From the Sandy Post
A Sandy police officer was arrested for driving under the influence of intoxicants while off-duty in Sherwood, recent court proceedings revealed.
Sherwood officers took William J. Bergin, 26, into custody early on March 8, 2007, after he showed up to his ex-girlfriend’s house drunk. According to police reports, he then repeatedly lied to officers, refused a breath test and threatened to hurt himself.
The information surfaced several weeks ago, during depositions for the federal lawsuit contesting the fatal police shooting of Fouad Kaady in 2005 – of which Bergin was a part. Kaady family attorney Michelle Burrows’ law office said the information wasn’t entirely important to their case, however, it was used as a test to see if Bergin would lie about what happened.
At about 3:21 a.m. March 8, 2007, Amy Lynn Seely called Sherwood Police in tears, telling them that her ex-boyfriend, Bergin, had showed up at her house, unwanted, according to police reports. Bergin was off duty at the time, on personal leave.
Seely told authorities that Bergin probably was there to collect some of his items, since he was in the process of moving out of the Bedstraw Terrace home, but she didn’t feel comfortable with him there at such a late hour. She said he had been having emotional problems since the 2005 shooting.
When police arrived at the house, they found Bergin on his knees in the garage, trying to get inside the house by picking the door lock with a screwdriver.
“It was apparent to me that Mr. Bergin was likely intoxicated,” wrote Officer Randy Johnson. “(His) eyes were watery and bloodshot and his movements were slow and lethargic.”
For at least the next hour, Bergin had trouble keeping his balance, and officers caught him several times as he stumbled.
Bergin told the Sherwood officers that he was at the house to get some of his personal belongings and tools.
When Officer Jason Newton asked Bergin how much he had to drink, Bergin replied, “I don’t know, I had a few drinks downtown,” later specifying that he had four drinks at Rock Bottom and Kell’s Pub.
He admitted that after having four drinks in downtown Portland, he drove 18 miles to Sherwood. Then he said he drank two or three more beers in the garage.
He changed his story a couple times, the report stated.
“I asked him why he lied to me,” Officer Jason Newton wrote. “He told me that he was a cop and knew the routine.”
Bergin refused to perform voluntary field sobriety tests, saying, “No, I am a cop; I am not doing (a) test.” He said that as someone who nabs about three DUII drivers a week in Sandy, he knew the drill.
Bergin’s behavior stuck out to Newton.
“As we were talking, Mr. Bergin seemed to be having severe mood swings,” he wrote. “He would be talking with me one minute and then the next minute he would be crying and mumbling to the point where I had to keep asking him to calm down …”
According to the report, Bergin started crying, mentioning that he had shot Kaady.
“I informed him that I could (imagine) that he is having a hard time, but I had to do my job,” Newton wrote.
About an hour and a half after police were dispatched, Bergin agreed to take a breath test, and registered a blood-alcohol content of 0.12 percent, above the legal limit of 0.08.
At the Sherwood Police Department, Bergin asked to call his attorney alone in his holding cell. When given the chance, however, he decided to call Seely instead.
Officer Johnson, still at Seely’s house, was about to clear the scene, when Seely ran up to him.
“She was crying and told me she just got three or four calls coming from Bill,” Johnson said.
After Seely told Bergin their relationship was over, Bergin hung up the phone. He then called two more times, leaving chilling voicemail messages.
On one, Bergin said, “I hope you are happy because I’m dead!” On another he said, “Apparently you don’t care, I love you anyways. I’m done; I lost my job, my career, this is the last straw!”
He ended the message by saying, “I will get access to a gun and as soon as I am released I’m going to put a bullet in my head.”
Bergin later revealed that he was taking the antidepressants Trazodone and Celexa, as well as Wellbutrin.
(Recent studies have revealed that those antidepressants increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior.)
As Newton completed Bergin’s paperwork, Bergin asked him if he could just go to Detox. He then told Newton that he “has pulled over plenty of drunken cops, and has given them a ride home,” the report stated.
“He told me that in Sandy it is still the ‘good old boy’ system, and he could just go to Detox or home,” Newton wrote. “I informed him that I had a job to do and that it was nothing personal.”
Sandy Police Chief Harold Skelton denied that claim, stating, “Drunk people will say anything.”
Bruce Mowry, an attorney representing the city, wondered if Bergin was responsible for what he said when he was drunk, and said that it’s important to consider the context of the statements.
Bergin was lodged at the Washington County Jail, and his bail was set at $3,710 – the standard for misdemeanor crimes. He also paid $408 in court fees.
The officer opted to enter a one-year diversion program. Diversion, a program designed for first-time offenders, allows lawbreakers to enter into counseling and/or community service work. At the end of diversion, the case is dismissed.
Bergin’s diversion ends April 9.
Chief Skelton found himself in uncharted territory when he was notified of the incident in the middle of the night. Flabbergasted at what he said was one of the department’s worst personnel crises, he consulted others to come up with an appropriate response to Bergin’s actions.
“I checked with other chiefs who have had similar incidents, as well as legal counsel and labor attorneys, and they suggested things to help,” Skelton said. That advice led him to levy a punishment he said was “probably the most harsh any of us have faced in the 30-plus years I’ve been here.”
City officials wouldn’t specify what the punishment entailed, calling it a private personnel matter.
“It was an off-duty incident, but the city responded appropriately,” said Bruce Mowery, an attorney representing the police department in several lawsuits. “It was not ignored; if anyone thinks the city ignored it, they’re sadly mistaken.”
Sandy Mayor Linda Malone would not comment on the incident, due to its connection to the ongoing Kaady case.
Eriks Gabliks, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, said that when it comes to disciplinary action for officers arrested for DUII, there is no norm.
“It’s very much handled on an agency-by-agency basis,” Gabliks said. Punishments range from immediate dismissal to reassignment, and everything in between. It all depends on what occurred during the incident and each department’s policies and procedures.
“We understand that officers make mistakes, make poor decisions in their life,” Gabliks said. “And DUII, unfortunately, is one of those for some people.”
He said an officer’s certification is not typically at risk for a first-time DUII offender.
“You’ll never hear us say we stand behind officers that drink and drive,” Gabliks said. “We don’t stand behind inappropriate decisions.”
Burrows, the Kaady attorney, says Bergin’s punishment didn’t go far enough.
“He should be fired,” Burrows said. “If not for the shooting, for the DUII.
“My guess is that after I talked to him, this (the shooting) has completely traumatized him,” Burrows continued. “He told me he has a hard time pulling people over. I don’t think he can function anymore; he shouldn’t be a police officer.”
The city disagrees. They say Bergin has got his life back together, and is a productive, upbeat, rehabilitated member of the department.
“He went to court, and took responsibility for what he did,” he said, noting that Bergin also wrote a letter of apology to the entire department. “He did everything and beyond what the courts asked him to do. Before he came back, he was thoroughly examined, and was 100 percent fit for duty.”
Bergin has reportedly given up alcohol, not touching a drop since his arrest. He recently was given the task of being the field-training officer for new police recruit Lewis Sytsma.
“If I didn’t think he was stable, I would not have given him that responsibility,” Skelton said. Although dealing with a disorder that has left many officers “surly,” Skelton said, Bergin has shown himself to be positive and competent.
City officials believe that the use of this incident in the Kaady case is an attempt to discredit the entire Sandy Police Department.
“Why would someone want to resurrect an off-duty incident that happened about a year ago?” Mowery asked. “It must be a psychological ploy, hoping to somehow upset and destroy Bill Bergin … and take advantage of it somehow.”
Skelton says that while the department takes the incident very seriously, he also understands the level of stress Bergin has dealt with since the September 2005 shooting.
“It’s been real hard for him,” the chief said. “I know a lot of people who have been involved in shootings, and everyone says it changed them.”
Some of those officers, he said, went on and finished their careers, but others – about 80 percent – ended their career in law enforcement within five years of a shooting.
“Bill Bergin is a victim of a tragic scenario that he had limited participation in, with quickly unfolding events, and not a lot of time for reflection,” Mowery said. “Some people may have handled it better than he did, but he got help, and it’s worked well. He’s got his life back together.”
“You know, he’s been going through some hard times,” Mayor Malone said of Bergin. “The chief is responsible for determining whether an officer is fit for duty. He has made that call, and at some point we’ll decide whether that call was the right call.”