A state trooper was so flustered by the sight of two women’s exposed breasts that he let an unlicensed and legally drunk driver and her passenger leave without a citation or an arrest, his superiors say.
For that he’ll lose two paid vacation days, officials said.
Despite a pending criminal case against Washington State Patrol Trooper Mark Haas, WSP internal affairs investigators concluded he did not coerce the women into exposing themselves – as the women alleged – during an Aug. 18 traffic stop, said Capt. Jeff DeVere, WSP spokesman in Olympia.
“Ultimately, breasts and a vagina were exposed, but it’s unclear why that happened,” DeVere said. “What is clear is that when that did occur, trooper Haas did not react appropriately.”
Haas is scheduled for trial on June 11 for two felony counts of unlawful imprisonment with sexual motivations and one count of official misconduct, said Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor John Love, who would not comment further about the case or the release of the internal affairs investigative findings.
The trooper, a 22-year WSP veteran, will remain on paid administrative leave until the criminal trial is over. If he’s convicted of a crime, his employment status will be reviewed, DeVere said.
Haas pulled over the two women – 28 and 30 years old at the time – early on Aug. 18 for going 44 mph in a 35-mph zone at East Bridgeport Avenue and North Market Avenue. The driver and her passenger claim the trooper suggested they expose themselves in exchange for letting them off, even though the women admitted they’d been drinking. When the trooper told them they were free to leave, they drove to a restaurant where they called 911.
According to an investigative report, the driver was given a field test to determine if she was legally drunk. Almost two hours after Haas’ initial stop, her blood alcohol level was .082, slightly above the legal limit.
WSP’s conclusion that Haas did not ask the women to expose themselves was primarily based on testimony, officials said. Haas was not given a polygraph test as part of the investigation.
“There’s conflicting testimony between what the complainants say and Haas,” DeVere said. “Who exposed what, and how much, varies depending on the person.”
Where the case was clear was the trooper’s reaction to the exposure, DeVere said. “He stopped the car for speeding; there was suspicion of DUI. Even though they flashed him, his response shouldn’t have been to be uncomfortable.
“His response should have been to call for backup or a supervisor to come to the scene,” DeVere said. “He didn’t do that. It appears when somebody flashed their breast, he became uncomfortable and let them go without appropriate investigation for DUI.”
Unfortunately, “we run into individuals who behave this way,” DeVere said.
Spokane police Cpl. Tom Lee said it’s happened to him while on patrol.
“It’s irregular, but it does happen,” Lee said. “Often the person is intoxicated.”
Mark Keagle, an internal affairs investigator and veteran police officer in Salem, Ore., said on countless occasions he’s had women try to manipulate the outcome of a traffic stop.
Keagle said he could understand a rookie officer being flustered, but he added, “It should not have affected a 22-year veteran.”