The Spokane Police Guild unanimously voted this week to file a complaint against Chief Roger Bragdon over his order to dismiss a traffic infraction filed against the son-in-law of former Spokane County Prosecutor Don Brockett.
The motion approved Wednesday asks Mayor Jim West’s office to decide whether it was improper conduct for Bragdon to dismiss the ticket, said Sgt. Chuck Reisenauer, union president.
“I’d hate to say it’s improper until it’s looked at,” Reisenauer said. “I’m personally going to investigate it.”
Bragdon did not return phone calls seeking comment Thursday and Friday. But Reisenauer said he spoke to Bragdon on Thursday about the matter.
“To his mind, he did it because it was appropriate,” Reisenauer said. Bragdon “saw an inequity in how the traffic law was applied in this instance. He has the authority to do it.”
Don Brockett, who served as county prosecutor from 1969 to 1994, said he personally asked Bragdon to dismiss the ticket that his son-in-law, Allan Margitan, received for defective taillights.
“Roger wasn’t doing something for me. I was talking to him as a professional,” Brockett said. “I wouldn’t have expected him to deal with me differently than anybody else. And he didn’t.”
The dismissal came about three weeks after a three-car collision in late June, at the intersection of Francis Avenue and F Street, Brockett said.
Off-duty Spokane Police Officer John Smith was driving a white sedan when he approached a line of vehicles waiting to turn left. Smith did not stop in time and crashed into the rear of the Chevy pickup driven by Margitan. That impact forced Margitan’s truck forward into a red car that also was stopped in traffic, Brockett said.
Smith received a citation for following too closely, and Margitan was cited for defective taillights, Brockett said.
“I called Roger Bragdon and told him I was upset my son-in-law was ticketed for defective equipment,” Brockett said. “I said it doesn’t make any sense. I told him I thought it should be dismissed.”
Brockett argued that Margitan was stopped on a level street and had no obligation to have his foot on the brake pedal. Even if the brake lights weren’t working – which isn’t clear – Smith should not have been driving so fast that he couldn’t stop in time, Brockett said.
After looking into the matter, Bragdon told Brockett that patrol officers had been automatically issuing tickets for defective equipment to the drivers of cars that get rear-ended. According to Brockett, Bragdon told him the department would no longer follow that policy.
Officer Smith’s ticket for following too closely was later reduced to not having a driver’s license on his person at the time of an accident, Brockett said.
“Anyone else would have been ticketed for negligent driving or reckless driving. So the whole thing smells like crazy,” Brockett said. “That’s got to be a joke. We ought to be filing a complaint about what (Smith) was allowed to do.”
Assistant Chief Jim Nicks acknowledged that the union raised some sort of official complaint. “But it would be poor form for me to comment at this time.”
Bragdon and Brockett previously caused a stir with rank-and-file officers when they each wrote letters asking for leniency from a judge for former Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy James L. Crabtree. He was sentenced to five years in prison in July 2003 for vehicular assault, two counts of possession and four counts of selling crack cocaine.
Crabtree, who worked as a deputy in the early 1980s, crashed into the patrol car of Sheriff’s Sgt. Earl Howerton on Dec. 16, 2001, on Bigelow Gulch Road. That collision seriously injured both Crabtree and Howerton, who this fall was finally cleared to resume his career as a patrol sergeant.
Prior to that trial, Crabtree sold drugs to an undercover sheriff’s detective. Before the sentencing, Crabtree’s father – longtime Spokane Police Captain Chuck Crabtree – asked Bragdon, Brockett and others to write letters supporting his son to Superior Court Judge Greg Sypolt.
“Chuck Crabtree still believes in his son, and for that reason, I ask you to be lenient,” Bragdon wrote in the letter to Sypolt.
In an interview at the time, Brockett suggested that Crabtree’s service as a deputy should be considered by Sypolt during the sentencing.
Crabtree “did lay his life on the line for some number of years,” Brockett said in the previous telephone interview. “He should be given some credit for that. I’m not suggesting that he be totally free.”
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