City faces civil claim over Wenatchee PD rape investigation

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WENATCHEE — A man arrested but never tried for a rape allegation filed a $250,000 civil claim Thursday against the Wenatchee Police Department, saying one officer’s lazy investigation led him to be falsely charged.

Kevin L. Strickland, 50, says Officer Jeff Ward didn’t follow up on facts that would have spared him from prosecution, including contradictory statements from the alleged victim. Chelan County prosecutors charged Strickland in 2017 with third-degree rape and domestic assault, but dropped the case a year later, saying the allegations couldn’t be proven in court.

Strickland’s tort claim is the prelude to a civil lawsuit. The city has 60 days to respond to the claim. If it does not respond, Strickland’s attorney Timothy James Hall of Spokane says he expects to file suit promptly.

Ward was the investigation officer when Strickland’s then-spouse reported he had assaulted her Sept. 3, 2016. But in a divorce petition filed six days later — the same day Ward interviewed her — no assault was mentioned. She later won a domestic violence restraining order.

“According to Officer Ward when I interviewed him, the entire investigation took approximately 15 minutes and consisted entirely of his conversation with her,” Hall said.

Hall said while representing Strickland in the criminal case, he unearthed Ward’s personnel records with the Wenatchee Police Department. Ward was documented telling a supervisor in 2013 he “intended to do as little work as possible.”

“He has commented that he hates his job, and it shows,”
Sgt. Cherie Smith wrote in Ward’s 2013 evaluation. “He appears to be very unhappy at Wenatchee PD and he voices his dislike often.”

The following year Ward’s dashboard camera documented him causing a minor traffic collision while turning his patrol car onto North Wenatchee Avenue. Ward maintained he was not at fault in the ensuing investigation. The other driver was cleared of a charge of improper lane usage.

The department promoted Ward to corporal last year.