UPDATE (2:23 p.m. PST) Oregon’s Department of Justice has concluded that Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer did not commit criminal acts by destroying public records and issuing handgun licenses to out-of-state residents.
The investigation came about after several citizens submitted complaints to Oregon’s Department of Public Safety and Standards. Some of those complaints stemmed from Palmer’s association with the leaders of the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, but the DOJ indicated that its investigation was focused on whether the sheriff had illegally destroyed records or issued gun licenses.
State investigators spoke with employees of the Sheriff’s Office and witnesses. They also created forensic reconstructions of shredded documents during the course of the investigation.
The investigation lasted more than a year and a half. The DOJ offered no comment on whether Palmer complied with county policies or laws.
But the DOJ’s investigation does not completely close the case with Palmer.
Linsay Hale with DPSST said an administrative committee in her agency will now take a separate look at the complaints against Palmer.
“They could direct DPSST to further investigate,” said Hale. “We will be presenting them with the Department of Justice findings that there were no criminal allegations.”
DPSST’s jurisdiction is different from that of the DOJ. While the DOJ is focused on potential criminal activity, DPSST looks at whether a law enforcement officer violated his or her standards for police certification.
County sheriffs hold a unique place of power in Oregon because they’re elected by constituents but also certified as law enforcement officers. That means, theoretically, a sheriff could lose his or her law enforcement license but remain in position.
“Even if Sheriff Palmer did engage in some misconduct — and I’m not saying that he did, there’s no indication one way or the other that he did as far as certification standards go — that would not remove him from office,” said Hale.
Palmer did not respond to OPB’s request for comment.