Abuse of power? The case of John Calkins

Abuse of power? The case of John Calkins »Play Video
PACIFIC, Wash. -- Flashing a police badge, intimidating witnesses, driving drunk -- any cop will tell you claims of any of those things will land a police officer in front of a review board. So what happens when it's the chief of a local police department? You might be surprised.

If the city in question is Pacific and the chief of police is John Calkins, apparently nothing will happen. Even when we found he'd been investigated four times in just eight years.

"He just went ballistic," Del Knee from Orting said of an incident that took place two years ago at his home on the first days of hunting season. "He jumped out of the truck started screaming profanities at me."

Knee locked his gate after he saw a hunter's truck parked inside and figured he was trespassing and called 911. When the hunter came out, Knee says things got crazy fast.

"He pulled out a badge, showed me a badge and then flipped it back said, 'I'm gonna have you arrested,'" he said.

Knee told him to wait, that a deputy was on the way. Instead the man allegedly ripped out the post holding up one side of the gate, opened it, and took off.

"Who did he think he was? That was the big thing. Does he think he's above the law?" Knee said.

What Knee didn't realize was that the man was the police chief for the town of Pacific, John Calkins.

"That is not what I want for a public servant. What kind of message is that giving people?" said Knee.

That was just one of four police incidents the Problem Solvers have uncovered, all of which involve Calkins. In 2001, he was investigated for intimidation with a weapon. In November 2008, he was again investigated for obstruction and witness tampering.

Then came the arrest last summer in Bonney Lake for suspicion of driving under the influence. The arresting officer says Calkins flashed his badge and tried to intimidate him.

That didn't sit well with the Bonney Lake Chief Mike Mitchell.

"I can't help but believe that was a way to say, 'Time out. I'm the chief. Let me go home,''' Mitchell said.

Bonney Lake didn't, and instead charged and prosecuted Calkins for the DUI. Months later a jury acquitted him, saying there wasn't enough evidence. Calkins had refused a blood test when a breathalyzer wouldn't work.

"He's been a police officer for a long time," said Chief Mitchell, "and he knows how to work the system."

In the obstruction case, Calkins' son was the driver in a horrific crash in Sumner that left one woman seriously injured. The Problem Solvers examined the Sumner police report and discovered that one witness told investigators she was ordered by Calkins not to give a statement to them even though the accident didn't happen in his city and he had no jurisdiction. The witness went on to say, "They told us they didn't want our stories to be different."

"Impressions are important," said attorney Tim Leary.

The Problem Solvers asked Leary and other former prosecutors to review that case. While several thought there should be more investigation all agreed the lack of judgment was an issue.

"You want to be able to trust your law enforcement that they're going to act in the interest of the community, not their own interest. And when you have a small town, it's of critical importance," Leary said.

In all four cases, the Problem Solvers uncovered the jury either acquitted Calkins or prosecutors declined to file criminal charges. What was never investigated by any police oversight board is whether Calkins misused his position as police chief during those criminal investigations.

Calkins refused all of KOMO's requests for an interview, saying the police investigations were unfounded. When we approached him at his office only wanting to ask him about using or misusing his position as chief, he again refused an interview and closed the door in our face.

In Pacific, the chief of police is appointed by the mayor. Pacific Mayor Rich Hildreth also refused requests for an interview. Hildreth did not hire Calkins, but did say that he continues to support him in spite of the allegations that on four occasions Calkins misused his badge and position as chief of police.

Read the full police reports:

Pierce County Sheriff intimidation with a weapon report

Bonney Lake suspicion of driving under the influence report

Pierce County Sheriff trespassing incident report

Sumner Police traffic collision report