Investigation finds Pierce County Sheriff Troyer violated department standards

UPDATED: OCTOBER 26, 2021 AT 3:51 PM
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Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer has been found to have violated the department’s policies and standards in a confrontation with newspaper carrier Sedrick Altheimer, according to an independent investigation.

In said confrontation, Troyer claimed that Altheimer threatened to kill or harm him. A significant police presence was summoned in response.

The independent investigation was conducted by Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, commissioned by the Pierce County Council in April 2021.

It is separate from the criminal investigation conducted by the attorney general’s office, which charged Troyer with two misdemeanors: one count of false reporting, and one count of making a false or misleading statement to a public servant.

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The independent investigation was unable to substantiate that Troyer was threatened. It also found that “a reasonable person could conclude that Sheriff Troyer exhibited an improper bias in his confrontation with Mr. Altheimer.”

The specific policies of which Sheriff Troyer was found in violation largely relate to off duty conduct and police reporting without bias.

That policy forbids biased reporting in the interest of avoiding racial discrimination. While the report finds no explicit mention of race in what transpired between the two individuals, Troyer repeatedly referred to Altheimer as “homeless.”

“We find by a preponderance of the available evidence that Sheriff Troyer engaged in conduct that his Department expressly forbids — employing an economic bias to support his mistaken belief that Mr. Altheimer must be engaged in criminal activity,” the report reads.

The report deferred the issue of criminal law violation to the attorney general.

In terms of potential disciplinary recommendation, the report stated the following:

There are three significant parts to the disciplinary analysis we have been asked to address.

One … is that Sheriff Troyer gave two versions of important events extremely close in time — on the 911 call and to Officer Lawless — that are diametrically opposed and cannot both be true. Thus, we concluded he was either untruthful on the 911 call or he was untruthful to Officer Lawless who was investigating a potential crime.

Two, Sheriff Troyer exhibited bias in his decision-making. This not only violates PCSD policy, but it strikes at the very heart of fair and just policing. Finally, Sheriff Troyer’s 911 call created an all hands, highly emergent, and fluid series of events. The potential for harm to Mr. Altheimer, responding officers, and the general public was significant.

Being mindful that the range of discipline available to an elected sheriff when disciplining a deputy lies somewhere on a continuum between no discipline and termination from employment, we conclude Sheriff Troyer’s conduct, and the results of that conduct, lie at very far end of the “seriousness” scale of that continuum. Ironically, the appropriate level of discipline would reside with Sheriff Troyer, the very person whose judgment in these matters has been called into question.

In conclusion, the report deferred discipline to the court of law as well as future voters as “Sheriff Troyer was elected by the public and answers to them,” the report reads.