A Vancouver police officer was fired for lying in District Court and to his superiors about an affair he had had with a woman who he met on a civilian ride-along, according to internal affairs documents obtained by The Columbian.
Leonard Gabriel, a 12-year veteran of the Vancouver Police Department, was fired last week after an internal affairs investigation resulted in sustained findings of providing false information, using marijuana, furnishing marijuana to a resident and for unbecoming conduct.
Gabriel argues that the investigation was meritless and that he has been wrongfully terminated. His union is appealing the termination.
The decision to terminate Gabriel’s employment came nearly two years after allegations of misconduct were first brought against him.
On July 22, 2014, Sgt. Keith Hyde reported that he received information from a complainant that Gabriel was participating in criminal activity including voyeurism, extortion and possession of controlled substance with intent to deliver, according to a termination notice written by police Chief James McElvain.
The agency then launched a criminal investigation, in which the FBI was consulted, and a case was submitted to the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for review. Prosecutors declined to file any charges.
An internal affairs investigation, however, determined that Gabriel had violated four agency policies. McElvain wrote in the notice that Gabriel’s untruthfulness was the misconduct that resulted in the termination.
“It is an essential job function of a police officer to be able to provide facts and details of their actions, and to be able to testify truthfully and accurately,” McElvain wrote in the termination letter. “Irreparable damage is done to the public trust when a single law enforcement officer is engaged in dishonesty.”
Gabriel met the woman during a ride-along, a program that allows members of the public to accompany patrol officers, in June 2013, and the two began a sexual relationship afterward, according to internal affairs investigative materials.
When questioned by his superiors about the incident, Gabriel denied the allegations. Gabriel’s wife at the time also worked as a police officer with the Vancouver Police Department. They have since divorced.
In July 2014, the woman filed for a harassment protection order, stating that she had dated Gabriel for about 10 months before finding out that he was married and ended the relationship, according to court documents. She then claimed that Gabriel threatened to make public compromising photos of her and stated she felt intimidated because of Gabriel’s position of authority, according to the court document.
“I am afraid that he is so knowledgeable with the system that he could maneuver his way out of this,” the woman wrote in the protection order.
In response to the petition, Gabriel signed a declaration filed in Clark County District Court that stated he never had a relationship with the woman. The document states the declaration is true and correct under penalty of perjury.
When interviewed for the internal affairs investigation, Gabriel admitted that he did have a sexual relationship with the woman and lied about it to try to save his marriage, according to the investigative material.
The investigation concluded in March 2015, though McElvain did not terminate Gabriel until last week.
McElvain said that the time lag stemmed from additional investigation that he requested, multiple reviews by both himself and Gabriel, and allegations that Gabriel made against McElvain and Assistant Chief Mike Lester in the process. McElvain said he couldn’t remember the nature of the latter allegations, but said an outside law firm that was hired to investigate determined that there were no sustained findings.
“Ultimately, I was going to be the decision-maker. That had to be completed first,” McElvain said.
While Gabriel was on administrative leave between July 28, 2014, and April 22, he earned $118,929.
Three other allegations of misconduct against Gabriel resulted in sustained findings through the internal affairs process, though McElvain wrote that those actions warranted discipline that included suspension and a letter of reprimand.
The investigation concluded that Gabriel acted in a manner unbecoming of an officer by taking compromising photos of the woman with whom he was having an affair while he was on duty and in uniform, according to the termination letter.
Investigators also found that Gabriel ingested marijuana oil and that he had furnished marijuana to three people, which they said violates the oath of office. Vancouver police officers are obligated to abide by state and federal laws, McElvain wrote in the termination letter.
The termination document indicates that Gabriel refused to sign the letter acknowledging its receipt.
In a statement to The Columbian, Gabriel said that the investigation of him was a meritless and poorly conducted. He also claims that he is the victim of an inappropriate termination.
“Repeated attempts have been made to point out the Vancouver Police Department actions have been based on biased and discredited information, incomplete investigation documents and prejudiced decision making,” Gabriel said in the statement.
McElvain said that Gabriel’s claims are why there is a third party involved; the city manager’s office is reviewing the chief’s findings.
“They determine whether I got that right or not,” McElvain said. “This wasn’t something that we made up, this isn’t something that we went and looked for. This came to us. The investigation took a direction that the investigation took by hunting down all the people that had something to say about the case.”
Vancouver Police Officer’s Guild Vice President Neil Martin said the termination is being appealed.