Police accountability has been a topic of much discussion across the nation in the last few years. Here in Clark County, our own local law enforcement has been bashed by groups such as the NAACP, Black Lives Matter, and the ACLU. While the majority of local law enforcement officers in Clark County are good men and women, a recent public disclosure request calls the integrity of one Clark County Sheriff’s Office administrator into question; an administrator that is asking people to vote for him as the county’s highest elected official in just one week.
Documents received about 10 years ago regarding sheriff candidate John Horch have been circulating on social media, in emails, and through some organizations such as LifePAC that show some of the worst of Horch’s career history. Or so we thought.
Those documents, obtained by a public records request in 2012, showed several negative incidents from his internal affairs (IA) file, including one of a sexually harassing comment to female victims, racist jokes/comments, a racially-motivated incident for which he was suspended and kicked off the bomb squad, attempting to cover up a domestic violence incident for a fellow police officer, and his own domestic violence issues (some while on duty).
A more recent public records request yielded much different results: According to the sheriff’s office public records unit, Horch’s IA file has since been destroyed, contrary to Washington’s record retention requirements.
According to Washington State law (RCW 40.14.070(4), more specifically), “Personnel records for any peace officer or corrections officer must be retained for the duration of the officer’s employment and a minimum of 10 years thereafter.” Horch is, in fact, still employed with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, which begs the question: How were his records destroyed prior to the timeline schedule outlined by state law?
Other equally important questions are also raised: Why were the records destroyed? Who destroyed them and on what authority? What else was in the files from the 2012 records return until whenever they were destroyed? The destruction of Horch’s files is beyond concerning. Corruption has been alleged at the sheriff’s office and this doesn’t do them any favors in proving otherwise.
As stated on Horch’s campaign website, he was a supervisor of the internal affairs unit in 2011. During his time there, he took part in investigating former deputy Ed Owens, who was fired from the sheriff’s office for alleged misconduct that led to his then 3-year-old son being killed. Owens has publicly stated previously that his personal firearm was locked in his department-issued safe in 2010 when his son was able to open it and retrieve the firearm. The young boy was shot, resulting in the toddler’s death, and Owens has blamed the agency for purchasing and issuing faulty safes, which he said the department refused to have tested when it was discovered that the safes had many previous incidents of safety concerns. Horch’s IA finding was that the department was not to blame, but rather that Owens should have known the safe wasn’t in good working condition and asked to have it replaced.
The safes were issued following a 2003 shooting death of 10-year-old Emilee Randall, who was the daughter of another Clark County sheriff’s deputy. Horch was promoted soon after he issued his report against Owens, according to the 2012 public records request.
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