Bellingham Police officer resigns after arrests for repeated domestic abuse

A Bellingham Police officer facing a total of 16 charges, most of them felonies related to domestic violence, has resigned from duty.

Cpl. Brooks Owen Laughlin, 33, of Everson resigned effective 5 p.m. on April 20, according to Bellingham Police Chief David Doll. Doll said Laughlin’s resignation letter “simply stated that he requested my acceptance of his resignation of employment.”

Doll said the Bellingham Police Department will be hiring to fill the full-time position left vacant by Laughlin’s resignation. The department will also start the process of promoting another officer to corporal in the near future, Doll said.

Laughlin is accused of repeatedly abusing a woman since September 2016. He is facing multiple counts of second-degree assault, tampering with a witness, felony harassment, violation of a no-contact order and one count each of felony stalking, criminal trespass and harassment. He pleaded not guilty April 6.

Laughlin has been on paid administrative leave since Feb. 14, four days after his first arrest on Feb. 10. He was arrested again a month later on March 27, after the woman disclosed violations of a no-contact order and the abuse to police.

Laughlin has been paid a total of $12,938.80 since March 31. He received additional assignment premiums for education and longevity, according to Vanessa Blackburn, a spokeswoman for the City of Bellingham. He was on paid administrative leave per the Bellingham Police Guild's collective bargaining agreement with the department.

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A frame grab of Bellingham Police Cpl. Brooks Laughlin pulled from police body camera footage filmed on Tuesday, June 20, 2017. Bellingham Police Department Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Laughlin had been with the Bellingham Police Department for 13 years and was promoted to corporal Jan. 9.

Laughlin’s trial is tentatively scheduled for June 4. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

The Bellingham Police Department had known about Laughlin’s alleged history of domestic violence since at least January 2017, but some sheriff’s deputies and the woman’s family have had concerns about Laughlin’s conduct since 2015, according to records obtained by The Bellingham Herald.

Laughlin is the third Bellingham Police officer in as many years to be arrested for alleged assaultive behavior. Another officer, Sukhdev Singh Dhaliwal, 32, 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 papers filed in the case. Dhaliwal is facing felony charges of second-degree assault, harassment and fourth-degree assault. His trial is tentatively scheduled for May 21.

In fall 2016, officer Jacob Esparza, 35, was fired after he was arrested on domestic violence charges. He was already on the brink of losing his job before that, records show. Esparza, of Lynden, pleaded guilty in June 2017 to one count of harassment (domestic violence) and was sentenced to serve 364 days in jail, with 362 days suspended.

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office is conducting the internal investigation into the incidents involving Laughlin, and an outside independent person identified by the city’s legal office will also conduct an assessment of the department’s specific policies that would deal with the arrests of Laughlin and Dhaliwal, and the firing of Esparza.

Denver Pratt: 360-715-2236, @DenverPratt