Tribal Government & News

Former Grand Ronde police officer pleads no contest to charges

10.31.2016 Dean Rhodes Public Safety


DALLAS -- Former Grand Ronde Tribal Police Department K-9 Officer Patrick McConnell pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor counts of tampering with public records and first-degree official misconduct on Wednesday, Oct. 19, in Polk County Circuit Court.

Judge Gilbert Feibleman accepted McConnell’s plea and found him guilty of the two counts. The state dismissed two other misdemeanor charges – tampering with evidence and false swearing -- against McConnell as part of a stipulated plea agreement.

Feibleman said that the maximum penalty McConnell was facing was 12 months in jail and a $6,250 fine per count.

McConnell agreed to voluntarily surrender his Oregon police certification and was sentenced to probation for 18 months and fined $100 per count, or $200 total.

“Yes, sir,” McConnell said when asked by Feibleman if he understood and agreed to the plea deal.

McConnell, 40, was accused of tampering with evidence on Jan. 23 while he was still employed by the Grand Ronde Police Department when he “unlawfully and knowingly” concealed a syringe that was considered physical evidence in a drug case.

Prosecutors alleged that in the days immediately after tampering with evidence, McConnell made a “false entry in a public record, regarding evidence found.” The report was entered into the Tribal Police database.

The drug case he was working on was submitted to the Polk County District Attorney’s Office and McConnell was the only law enforcement officer to testify before a grand jury that eventually charged Lydell Lance Suppah with a count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine and giving false information to a peace officer.

In March, Marion County Deputy District Attorney Jennifer K. Gardiner requested a copy of the grand jury’s notes in the Suppah case because she was investigating whether “false statements were made under oath.”

The court documents filed against McConnell alleged that he “unlawfully and knowingly” made a false sworn statement regarding the evidence against Suppah and that he knew the statement was false.

Records show that McConnell issued Suppah a traffic citation for failure to obey a traffic control device and driving while suspended in January.

Tribal Council Chief of Staff Stacia Martin issued a statement in July that said: “On Feb. 20, 2016, the Grand Ronde Tribal Police Department received a report alleging misconduct by Tribal Police Officer Patrick McConnell. Officer McConnell was immediately placed on administrative leave pending investigation of the allegations. An independent investigation of the allegations was conducted by the Oregon State Police with the Tribal Police Department’s consent and full cooperation. Officer McConnell resigned his employment with the Tribe on March 2, 2016. The Grand Ronde Tribal Police Department is committed to ensuring the public safety of the community and the fair and equitable enforcement of the law.”

McConnell was one of the first police officers hired by the Grand Ronde Tribal Police Department in early 2013. He worked with Tribal K-9 Officer Nixwa in drug detection for the Tribal police and surrounding law enforcement agencies. He came to Grand Ronde after three years with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

McConnell originally pleaded not guilty to four misdemeanor counts in Polk County Circuit Court on July 7. He was represented by Salem defense attorney Robert Gunn.

During the sentencing hearing, Gardiner said McConnell has a job opportunity overseas and that his probation will not prohibit him from taking the position. The most important thing, she added, was that McConnell had surrendered his police certification in the state of Oregon.