Former Oregon Officer Sues Officials Claiming Retaliation

December 27, 2019

A former Oregon police officer filed a lawsuit saying he faced retaliation within the department for reporting a former police chief struck him with his arm while holding a metal sign, court records said.

Joseph Patnode is suing the Sunriver Police Department, current police Chief Cory Darling, Sunriver Service District board administrator and a department deputy, The Bulletin reported.

The defendants violated Patnode’s free speech rights and retaliated against him for whistleblowing, according to the lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Eugene.

The former Sunriver police sergeant is seeking $2.5 million in damages for lost wages and benefits, lost economic potential, harm to reputation, emotional distress and other reasons.

Former Police Chief Marc Mills struck Patnode in the chest with his forearm while holding a metal citizens patrol sign during an altercation while both men were on duty in December 2017, Patnode said.

The blow caused Patnode’s head to hit a wall and he was embarrassed at being emasculated in front of subordinate officers, according to the lawsuit.

“He stood up and would not let the former chief get out of taking accountability for hitting him with a sign,” said Patnode’s attorney, Dan Thenell.

Mills resigned a year ago and was convicted of harassment in March.

Darling, the current chief, retaliated against Patnode by promoting another Sunriver police officer over him, the lawsuit said. Sunriver Service District officials were upset with Patnode for not agreeing to a civil compromise with Mills and the ill will contributed to him being passed up for promotion to lieutenant, the lawsuit said.

Darling was not available to comment Tuesday.

Patnode was fired June 6 after being accused of mishandling an investigation into another officer. Patnode failed to act on information about possible misconduct or share it with department supervisors, the service district said.

“They have ruined his law enforcement career,” Thenell said. “He can’t get another police job. It impacted him and his wife and their retirement and medical benefits. This is a devastating thing that has happened to him.”

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