Officer Claims Retaliation - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Officer Claims Retaliation

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YAKIMA, Wa -    A Yakima Police Officer speaks out about his dispute with the city and why he says he plans to sue. 

It's been nearly two years since two-time Yakima Police Officer of the Year Jeff Brownfield has put on his uniform.

A three inch thick binder has been Officer Brownfield's life for the last 21-months.  The pages inside chronicle work evaluations, medical reports and internal investigations.

"I tell people this story and they say you're crazy. It's the police chief, police department, the city, how can you say these things," says Brownfield. 

It all started with a car accident in December 2000 that almost killed him.  He suffered a broken neck and a serious head injury.  He was released back to full duty six months later.

But now he says the City of Yakima is trying to prove lingering effects from the head injury make him unfit for duty.  An effort, he thinks is being led by Police Chief Sam Granato.

"The reason I'm not fit for duty is because of a wreck I had six years ago?" asks Brownfield, "I've been working for five years in the interim,"  

Brownfield was the Yakima Police Department's 'Officer of the Year' for his division in 2003 and 2004.  An award voted on by fellow officers.

He also showed us a 2003 work evaluation with a written note from the chief commending him on his service. 

But then he says things changed after he filed complaints in 2005 about possible budget mishandling and fraud at the Police Athletic League.

When asked if he is fit for duty Brownfield says defiantly, " I've never been unfit for duty."

He says after he went to the chief with his complaints about PAL, he went through five internal investigations in a three month period.  He says all came back unfounded or with insufficient evidence.

In the meantime, he was put on paid administrative leave for stress and ordered to see a psychiatrist.

Brownfield says every doctor he's gone to see has cleared him for duty, except for one hired by the city.

"You know that's embarrassing, that an embarrassing thing for your chief to say you are not fit for duty.  You'll never be fit to be a cop," Brownfield says.

He does admit some mistakes.  In 2005, he was suspended for one month after he cursed at a sergeant.  Brownfield also says the chief has tried to fire him three times for various reasons.

"He does not want me back on the force," says Brownfield, "He's made it very evident."

Chief Granato says he can not comment on personnel matters and directed us to City Manager Dick Zais who issued this statement by phone:

"There are issues pertaining to his health and fitness for duty, which are in question, and are clearly a matter of his personal privacy in part, but he, I can say this, has not been released for duty by our physicians and is still subject to further evaluation as to confirm his status for the future."

Brownfield says he hasn't set foot inside the Police Department since September of 2005.  And other officers rarely speak to him now.

"No one wants to write back and show their support for me because the ones that have, have felt some type of pressure from Granato."

Brownfield now says the city has also asked him to see another psychiatrist.  If he doesn't comply, they'll fire him.  He says he feels like he has no other options left, but to sue.