Chief, Captain engaged in racist language, sexual harassment, other acts in the workplace
COTTAGE GROVE – Five months after the sudden resignations of former Cottage Grove Police Chief Scott Shepherd and Captain Conrad Gagner, The Chronicle has obtained documents that detail the circumstances around their departure, including:
- Sexual harassment;
- Illegal detainment and/or inappropriate release of inmates; and
- Failure to support outside law enforcement agencies.
The documents were released after an appeal was filed by The Chronicle to District Attorney Patricia Perlow, requiring the City to reveal the contents of the investigation.
The detailed Notices of Potential Termination, each four pages long and sent to Shepherd and Gagner, were authored by Richard Meyers, city manager, and identify “numerous instances of wrongdoing” and “extremely unacceptable behavior, and a total lack of control and leadership.”
The pair was put on administrative leave in late July 2022. Both resigned two months later, just days after Meyers’ Notices of Potential Termination sent via email.
After Shepherd and Gagner’s resignations in October, Meyers told The Chronicle: “The investigation associated with their administrative leave has been stopped because of their resignations. It would be fiscally irresponsible to continue to pay the costs associated with an investigation regarding personal actions for people who are no longer city employees. It is also not fair to those involved to disclose the details of specific, confidential and private personnel matters that have not been verified as true or untrue.”
However, the Notices of Potential Termination outline a series of “city and department policies violated” based on “preliminary investigation findings.”
After The Chronicle won its appeal for the public documents, Meyers declined to comment further, except to affirm that Shepherd and Gagner are no longer receiving pensions from the City.
Shepherd and Gagner did not reply this week to The Chronicle’s request for comment.
The Notice to Gagner cites that he was involved in misconduct, used racist and homophobic language, misused surveillance footage, and sexually harassed and bullied co-workers. It also describes mismanagement of the Cottage Grove Jail.
The Notice outlines:
Racial, homophobic, sexist behavior
- Gagner used the “N-word” and/or related terms on a semi-frequent basis, to the point where it was “commonly known in the Department of (his) use of these terms;”
- Used homophobic slurs in the workplace, specifically at a police K9 retirement party in the presence of multiple department members, including Shepherd. He also “caused photographs of gay men to be placed on department computer screens;”
- Made derogatory comments about a female city employee. In another instance, he took “the cell phone of a female employee, rubbing it on (his) crotch, while laughing.” He also “caused pornographic images to be placed on a patrol area computer in the presence of two female officers;” and
- Placed his “genitals on a sandwich, taking a picture of it, then sending the picture to an officer who was eating a similar sandwich, thus portraying that the officer was eating the sandwich that (he) placed his genitals on; this occurred roughly 5-6 years ago.”
Social media misuse
Some of the findings include Gagner’s “misuse of social media,” specifically citing the video platform TikTok, under the name of @justacop219.
Since 2020, on this public page – now under the name of @retiredcop219 – Gagner posted multiple videos extracted from department surveillance video systems, using hashtags like #dumbcriminal and #humanizethebadge. In the videos, Gagner used CGPD security footage as early as 2016 and up to 2022, with content like:
- An escapee running from officers through the department and its parking lot, while the Benny Hill theme song plays in the background;
- Multiple intoxicated inmates seen falling over in holding cells;
- Officers seen falling on floors and flipping papers out of co-workers’ hands; and
- Officers are seen backing into police vehicles and without putting the vehicles in park, resulting in a crash.
In the Notice, Meyers characterizes the videos as “inappropriate, unprofessional and brings discredit upon the department.”
The Notice also states that in November 2021, Gagner sent a memo to Shepherd stating he has “taken down (his) other posts that related to the CGPD and will refrain from posting any further content depicting any department activities/images.”
Gagner did not take down these videos and continued to post, demonstrating a “lack of follow through on (his) part or untruthfulness,” according to the Notice.
The Notice of Potential Termination also identifies issues with the operation of the Cottage Grove Jail, which was temporarily closed due to staffing issues in January and remains closed.
In one case, the Notice says, Gagner chose to hold someone in police custody with “no charges and no medical assessment.” She was later sent to the hospital for a medical emergency. “Additionally,” it reads, “you have released prisoners in conflict with the municipal Judge’s sentences.”
Gagner was sworn into CGPD in 1995 as a patrol officer, before being promoted to detective, corporal, and then captain.
The Notice of Potential Termination sent to Shepherd cites he engaged in an “inappropriate relationship,” failed to “create … proper order and efficiency in the workplace,” and failed to respond to or address issues with calls for assistance by neighboring agencies.
The Notice outlines:
- Shepherd did not address misconduct in the workplace, including Gagner’s reported social media use and bullying of other officers, dismissing it as “cop humor;”
- That he “denied an emergency radio call for assistance by a Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy who was in a gunfight with a subject … less than 10 minutes out of the city limits. The deputy’s closest cover officers were more than 25 minutes away from the scene, yet (Shepherd) chose not to provide assistance.” In another instance, he failed to address an officer’s “denial of a request” from an on-duty K9 unit to assist when a known previously armed criminal left city limits after being pursued by the officer. A Lane County Sheriff’s Deputy had to hold the suspect at gunpoint by herself for over 10 minutes until OSP and LCSO could arrive;
- The Notice also describes an incident between Shepherd and a colleague, when he was seen to have “used both hands and slapped (her) buttocks … while she was bent over her computer.” According to the Notice, Shepherd then said to another officer “something to the effect of ‘her husband is OK with it,’ apparently implying an extramarital affair.”
- Some staff “may have driven from a (Police Association) party to the City while intoxicated,” and he did not address the issue. There was a separate incident where “an officer drank so heavily he had to be medically transported to the hospital while in (Shepherd’s) presence;”
- “Producing pubic hair from his pants,” and placing it on “the cell phone of another officer.”; and
- Failures within the jail system, like “prisoners being released in conflict with sentencing judgements,” and “being held in custody against proper protocol, which led to at least one medical emergency.” In one case, “one officer failed to properly ID a prison escapee, who was arrested the next day. This escapee was incarcerated for Rape 1.”
Shepherd was sworn in as police chief in 2016.
According to the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST) there are “open and active Professional Standards investigations” on both Shepherd and Gagner.
DPSST Professional Standards investigations handles police certifications and aims to understand if the officers involved have “have fallen below the minimum standards to hold those certifications.”