Flustered by OPB report, Vancouver police spent months trying to unearth sources

By Troy Brynelson (OPB)
Feb. 7, 2024 2:10 a.m.

Government transparency advocates criticized the investigation as a case of “misplaced priorities.”

A Vancouver police car is pictured March 14, 2019, in Vancouver, Wash.

A Vancouver police car is pictured March 14, 2019, in Vancouver, Wash.

Bryan M. Vance / OPB

After the Vancouver Police Department suspended a politically ambitious officer and told its staff via email, the agency spent weeks trying to figure out how the public found out.


An investigator who tried to find a link between Vancouver officers and OPB came up empty handed, but only after working on the case for approximately three months on the taxpayer’s dime.

The mere fact that an investigation was opened has government transparency advocates shaking their heads. The Washington Coalition for Open Government called it a case of “misplaced priorities.”

“The agency’s time and money is better spent on being more transparent rather than punishing or discouraging disclosures,” said George Erb, the organization’s secretary.

Officials with the Vancouver Police Department reiterated Tuesday that the department has a policy against “dissemination to the media.”

It’s unclear how much the hunt for OPB’s sources cost. The investigation was handled mainly by one sergeant, records show, who was paid roughly $70 an hour at the time. Vancouver police officials said internal affairs investigators work on multiple cases at a time and don’t track how many hours they spend on specific cases.

The investigation largely centered around a Jan. 9, 2023 report by OPB detailing how Vancouver Cpl. Rey Reynolds, then a recent candidate for sheriff, had been suspended. Reynolds had in the past run for state senate, too.

Reynolds landed on paid leave Dec. 21, 2022, amid accusations he made anti-LGBTQ+ comments during a campaign appearance on a podcast. He was also accused of having a heated, on-the-job argument with colleagues during rifle training.

Investigators later found Reynolds had violated multiple policies and the 24-year veteran signed letters of discipline, records showed. He retired June 2023.

Shortly after suspending Reynolds, police brass alerted staff with an email titled “Cpl. Rey Reynolds Administrative Leave.” OPB obtained a copy of the email through its reporting.

After OPB’s article published, police spokesperson Kim Kapp filed a complaint with the internal affairs department, emailing a lieutenant with “concerns regarding information being released” to reporters.


While the investigation also includes a complaint by the Portland FBI office that a local TV reporter had been tipped off about a recent rescue operation, the internal affairs effort largely centered on OPB’s report.

Sgt. Clesson Werner at one point filed a records request for all text messages between VPD officers and the reporter’s cellphone number. He filed another records request for all emails between Dec. 21, 2022, and Jan. 31, 2023 involving the suspension.

Werner also reached out to multiple media outlets to ask them where they obtained their information. Most outlets did not respond or simply declined to reveal their sources.

Werner did open complaints against two police officers. The investigator pulled departmental cellphone bills to find the two who had received calls from a reporter.

OPB is not naming the officers as the investigators later closed their complaints without finding any wrongdoing. Both officers in interviews denied revealing any information of substance to the media. One noted to internal affairs that OPB already had the email by the time the phone call occurred.

Werner concluded the investigations in July and, by late August, both officers had been cleared.

Kapp, the Vancouver spokesperson, said Tuesday that the agency had hoped to discover whether anyone was breaking rules by releasing information. The policy she cited revolves around criminal investigations, such as releasing a suspect’s biographical details and the charges they face.

But Kapp said “police reports or police documents are not releasable via email, outside of the Public Records Request process.”

OPB used the public records request process for a copy of its internal affairs report and filed the request Oct. 31. The agency supplied the report Jan. 26, almost three months later.

When asked if she considered the email obtained by OPB to be a public record, Kapp said yes.

“However, that document at the time you emailed it had not been the subject of any Public Disclosure Request. Release of a police record (to include a memo) would require the requester to submit a Public Records Request,” Kapp said.

Erb, of the Washington Coalition for Open Government, said the investigation is an indication of priorities within the Vancouver police agency given the departmental email noting Reynolds’ suspension is a public record.

The police action also centered on a local political hopeful, Erb noted.

“Vancouver and Clark County residents had a right to know that Officer Reynolds was suspended on paid administrative leave,” Erb wrote. “The public has an interest in his job status so that voters can evaluate his fitness for public office.

“Our advice is to flip the script and make transparency the priority,” Erb added.