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Time to move on.

Byline: The Register-Guard

Law enforcement consultant Rod Brown concludes his 33-page external review of the Eugene Police Department's investigation of its police officer sex scandal with a summary exhortation:

"The events bringing rise to the necessity of this and other reviews and reports (are) tragic and incomprehensible. The issues have been reviewed, critiqued, examined, questioned and scrutinized from every possible aspect, and disclosures have been made and accountability accepted. It is time to place these events into a historical file and continue the forward progress."

In other words: Time to move on.

The same message was echoed by Police Chief Robert Lehner, who in a guest viewpoint published on the opposite page Monday outlined the many changes his department has made since the scandal involving former officers Juan Lara and Roger Magana came to light. They include revamped hiring and supervisory practices, bolstered and restructured internal affairs investigations, and the voter-approved creation of an independent police auditor and civilian review system.

Brown and Lehner are right. It is time for the city and its police department to move on past the Lara-Magana scandal, which inflicted such deep and lasting wounds. While the city was frustratingly slow in making some changes, its commitment to finishing the job - and doing it right - is beyond question.

In response to pressure from this newspaper and other voices in the community, the city eventually provided public access to all relevant records and documents. The city took the additional step of ordering an external review of its core assumptions about the Lara-Magana case.

The review - conducted by Brown, the former McMinnville police chief - generally supports those assumptions. Most importantly, it found that Lara and Magana were solely to blame for their crimes and that no other officers or supervisors were involved in the misconduct.

The question of potential complicity by other officers was important in light of a ruling last March by federal Magistrate Tom Coffin that former Acting Police Chief Thad Buchanan was aware that Magana had lied about a 2001 incident in which a woman accused the officer of soliciting her while on duty, and yet Buchanan rejected the woman's complaint and did nothing to investigate further.

Coffin listed 13 subsequent incidents of abuse by Magana, some of which were reported to 15 police officers and a municipal judge.

Brown's conclusion that there was no "blue curtain" of police silence won't satisfy cynics who believe there can be no other explanation for why the abuses continued for an astounding six years. Yet Brown makes a plausible argument that officers ignored women's complaints because their jobs made them skeptical of such allegations, not because they were consciously trying to protect a fellow officer.

He also noted Magana's "predatory intuition" for selecting female victims whose troubled backgrounds made it likely their complaints would be dismissed by other officers as outrageous.

In the wake of the Lara-Magana scandal, Lehner says it's doubtful any police officer would shrug off such complaints. He's right, and the reason is a fervent and sincere desire by Eugene's dedicated and professional police officers and supervisors to protect their department and community from future scandals.

Time to move on, yes. But there must be no slackening of effort, no loss of focus, no waning of vigilance. And there can be no forgetting, even for a moment, of how easily and quickly a community's trust in its police can be shattered - and how long it takes to rebuild that trust.
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Title Annotation:Editorials; But the police mustn't forget sex scandal's lessons
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Mar 27, 2007
Words:576
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