West Linn Police Department admits it ‘should have done better’ with doctor sex abuse case

By Amelia Templeton (OPB)
Feb. 10, 2024 12:44 a.m.

Warning: This story contains details on sexual abuse allegations, including charges of crimes involving children.

The West Linn Police Department assigned a detective with no formal training in sexual assault investigations to the sensitive case of a doctor accused of abusing dozens of women and children.

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And despite knowing that the former doctor, David Farley, had pictures of the genitalia of children on his personal cellphone in June of 2020, the West Linn Police Department did not secure that potential crucial evidence from Farley.

Those are two of the ways the investigation into Farley fell short, according to an independent review commissioned by the city of West Linn and released this week.

“It is clear from this report that we did not always follow our policies. We could and should have done better,” the city wrote in a press release.

The police department said it has created a detective sergeant position to provide better oversight of its investigations and provides specialized trauma-informed training to its officers.

Oregon’s Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, who has been asked by victims to re-investigate the case, did not respond to a request for comment on the new findings.

Farley’s alleged victims denounced the West Linn police two years ago after a Clackamas County grand jury declined to bring criminal charges against him. Farley had previously lost his medical license over the same allegations and is banned from practicing in Oregon.

In November 2022, the city attorney hired an independent firm, Workplace Solutions NW, to investigate whether the criminal investigation into Farley had complied with internal police policies.

The review, conducted by attorney Jill Goldsmith, found the police department violated several of its own rules during the investigation.

It failed to perform work at a level of basic competence, use a qualified investigator, and protect victims’ rights, among other lapses.

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According to Goldsmith, the police department’s policy states that sexual assault investigations should be handled by qualified investigators who have specialized training and are familiar with the medical and legal issues specific to sexual assault.

While he’d spent many years in law enforcement, lead detective Tony Christensen had no formal training in sexual assault investigations until September 2021, a full year after the investigation began and after most of the alleged victims had been interviewed, when he took a two-hour class in “Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Collection.”

Goldsmith also found that in the initial phase of the investigation, Christensen was broadly uninformed about how sexual abuse can occur in the guise of medical care, in spite of recent high-profile cases of doctors being convicted of abusing their patients, like Olympic sports physician Larry Nassar.

Christensen had been briefed by the Oregon Medical Board that the case involved inappropriate pelvic exams. But in recorded interviews with the first four women who reported abuse, he didn’t understand basic medical terms like Pap smear or speculum. “Christensen does not know what a pelvic examination is or what its purpose is,” Goldsmith wrote. “All of this information is available with a simple Google search.”

After receiving a draft copy of the investigation, the city of West Linn asked Goldsmith if Christensen’s interviews of witnesses had improved over the course of the investigation. Goldsmith then reviewed recordings of the last four interviews conducted during the investigation and agreed that Christensen was better informed at that point and was using an appropriate list of questions.

Goldsmith’s review documented other problems with the investigation. Staff working the case either failed to record or write up some phone interviews or lost those records. And police failed to arrange victim advocates for all the interviews.

Goldsmith did not find evidence in the recorded interviews she listened to that Christensen and other interviewers were callous or unprofessional, as some victims have said. She described law enforcement as “businesslike, sometimes interrupting, and brusque” and noted that the interview techniques, while professional, didn’t meet the standard of being sensitive to trauma.

In one particular case, a woman in deep distress, who’d been one of Farley’s patients since her own birth, was not given any chance to take a break during her interview or comforted in any way.

Finally, Goldsmith confirmed that in June 2020, the Oregon Medical Board’s investigator reached out to Christensen and the West Linn Police Department, warning that Farley had been taking photographs of children’s genitalia without a legitimate medical reason.

“Ultimately, we are a licensing board and while we have subpoena authority, we do not have warrant authority,” Jason Carruth, the OMB’s investigator, wrote to Christensen. “Once he knows we are looking at him for this behavior, I fear any evidence he may have that would be useful in a criminal investigation will certainly disappear.”

Goldsmith found that Christensen did not take any action to secure Farley’s phone or computer. In fact, the West Linn Police Department only recovered Farley’s hard drive more than a year later, in September 2021, after a member of the public purchased Farley’s computer second-hand and offered it to the police.

Goldsmith, who does not practice criminal law, did not find that Christensen’s failure to act more quickly to secure potential evidence of child pornography violated the police department’s policies.

She deferred to West Linn Police Chief Peter Mahuna’s expertise on the matter. Mahuna said the police department didn’t have enough information to secure a warrant to seize Farley’s phone.

Evidence of child pornography has proven critical to the indictments of two of the highest profile doctors prosecuted for similar sexual abuse allegations, Nassar and former University of Southern California physician George Tyndall.

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Grand jury fails to indict West Linn doctor accused of abuse

A West Linn doctor accused of sexual abuse by more than 100 women and children was not charged with any crimes. That’s despite him having lost his medical license over some of the same claims. When a grand jury was presented with the evidence gathered by police and prosecutors in Clackamas County earlier this year, they decided it was not enough to justify charging the former doctor. The alleged victims of the abuse say that’s because local agencies did not do everything they could to secure charges. OPB reporters Amelia Templeton and Conrad Wilson tried to find out why.