The Lake Oswego Review
US and World News provided by Reuters

Printer-friendly version     Email story link

Crossing the Line • ‘Cocaine cowboys’ avoid scrutiny

Part two of a special report on police conduct

(news photo)

When he left the Washington County Sheriff’s Office 16 years ago, then-Deputy Darryl Wrisley signed a deal sealing allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman while on duty.

He took a $20,000 payment and left his career earning $2,740 a month in December 1993. In February 1994, he began working as a non-sworn, community-service officer in Lake Oswego, earning less to enforce city codes.

He left behind a fast-paced life.

Once belonging to a tight-knit group of officers who worked Portland-area drug cases, Wrisley’s former job working narcotics for the sheriff’s office was part of a nationwide love affair with dope-busting cops. At the time, politics were routing mad sums of federal money to narcotics programs around the country. And while the war on drugs was in full swing, Americans were glued to television shows like Miami Vice.

For police who worked narcotics, like Wrisley, their own drug was adrenaline.

Before leaving the sheriff’s office, his job involved keeping close tabs on unsavory informants and dealers, writing search warrants and busting down doors. He worked in teams of officers that bought dope in stealthy undercover operations as nearby surveillance crews watched.

While that life unraveled for Wrisley, after he was accused of sexually assaulting former dispatcher Kay Vandagriff while delivering a raffle prize to her home, the police officers around him took sides.

This story is part of a series examining conduct by local police officers. On Feb. 11, 2008, a former Lake Oswego police officer, after a feud with the city, filed a formal complaint with the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training. The complaint took aim at Terry Timeus, now chief of police in West Linn, and Darryl Wrisley, a lieutenant in the Lake Oswego Police Department. West Linn hired an investigator who found little reason for concern. This newspaper’s investigation of the same complaint, however, found that officials in the Washington County Sheriff’s Office determined Wrisley sexually assaulted a woman while on duty as a deputy there in 1992. It also found that Timeus, a long-time friend, helped Wrisley to salvage his career while the law enforcement community buzzed with talk about the incident. The name of the alleged victim is printed with her permission.

Wrisley denied Vandagriff’s allegations. He still denies them today.

Though he was never indicted for a crime, an internal investigation by the Washington County sheriff’s office concluded that Vandagriff told the truth about being sexually assaulted by Wrisley and he was fired. After fighting to return to work for nearly a year through a grievance process, Wrisley reached a settlement in which he was reinstated for a day, allowed to resign and paid $20,000. Through the arrangement, Vandagriff’s allegations were sealed.


Rockin’ and roommates

Documents obtained by this newspaper, as well as interviews with current and former law enforcement officers and officials, show how Wrisley was able to remain a police officer afterward.

He did so not only with help from a police officers’ union and laws that make it hard to fire police, but also with assistance from well-connected friends, including Terry Timeus — then a corporal in the Lake Oswego Police Department and now chief of the West Linn Police Department — and Dan Duncan, then a patrol sergeant and now chief of the Lake Oswego Police Department.

Rockin’ through the ’90s

Experts such as Neal Trautman, director of the National Institute of Ethics, said the tendency for police officers to stick together is not exceptional or unlike the ties that bind any other group of people, particular people connected through stressful environments. But Trautman also said such groups tend to ostracize members who go against the grain and, in effect, create settings where peer loyalty becomes more important than ethical correctness.

As peers took sides in Washington County, both Wrisley and Vandagriff fought for ground in the law enforcement community. Some officers vouched for Wrisley to stay in law enforcement and characterized Vandagriff in an unflattering light, others sympathized with her and called for Wrisley’s ouster.


• Click here to read the LOPD background report on Wrisley.

• Click here to read the December 1993 federal lawsuit.

• Click here to read Wrisley’s job application.

Before he faced a grand jury April 15, 1993, on charges of attempted rape, attempted sodomy, sex abuse and official misconduct, Wrisley told the Oregon State Police detective who investigated him that he relied on a “good, close friend” for support during the ordeal, describing an officer he later verified as Timeus.

The two friends met while assigned to a regional task force called Regional Organized Crime Narcotics, or simply “Rockin’ ” by officers fond of its acronym: ROCN.

In the early 1990s, the task force was, indeed, rockin.’ Pooling resources from Metro-area police departments to combat the Portland drug scene, the task force took on big drug cases, running high-risk, undercover operations to put more dope on the table than any single agency in the region.

It was a young man’s life, said Timeus.

Off the clock, former ROCN detectives say they cut loose with booze and got rowdy around town. Their lifestyle was a stormy one, filled with chasing women and riding motorcycles. Wild nights were a hallmark of the era.

“We were running and gunning back then and it was cocaine cowboys all over in Portland,” said Bob Lowe, a fellow narcotics officer at the time, now retired. “Everybody was flying around chasing bad guys. It was a pretty fast-paced life then.”

Lowe remembers at the time, Timeus’s wild personality meshed well with Wrisley’s, and the two men frequently hit the town.

“That’s probably a combo that never should have been allowed in public together,” Lowe joked. “Especially when they’ve been drinking.”

‘Totally out of character’

Timeus left narcotics work first. On loan after breaking a key case in Lake Oswego, he served almost three years on ROCN before being sent back when Commander Chuck Fessler, now police chief in King City, spotted signs of stress.

Fessler said he heard concerns from other officers that Timeus was socializing with informants after hours, drinking with them off the clock and spending too much off-duty time in the company of female informants. Fessler sent Timeus back to Lake Oswego, hoping time away from drug enforcement would help him steady his career.

Once back in Lake Oswego, Timeus was immediately made corporal. He and Wrisley were roommates in Gladstone at the time, just a few blocks away from Clackamette Lake.

Though it would be another eight months before Vandagriff would accuse Wrisley of sexually assaulting her while on duty, the two friends would remain close. As Vandagriff’s allegations unfolded, Timeus lent Wrisley an ear and support.

Both Vandagriff and Wrisley would tell police they met at a conference hosted by the Oregon Narcotics Enforcement Association Dec. 10, 1992. Both said Wrisley came to her house the next day to deliver a raffle prize.

But accounts to police would differ when afterward Vandagriff phoned Wrisley’s supervisor with accusations that he had sexually assaulted her inside her home. She told police Wrisley touched her bare breasts with his hands and mouth, then attempted to remove her pants and sodomize her orally.

When the allegations were made, Timeus said he was shocked.

“He told me of the issues in Washington County and I said, ‘How could that possibly happen?’” said Timeus. “The behavior that he was charged with was totally out of character for the Darryl Wrisley I knew.”

He said he instead knew Wrisley to be a hardworking, reliable cop, dependable on the job and a fast learner.

Though Washington County Sheriff’s Office fired Wrisley after Vandagriff’s complaint, Timeus said a grand jury’s decision not to charge him with a crime carried weight.

Though Wrisley was still fighting for his job at the sheriff’s office, Timeus recommended Wrisley for a job as a community service officer in Lake Oswego in October 1993.

In his job application to the Lake Oswego Police Department, Wrisley disclosed the allegations made by Vandagriff and his firing from the sheriff’s office.

“I was falsely accused of sexually assaulting a female. Under advise [sic] of my attorney I did not give a statement and was terminated from my position as a deputy sheriff. This case was taken before a grand jury who returned with a no true bill,” he wrote.

Wrisley also noted, “Cpl. Timeus in your office may be able to provide info.”

Other recommendations for the job included Duncan, a friend. Wrisley’s former partner at the sheriff’s office, Rich Hildreth, also recommended him for the job, along with a local pastor and law enforcement officials from Portland, Washington and Multnomah counties.

1 | 2 Next Page >>

Digg Del.icio.us
StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumbleupon Reddit

    Contact Us Classifieds US & World News Sustainable Life Sports Features Opinion News