The Vancouver Police Department is investigating complaints against Cpl. Rey Reynolds over statements he made during an appearance on an online Christian political show, “Cross Politic,” alongside Republican 3rd Congressional District candidate Joe Kent. Reynolds made the appearance as a candidate for Clark County sheriff.
The investigation follows the emergence of an online petition, which had more than 700 signatures Monday, calling for Reynolds to be fired from the police department. It states that his comments after a question about police action against transgender people have made citizens fearful.
“Officer Reynolds claimed that as a VPD officer, he was legally allowed to arrest transgender citizens simply for being trans,” the petition states. “This is an outrageously harmful comment — it has left Vancouver’s transgender community feeling afraid to even leave their own homes in fear of being targeted by the VPD.”
In a follow-up interview Thursday with The Columbian, Reynolds said he believes in a “neutral approach” that anyone who exposes themselves to children should be arrested. He couldn’t recall an instance of that happening during any Vancouver events affiliated with the LGBTQ community.
Police spokeswoman Kim Kapp said in an email Monday that the department’s Professional Standards Unit is investigating in accordance with its Internal Affairs policy.
Clark County Election 2022
Find The Columbian's coverage of all the races, measures, candidates
and latest news on the 2022 Election at columbian.com/election
“VPD and the city of Vancouver expect all members to observe federal and state laws, abide by VPD’s code of conduct and ethics, and to provide law enforcement services to all community members equally and without bias,” Kapp said.
The “Cross Politic” episode was posted online Sept. 24.
After talk of comparing drag events, such as Drag Queen Story Hour, with taking children to strip clubs, Kent made comments about a “groomer ideology” in Washington, in reference to gender-affirming care for transgender youth.
The hosts then asked Reynolds if there’s anything the sheriff can do under obscenity laws to regulate “the current trans push.”
In response, Reynolds noted the state’s indecent liberties statute.
“We do have those laws — exposure laws, indecent liberties, all of those things are laws that we have on the books right now that can be prosecuted. And we can arrest on those things,” Reynolds said during the show. “And we need to get back to where we used to arrest people for running around naked and doing sexual acts. Now, we have parades where they’re allowed to do it. And they’re not being arrested. They’re only being encouraged in many cases.”
One of the hosts asked Reynolds if that was happening in Vancouver. Reynolds responded, “That has happened. Unfortunately, it has.”
Reynolds told the hosts he was an officer when that happened, and one of the hosts asked if he was allowed to do anything about it.
“As an officer, yes I was. Could we? Yes. Did we? No. And that’s what’s important because right now, some of these laws that we have are not being enforced,” Reynolds said. “Can we get them prosecuted is some of the issue. Can we prosecute these crimes? If we arrest, and the sheriff’s office arrests for these indecent exposures — the coming before our children with sexual acts — and we arrest for it, will the prosecuting attorney then go ahead and prosecute those cases? Right now, there’s a doubt in my mind.”
A host asked Reynolds, “Even in Clark County — conservative Clark County?”
“Yes. I’m worried about that,” Reynolds replied. “Will they be prosecuted? And right now, we don’t have any test cases. We’ll find out after I’m elected sheriff.”
When asked about his comments during the show, Reynolds said Thursday his stance on arresting people who violate exposure laws has nothing to do with someone’s sexual orientation or gender expression.
“What I believe is that we need to protect our children and the basic morals of our society,” Reynolds said. “What does that mean? That means that we protect the civil rights of everybody in Clark County. It doesn’t matter if you are trans or gay or any of those other issues. If you’re a citizen of Clark County, if you are a resident of Clark County, your civil rights are absolutely paramount.
“And I am not going to allow the majority to violate the civil rights of the minority. I just won’t do it. I won’t allow it,” Reynolds continued. “That means that if you are trans, no law should be used against you because you’re trans. If you are gay, then no law should be used against you because you’re gay, unless you violate the law, which is the basic norm of the area.”
When asked about his statements that exposure crimes were happening in Vancouver, Reynolds said Thursday he doesn’t recall any local parades where people were exposing themselves.
“Here’s what I believe, if that is the case that I said that, then I stand by that, and if there have been parades that — I don’t remember any right offhand, but — let me clarify it even more. If there are parades that are done, whether they be by homosexuals or straight or anyone else in Clark County, and if they violate indecent exposure laws, where they intentionally and openly do obscene exposure of their person or the person of another and it causes affront, whether it be gay or straight, from this point on, I believe those people should be arrested for that,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds said his comments during his campaign for sheriff reflect his personal views, not those of the Vancouver Police Department or city of Vancouver.
The petition cites the anti-discrimination clause in Vancouver’s city charter and Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle’s proclamation in honor of the Transgender Day of Visibility. In addition to Reynolds’ firing, the petitioners called on the city to reaffirm its support for the transgender community.
“We, the undersigned Vancouver residents and businesses, are asking that the city of Vancouver offer a statement in support of the transgender community, and reassurance that these claims made by Officer Reynolds are not, in fact, something that can or will happen in our city,” the petition states.