Oregon prosecutor says police officer's arrest report off-limits

EUGENE — A Central Oregon prosecutor and police chief have denied records to a newspaper seeking details of the drunken driving arrest of a Eugene police officer.

Eugene police officer Derek DeWitt pleaded no contest to a Sept. 4 drunken driving charge in Sunriver. He was alleged to be driving with a blood-alcohol content of at least 0.15, or nearly twice the legal limit.

The newspaper argued that the reports from DeWitt's traffic stop clearly fall under Oregon public records law: The report is in the public interest, the newspaper argued, because DeWitt is a police officer sworn to uphold the law.

Deschutes County District Attorney Patrick Flaherty rejected that argument and said DeWitt's arrest merits a public records exception because it is "pending litigation."

The arrest report also is of consequence because DeWitt was initially booked into the Deschutes County Jail on two misdemeanor counts of recklessly endangering another person, along with the drunken driving charge. But DeWitt was prosecuted only for drunken driving. Only the arrest report could shed light on the reasons for charging DeWitt with reckless endangerment.

Authorities have not disclosed why police suspected DeWitt of reckless endangerment. Under state law, the charge is brought when a suspect "recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person."

He was released from jail on Sept. 4, the day of his arrest, without being required to post bail. The Eugene police department took DeWitt off its patrol division and assigned him to an administrative position.

Eugene police are conducting an internal investigation and have received the arrest report, but declined to release it to the newspaper. The Eugene police department's decision was backed by a ruling in support from Lane County deputy district attorney David Hopkins.

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