not treat cops so shabbily, due to the "old boys" network that we've all suspected but never heard from the horses' mouth before. To their credit, the Sherwood officers informed him that, as this is not Sandy, they would be expected to actually do their jobs here.
Mr. Bergin demanded that he be allowed to call his attorney. He was given access to privacy and a telephone to make his one phone call, but he elected not to call an attorney. Instead, he called, of all people, his ex girlfriend. Yes, the very one whose home he was arrested in front of earlier in the night. He left a voice mail, thankfully, so that there is a record of the entire call. He told the woman that he hoped she was happy with herself, and that "I'm done." He said that this incident would mean the end of his career, that he would be fired, and again, "I'm done." (One would have thought so. But that's not how they do things out in Sandy. Not when you're a good ol' boy.) He then told her that, as soon as he gets out of jail, and as soon as he could get a gun in his hand, he intended to "put a bullet in my head."
But he did not lose his job, and he did not kill himself. Instead, Bergin's miraculously bullet-free head can still be seen, these days, propping up his police hat in the streets of Sandy. Because, despite his violent behavior, despite his inability to follow the laws he is supposed to be upholding, and despite Bergin's admission that he readily skirts the law according to who the perpetrator is, chief Harold Skelton thinks he's "the right stuff" for the Sandy PD. It cannot be argued that Skelton did not know about this incident. Because, while they were still holding Bergin in their jail, the Sherwood police department contacted the Sandy police department to let Sandy know that they had one of their "good ol' boys" in their pen. And it was Chief Skelton himself who returned the call. He actually had the nerve to ask for leniency for Bergin. He told them that Bergin was simply "going through a rough patch." He then told them, in order to plead his case, that Bergin had been having severe emotional difficulties ever since... a shooting incident.
In other words, for a year and a half after Bergin brutally tortured and then killed an unarmed, bleeding accident victim, he has been having "emotional problems." And Skelton, the chief of the Sandy police, knew of Bergin's mental health problems all that time. ...and he kept him armed and out on the streets of Sandy anyway.
Bergin's arrest happened just shy of a year ago. The Kaady killing was nearly two and a half years ago. And yet, Bergin has kept his job as a police officer. What can they be thinking out there? Is there nothing that the citizens of Sandy can do to protect themselves from such a violent and unstable man?
As I reported yesterday, domestic violence is an enormous problem among police officers. Sometimes, this epidemic of violence makes the news, as when Tacoma police chief David Brame shot his estranged wife and himself in front of their two small children in 2003. Usually, however, this abuse is shrouded in secrecy. As Bergin's abuse has been, until now.
Police officers who abuse their spouses and partners are an especially dangerous subset of the population, because they have the means to stalk, harass, and oppress their victims more than ordinary citizens. They have access to all the tools of law enforcement to intrude upon their victim's private lives, they have weapons, and they have friends who can help them evade responsibility for their actions. They have first-name relationships with judges, prosecutors, and fellow officers, and are often not held accountable for their abuse. It's been very difficult to get police officers to recognize domestic violence as a criminal matter at all. When the abuse involves a fellow officer, they are even less likely to consider the incident to be a crime, no matter how serious.
It's a very serious breach of the public trust when an officer who has been a perpetrator of domestic violence is allowed to continue to work in a position of authority, carrying a badge and a gun. How are we to expect him to react when he is expected to respond to a domestic violence call? Will he take the crime seriously? Or will he identify with the perpetrator?
It is also a serious breach of the public trust for an officer to treat defendants differently according to who they are, and who they know. Justice itself depends upon all people being treated equally in the eyes of the law. Bergin, in his drunken stupor, let it slip from his mouth that, in Sandy anyway, this is not how things work. One would hope that a revelation such as this one would lead to some house cleaning out there. (It's high time that Chief Skelton, and all his good ol' boys, be swept out of Dodge. If anyone is awake over at the Sandy city hall, one would think that some kind of action would be taken once this information reaches the public.)
But these revelations call into question more than just the character and judgment of officer Bergin or chief Skelton. They also call into question everything that Bergin said in his statement regarding the killing of Fouad Kaady. As damning as his own words were in that statement, it is clear that there is much more to that story than he was willing to tell. It's also pretty clear that, by his own admission, he is not above bending the law to protect fellow officers, and he expects his fellow officers to do the same for him. So the places where officer Bergin's and Deputy Willard's statements regarding the Kaady killing differ from the statements of the many witnesses to that event become even more suspect.