How Decade-Old Misconduct Shaped Oregon State Police's Top Cop

July 8, 2024
Oregon State Police Superintendent Casey Codding says a major mistake he made more than a decade ago left an indelible impression and changed how he does his job.

PORTLAND, Oregon -- Oregon State Police Superintendent Casey Codding says a major mistake he made more than a decade ago left an indelible impression and changed how he does his job.

But you won’t find any mention in the agency’s records of the discipline Codding faced that apparently contributed to his seminal experience.

After a public records request by The Oregonian/OregonLive this year, Codding said the full internal investigation into his misconduct and the record of his discipline no longer exist – purged from the agency’s files because of their age.

The news organization made the request as part of its ongoing reporting into uneven discipline and allegations of favoritism at Oregon’s premier law enforcement agency.

Codding did release a heavily redacted and incomplete summary culled from his personnel records of what happened in early 2013 when he was a newly minted supervisor on the state police SWAT team.

To fill in the blanks, the newsroom obtained the state police criminal investigation from a county district attorney’s office through a separate public records request.

It told the tale of an alcohol-fueled drive to Mount Hood for a night skiing getaway in a SWAT truck used without authorization after a state police rifle training.

Codding, who at age 35 had just been promoted to sergeant on the elite tactical unit, sat between two troopers in the back seat as the pair swigged beer and liquor along the way.

A fellow SWAT sergeant joined in, taking at least one belt of salted caramel vodka from his personal flask while he drove, records show.

Codding didn’t drink or get behind the wheel as the pickup made its way up the mountain — but he also didn’t stop his comrades or report them for flouting Oregon’s open container law prohibiting drinking or having an open container of alcohol in a car.

Another trooper who wasn’t on the trip outed his colleagues a week later after he learned he was getting kicked off SWAT, according to the criminal investigation never reported until now.

The whistleblower also reported other inappropriate behavior by SWAT members, including a sergeant’s so-called “SWAT pop” – shooting behind a trooper’s head as a joke – and shooting animals from state police cars.

Read: Oregon State Police investigated ‘SWAT pop,’ sergeant’s shooting at coyotes and other animals

Read: Questionable tactics revealed in state police fatal shooting of 18-year-old man near Yachats

These latest revelations are yet another example of unequal consequences within state police ranks. Time and again, police leaders have launched investigations of misconduct only after troopers facing firing, demotion or investigation for their own actions pointed the finger at wrongdoing of unpunished colleagues.

The Oregonian/OregonLive has identified and previously written about other examples: A trooper under investigation for excessive force reported Sgt. Jeffrey A. Allison’s repeated use of a racist slur on duty; a trooper fired for making an anti-gay remark reported supervisors who hazed a trooper with a homophobic “mock trial”; and a trooper fired for on-duty sexual misconduct alleged a high-ranking supervisor had an on-duty affair with a civilian staffer.

In a recent interview, Codding acknowledged his 11-year-old misdeeds and said they “shaped who I am today.”

“I didn’t step up and do the right thing,” he said.

In an email before the interview, Codding explained: “In short, I failed to act when I should have. I embraced the disciplinary process, knowing I wasn’t just outside agency policy but also outside my expectations for myself.’’

“I accepted accountability then and accept it still today,” he wrote.

Neither the criminal investigation nor the 17 pages of Codding’s personnel records revealed how state police brass dealt with him.

Codding said what he released came from his email and from “fragments” of his personnel records still found in various state police databases. All the names but Codding’s were blacked out before he turned over the summary.

He conceded the records are incomplete and lack some details – including how he was penalized. He said only that he was reprimanded.

In the month after the ski trip, Codding left SWAT to serve as a sergeant in the Springfield patrol office. He said that was his choice and not part of the discipline.

Codding said he chose to release part of his personnel record — which otherwise might be exempt from public disclosure — “to help inspire the trust and confidence of the Oregonians I serve.”

In February 2023, Gov. Tina Kotek announced she had selected Codding to lead Oregon State Police after the retirement of the previous superintendent.

“Through all of his roles, Codding held true to OSP’s mission and values to serve all people and our communities, property, and natural resources, while building upon a diverse, professional workforce,” Kotek said in a statement at the time.

The governor said last week that she wasn’t aware of Codding’s reprimand as a SWAT sergeant when she named him superintendent.

Codding alerted Kotek about his misconduct after The Oregonian/OregonLive requested the internal investigation records from state police. He provided Kotek with the same documents he gave the newsroom and told her that he had received a verbal reprimand, according to her office.

In a statement, Kotek said Codding took responsibility and went on to earn ensuing promotions for his excellent performance. She noted his recent work with Portland police to combat fentanyl trafficking and his effort to stop a double murder suspect who fled with a child.

“The Governor believes that taking accountability, learning from your mistakes, and applying those lessons to how you serve the public and lead an agency is among the strongest demonstrations of leadership,” the statement said.


Codding was about a month and half into his role as a SWAT sergeant when he, another new SWAT sergeant and three troopers piled into a black Dodge SWAT pickup.

The Feb. 12, 2013, ski trip came on the second day of the team’s monthly three-day rifle training in Salem.

The trip to the slopes was considered a “team building” retreat that had become an annual trek, all involved later told investigators.

Earlier in the day, they had attended bolt-rifle training at the Albany Rifle and Pistol Club’s range. They then returned to their hotels in Salem and loaded their ski and snowboard gear in Sgt. Joey Pollard’s SWAT truck and headed off for night skiing on Mount Hood.

Codding and the others were off-duty but still on their pagers in the case of an emergency call-out.

Pollard took the wheel. Trooper Nick Neville was beside him in front.

Codding sat in the back between two troopers he supervised, Scott Hill and Scott Show. Hill and Show soon cracked open cans of beer the two picked up as the truck stopped at a Salem Plaid Pantry on the way.

Hill bought one can of beer and four miniature wine bottles and Show bought two 16-ounce cans of beer, they told investigators. They held them in brown bags and drank as the group headed north on Interstate 5.

No one said a word of reproach.

“I just chose to sit there and roll with it,” Codding told an investigator, according to the criminal investigation.

“So, you’re currently a sergeant?” one of the lead investigators asked him.

“Yes, sir,” Codding responded.

The investigator later asked, “Just to clarify, the fellows, Hill and Show, they were consuming beer while you guys were driving down the road?”

“Yes sir … it was on the freeway,” Codding confirmed.


But that wasn’t the end to the drinking, the records say.

Along the way, Codding and the three others in the truck said they saw Pollard hand a clear flask of alcohol he had stored in the driver’s door to those in the back seat.

Show said he saw Pollard drink about two shots from the flask while driving. Show and Hill said they each took swigs from it, according to transcripts of their interviews with the state police criminal investigators.

Codding said he was drinking coffee and didn’t have any alcohol on the drive.

When Pollard pulled into a Taco Bell in Sandy for a quick snack, Show and Hill said they threw out their beer cans there.

Show told investigators: “Yes, there were open containers in the vehicle. There’s no way to spin that, that makes that okay. It’s not a super big deal in my mind … alcohol was consumed, consumed in the vehicle.”

While at Mt. Hood Skibowl, Hill said he drank wine from the mini bottles he bought “kinda throughout the ski trip.”

After skiing, they had dinner at Skibowl’s lodge and Pollard, Codding, Hill and Show drank from a pitcher or two of beer. Codding told investigators, “I think all of us had a beer or two at the lodge.”

Pollard gave the keys to Neville, who doesn’t drink, to drive his SWAT truck back to Salem that night.

Hill later told investigators that on the morning after the trip, “I wouldn’t say it was like a full hangover, but I didn’t feel very good.”


The boozy ski trip didn’t stay quiet for long.

Trooper Nick Rhoades, a SWAT member, reported it after he learned the team’s supervisors intended to remove him from the team.

Codding and SWAT commander Lt. Bill Fugate met with Rhoades on Feb. 15, 2013, and cited what they called Rhoades’ “general lack of professionalism,” including disrespect for supervisors and alleged hazing of new members, according to the criminal investigation. Rhoades denied the hazing.

Four days later, Rhoades reported the misconduct by the team’s sergeants, Codding and Pollard, to a state police captain.

“I’m hearing about the word professionalism, and I’m thinking, ‘these guys had the nerve to sit across from me and say that … and this kind of stuff is occurring,’” Rhoades later told investigators.

On the third day of the Salem training after the ski trip, Rhoades told investigators, the training “smelled like a brewery.”

Aside from the ski trip, Rhoades also complained Pollard had fired a bullet behind the head of a fellow trooper in a “SWAT pop” during a different operation and shot at coyotes and other animals from rural roadways or from the windows of his SWAT truck and encouraged others to do the same.


State police opened a criminal investigation on Feb. 22, 2013, into official misconduct and theft allegations focused on Pollard and Codding’s use of a state police truck for the ski trip and the drinking on the drive to Mount Hood.

Under a state administrative rule, state vehicles are to be used for official state business only, not for personal use or for private financial benefit of an employee.

If employees take a state vehicle on overnight travel for required training, they can use it to go to meals and for fitness and recreational activities “within the local vicinity.”

Skibowl is a 170-mile round trip from Salem, state police wrote in the criminal investigation report.

Pollard, who usually worked in Bend, had been allowed to take his assigned state police pickup to the training. He declined to be interviewed for the criminal inquiry by state police investigators, saying he wanted to seek legal counsel, and no further questions were asked, the report said.

Fugate, the SWAT commander, said he knew a number of SWAT members planned to head to Mount Hood after training one night but said no one asked him for permission to take a state police truck. He figured they would ride in a personal car, he said.

All the SWAT members riding in Pollard’s truck told investigators they never asked a higher-ranking supervisor for permission to take the state police truck to the mountain because police vehicles had been used in the past on such team ski trips.

Codding acknowledged that he didn’t speak up when troopers under his command were drinking in the truck.

“I accept responsibility in that, that would’ve been the moment for me to be more assertive in my new position and say, ‘hey, well, guys, not the best choice , okay.’ Accept 100 percent responsibility for that,’’ he told investigators, according to a transcript of his interview.

“I made a couple good decisions in that I wasn’t gonna choose to drink and I didn’t drink, but I get that, especially in my role now, woulda been the moment I coulda shined,” he said.

The Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office reviewed the criminal investigation. Then-Chief Deputy District Attorney Greg Horner found insufficient evidence to file official misconduct or theft charges against Codding or Pollard, the records show.

“While the use of a state owned vehicle for a ski trip reflects poor judgment, it is not the basis for a criminal charge,” Horner wrote in his decline-to-prosecute memo on April 24, 2013.

Paige Clarkson, then a Marion County deputy district attorney, declined to pursue any violations of the state’s open container law against Hill, Show or Pollard, according to the investigative reports.


State police then conducted an internal investigation.

It found Codding violated state police policy by using the state truck for personal purposes and failing to act when he saw subordinates drinking from open containers of alcohol while traveling in the state truck, according to the summary Codding released.

In the internal inquiry, Codding called the state’s vehicle policy “very gray” but conceded that the distance to Mount Hood “could be construed as farther than local vicinity.”

Codding acknowledged to investigators that he was aware the drinking violated Oregon law, the summary states.

Tom Worthy, a state police captain at the time, upheld both allegations, finding Codding “failed to do anything to stop” his subordinates from violating the law. Worthy said he sent his findings to a major and the agency’s Professional Standards Office to determine discipline.

Worthy, now police chief in The Dalles, said he didn’t remember what discipline resulted but didn’t recall recommending “any verbal reprimand.”

“That was pretty serious conduct in my estimation,” Worthy told The Oregonian/OregonLive.

Codding said he received a “low-level” verbal reprimand. Any record of that discipline has been destroyed by the agency under the three-year records retention requirement then, he said.

He also said in his recent interview that he asked to be moved off SWAT to a sergeant’s patrol position in Springfield where he would receive more mentorship. That wasn’t part of any discipline, he said.

“That decision was made to expose a young sergeant to more experience within the agency,” he said.

Pollard was ordered to speak to state police professional standards investigators, according to the summary.

He admitted that as he drove north on I-5, he pulled out his plastic Nalgene flask from the truck’s door pocket when someone in the truck asked what he would be drinking at the mountain, the summary says.

He then passed the flask back to his right and when the flask came back to him, he said he took a sip from it while driving, the summary says.

Pollard’s name was among those redacted, but the description matches the account in the criminal investigation.

“Casey and I both should’ve, you know, not allowed it,” Pollard said of the drinking in the car, according to the summary. “We both felt kinda this peer pressure, I guess, if you will, to not say anything. Do I regret that? Absolutely.”

Though Pollard was demoted to senior trooper in mid-May 2013 and moved off the team, he was returned to SWAT by early 2016 and promoted back to sergeant in May 2017. He retired in June 30, 2023, after a 27-year state police career.

He didn’t return messages for comment.

Richard Evans, state police superintendent when the SWAT investigation occurred, said last week the misconduct on the SWAT team left him “pretty upset at the time, obviously.”

The disturbing findings led Evans to consider suspending the full SWAT team, he said. But he scrapped the idea, he said, because other agencies’ tactical squads couldn’t cover calls across the state.

He said he remembered demoting Pollard and sanctioning others involved, but he didn’t remember Codding’s discipline.

Under a 2021 state law, police agencies must retain personnel records for at least 10 years after an officer leaves the agency.

But state police, under their current agreement with the troopers union, remove discipline from an officer’s personnel record after three years or five years, depending on the seriousness. The agency also won’t consider verbal reprimands and written instruction letters two years after they’re issued when meting out discipline if future misconduct occurs.

Though the agency said no record of Codding’s discipline exists, Codding did share a three-paragraph memo he wrote to Worthy three days after the captain’s findings against him. He said he’s proud of his memo to this day.

He accepted the violations, apologized and said he was excited to move forward.

He wrote that the process “expanded my career” and led to self-reflection and recognition of the “greater impact” his actions have on subordinates and the department.

Codding ended up returning to the SWAT unit in 2015 as its commanding lieutenant and served on it for a total of 12 years. He had been hired in 2000 as a state police recruit after starting with the agency as a cadet in 1996.

Now, as superintendent, Codding said it’s his “sincerest hope” to “find effective and meaningful ways to lead the agency.”

He stood by state police investigative practices and said he doesn’t believe they’re unfair or that discipline is disparate.

State police investigate every personnel complaint, he said, whether it comes from inside or outside the agency. A small percentage result in formal discipline or firing, he said.

It’s also not unique to state police, he said, for employees facing discipline to try to deflect by pointing to others’ actions.

In his own case, he said, his errors as a new SWAT sergeant have stuck with him, shining light on the “importance of leadership and doing the right thing and speaking up and having a voice when a policy violation — let alone a law — is being violated.”

“If I’m going to build an agency that has a culture of accountability and excellence, that starts with me,” he said.

— Maxine Bernstein covers federal court and criminal justice. Reach her at 503-221-8212, [email protected], follow her on X @maxoregonian, or on LinkedIn.

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