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Friday, November 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane police officer suspended for five days over domestic violence arrest

The Spokane police officer who pleaded guilty to trespassing after a domestic violence arrest last summer has been suspended for five days, according to an internal affairs report published this week.

Fellow officers arrested Officer John Yen, 25, after Yen forced his way into his girlfriend’s home while yelling at her. The victim, who is a Spokane County deputy prosecutor, told responding officers she feared for her safety and said Yen had an “anger problem,” the report says. She also said she did not want to get Yen into trouble and later told officers she didn’t believe Yen intended to commit a crime. Through an attorney, she declined to be interviewed by internal affairs.

An administrative review panel made up of Capt. Dave Richard, Capt. Tom Hendren, Lt. Kevin King and Lt. Dave McCabe concluded Yen displayed conduct unbecoming of an officer by causing a disturbance that led neighbors to call 911 and led to him pleading guilty to trespassing.

The panel’s review also notes Yen repeatedly tried to control the actions of responding officers. While being interviewed, Yen asked Officer Maurio Juarez to turn off his body camera, which Juarez did. He also put his hands in his pockets several times even though he was armed with a gun and tried to persuade a responding sergeant to retrieve his cellphone from his car. The panel says this behavior is “contrary to all investigative procedures that Officer Yen is very familiar with.”

During the investigation, panel members became aware of additional information about Officer Yen “regarding past domestic violence and anger management issues” not directly related to the incident. Their summary says, “There appears there might be a pattern of anger and insubordination issues in his SPD work history as well” and encourages additional review. The report does not mention specific incidents.

According to internal affairs records, Yen was suspended for one day in 2013 for accidentally firing his handgun while retrieving it from a locker at the Spokane County Jail.

The panel did not recommend specific discipline for Yen. Interim Chief Rick Dobrow imposed a five-day suspension and said Yen may also forfeit two days of accrued time. The report doesn’t say whether the suspension is paid or unpaid, and police didn’t immediately return a call seeking clarification.

The internal affairs report, written by internal affairs Sgt. Dave Staben, criticizes how responding officers handled the call, saying important information was not shared with supervisors, and officers did not try to clarify discrepancies with Yen. Those errors led to Yen being charged with a felony without probable cause, the report concludes.

“Officers appear to have made sure in treating Yen as any other citizen. However, at the same time they missed basic steps common to every DV investigation. They were clearly uncomfortable in this situation and having to arrest a fellow officer,” Staben wrote.

Yen originally was charged with domestic violence armed burglary based on reports a supervisor made to Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell. But the supervisor was not aware that Yen stayed at his girlfriend’s house frequently enough to establish residency and had the key code to the door, the report says. Because Yen was a resident, he should not have been charged with burglary or trespassing, Staben concludes.

Once Haskell learned Yen and a member of his staff were involved, he referred the case to Lincoln County Prosecutor Jeffrey Barkdull, who reduced the charge to criminal trespass, a misdemeanor. Yen pleaded guilty last October and was fined $950, but received no jail time beyond the one night he spent in jail following his arrest.

Staben’s report concludes the guilty plea is sufficient evidence to discipline Yen. He notes Yen did not believe he was guilty of trespassing and says “it’s easy to understand why” Yen would plead guilty to trespassing when he was facing a felony burglary charge.

The department placed Yen on paid leave following his arrest and returned him to duty following his guilty plea.

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