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Jan. 20, 2021

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Court records: Former Myrtle Creek, Ore., police chief admits to child porn

The Columbian

ROSEBURG, Ore. — A former Myrtle Creek police chief arrested on child pornography charges made self-incriminating statements to investigators about downloading child pornography, court records show.

Investigators found at least five images of children being sexually abused or engaging in sexually explicit conduct on the computer of Leland D. Benson, the Roseburg News-Review reported.

Benson, 67, of Rice Hill, was arraigned Wednesday on five counts of first-degree encouraging child sex abuse and five counts of second-degree encouraging child sex abuse. He had been jailed on $750,000 bail before the arraignment, but Judge Julie Zuver agreed to release him without bail.

The state Justice Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force initiated the investigation in August, and Benson was arrested at his home Tuesday after investigators served a search warrant.

In a court document, task force special agent Page McBeth wrote that he began investigating shared digital files of child pornography. He said he found three partial files, which depicted children being sexually abused, from a computer address linked to Benson.

Efforts to reach Benson’s defense attorney, Andrew Johnson, for comment were unsuccessful.

Benson was the Myrtle Creek police chief for five months in 2000. At the time, he said if he continued working he risked losing pension benefits.

He had previously been a contract employee with the Douglas Interagency Narcotics Team to develop an anti-drug team. He also worked as a crime prevention specialist for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, according to a 2000 profile in The News-Review.

Benson entered law enforcement as a 20-year-old police cadet in California and in 1970 joined the Coos Bay Police Department, where he worked for 25 years before retiring for the first time. His assignments included directing Coos and Curry counties’ Interagency Narcotic Team for three years.

Benson moved to Rice Hill in 1996 and was recruited to help reorganize the Sutherlin Police Department, according to the 2000 profile. He retired again in 1997.

After working with the sheriff’s office, he became executive director of the American Cancer Society office in Roseburg before the office closed.