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Lying ultimately led to firing of Bellevue officer | Brennan allegedly covered for coworker he'd pulled over for suspicion of DUI
Bellevue Police Deputy Chief Jim Jolliffe said today the decision to fire a 15-year veteran of the force this week was not as much based on the fact he let a fellow officer he believed to be driving drunk off the hook during a November traffic stop but that he lied to protect that officer from being investigated by other law enforcement officials.
Ofc. Doug Brennan was off duty the night of Nov. 20 when he noticed a Jeep Cherokeee driving erratically on eastbound I-90 in the city of Issaquah. When he pulled over the vehicle, he found the driver was fellow Bellevue Ofc. Andrew Hanke. Brennan reported smelling the odor of alcohol on Hanke when he rolled his window down, and Hanke told him he'd been returning home from the Sideline Sports Bar in Bellevue.
Hanke, who resigned in January following a DUI charge, was allowed to hitch a ride home with his wife. Brennan did not contact NORCOM dispatchers during this time, according to a notice of termination filed with an internal investigation into his conduct, nor did conduct a field sobriety test on Hanke. He did notify his supervisor after Hanke's wife had shown up to the scene to take him home. Brennan even waited on the side of the highway in his unmarked patrol vehicle for Hanke's wife to return for her vehicle.
Jolliffe said the most serious offense committed by Brennan that ultimately led to his termination and a prolonged internal investigation was that the officer lied to other officers on the scene, not so much that he allowed his drunken coworker off the hook for DUI.
"This was driven by what we believe is a finding of false information," said Jolliffe, adding that finding resulted in Brennan being placed on administrative leave in February. It also caused the investigation to go on longer than expected. "… We want to be very careful and methodical. This is about a man's career."
In the course of dealing with Hanke, another car pulled up behind Brennan's vehicle. The occupants were determined to be involved in a domestic violence/suicidal situation, according to records. Brennan notified NORCOM of that situation, which resulted in the dispatch of Issaquah Police officers to the scene.
Issaquah Ofc. Tom Griffith initially approached Hanke's vehicle and had trouble getting the Bellevue officer to respond to his questions. He believed Hanke may have been drunk, according to the report. Brennan told Griffith that he came upon Hanke's disabled vehicle, not that he'd pulled his coworker over for suspicion of DUI. When Griffith told Brennan he thought Hanke was impaired, the report states Brennan said something about the driver being on medication and that his wife was picking him up. Griffith was then told to handle the domestic violence situation.
"Griffith understood from the NORCOM radio call he was there for a DV situation and not a DUI investigation," according to Brennan's notice of termination from Bellevue Police Chief Linda Pillo, who retired this week after seven years commanding the department. "Had he thought otherwise, Griffith may have paid more attention to specific indicators related to a possible DUI."
Pillo states in her notice of termination Brennan made the Issaquah officer a witness to the alleged crime committed by Hanke and further interfered with the her ability to discipline the officer. Hanke first made headlines in 2012 for drunk and disorderly conduct at a Seattle Seahawks game in September. Disciplinary actions for that event included his removal from the bomb squad and a 30-day suspension.
"You knew that with Hanke's discipline history, further misconduct related to alcohol would jeopardize his future employment with the City," Pillo states. "It is within my authority as Chief to make an assessment of whether such future conduct following the Seahawks incident warranted severe discipline."
Jolliffe said during a Thursday press conference that Brennan had no previous disciplinary history with the Bellevue Police Department. He added the department has undergone some bad publicity over the past year regarding some members of the force, but that ensuring the public's safety and trust remains at the forefront of the department's mission.
"We have this reservoir of good will with the public, and we want to keep that full," Jolliffe said, "so when a fire starts, we have the water to put that out."