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Outside agency to look into arrests of three Bellingham cops

Bellingham Police Officer Sukhdev Singh Dhaliwal appears at his arraignment Whatcom Superior Court in Bellingham, Thursday Nov. 3, 2017. Dhaliwal is one of three Bellingham Police officers that have been arrested on alleged assaultive behaviors in the last three years.
Bellingham Police Officer Sukhdev Singh Dhaliwal appears at his arraignment Whatcom Superior Court in Bellingham, Thursday Nov. 3, 2017. Dhaliwal is one of three Bellingham Police officers that have been arrested on alleged assaultive behaviors in the last three years. The Bellingham Herald file

After a third Bellingham Police officer was arrested in just as many years for alleged assaultive behavior, Police Chief David Doll issued a statement Friday, saying the department is having an outside agency review the events that led to the officers’ arrests to help BPD determine potential punishments for those involved.

“The recent arrests of two of our officers, and one that occurred two years ago, has put focus on our department. As a result, we have found ourselves faced with very serious situations that we believe compel crucial conversations and communication,” Doll said in the prepared statement.

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office will conduct the internal investigations, which are already in progress, according to Bellingham Police Lt. Danettte Beckley.

Investigators will help BPD determine whether any disciplinary actions, including termination, will take place, Beckley said.

Doll said the department is also partnering with the local Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services to determine “best practices” in dealing with allegations of domestic violence involving its officers.

“We have worked hard to build an intentional, ethical culture in the Bellingham Police Department. We care deeply and honor the trust that is bestowed upon us by our community acknowledging that this trust is fragile and easily broken,” Doll said. “When one of our own acts in a way that is contrary to our culture, it affects us all. In our efforts to safeguard this trust, we commit to transparent processes to assure our community that we hold our employees accountable for their actions, whether committed on or off duty.”

Police Cpl. Brooks Owen Laughlin, 33, of Everson, was arrested Feb. 10 on suspicion of first-degree criminal trespassing (domestic violence).

Around 10:30 a.m. that day, Laughlin went to a home in the 3700 block of Clearbrook Road near Sumas – where he was later arrested. He had been in a domestic dispute the day prior with a woman who said Laughlin threatened to shoot her in the face, according to records obtained by The Bellingham Herald.

At the time of alleged threat, Laughlin was on duty. He was sent home early from his shift, according to the records.

The next morning, Laughlin went to the Sumas home and demanded to speak to the woman. The pair had a conversation inside, but Laughlin was later asked to leave, which he allegedly refused. Laughlin was told to leave numerous times, but refused until he was escorted out of the residence by a Sumas police officer, according to the records.

Laughlin was off duty at the time of his arrest. He’s been with the department for 13 years, according to Beckley, and was promoted to corporal Jan. 9.

Laughlin is currently on administrative leave, per the Bellingham Police Guild’s collective bargaining agreement with the department, and will remain on leave until the internal investigation into the matter is completed, Beckley said.

Another Bellingham cop, Sukhdev Singh Dhaliwal, 31, is still on leave after he and his brother allegedly beat two men – ages 19 and 20 – fracturing one’s face and making threats to kill outside a Blaine business in October, according to court papers filed in the case.

Dhaliwal is facing felony charges of second-degree assault, harassment and fourth-degree assault.

0302 esparza cop arrest
In fall 2016, Bellingham Police officer Jacob Esparza was fired after he was arrested on domestic violence charges. Esparza was already on the brink of losing his job. He pleaded guilty to one count of harassment with domestic violence June 2017 and was sentenced to two days in jail. City of Bellingham Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

In fall 2016, Bellingham Police officer Jacob Esparza was fired after he was arrested on domestic violence charges. He was already on the brink of losing his job before that, records obtained by The Herald show.

Esparza, 35, of Lynden, pleaded guilty June 2017 to one count of harassment with domestic violence – a gross misdemeanor – in Whatcom County District Court. He was sentenced to serve 364 days in jail, with 362 suspended.

Denver Pratt: 360-715-2236, @DenverPratt

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