The City of Toledo has cut ties with former reserve officer Brandon Svenson — who also serves as mayor of Winlock — due to the possibility that his background check was not properly completed before he was hired by the Toledo Police Department in January 2022.
Svenson, who is also the chair of the Lewis County Republicans, enrolled in the Morton Police Department Reserve Academy in January 2022 while sponsored by the Toledo Police Department. He graduated from the academy and was sworn in on June 19.
However, former Toledo Police Chief Sam Patrick left the position to become chief of the McCleary Police Department in July and, without a replacement, the reserve program was dissolved.
The Toledo Police Department was without a chief from July 2022 until Toledo’s current police chief, Duane Garvais Lawrence, started the job in October.
“I was very excited to serve the City of Toledo. Unfortunately, I never worked a single day there as a result of Chief Patrick leaving the City of Toledo,” Svenson said in a written statement to The Chronicle on Thursday.
Reserve officers have to undergo an academy training program and receive certificates of completion, but they are not considered full-time peace officers and thus don’t require full-fledged certification from the state Criminal Justice Training Commission the way full police officers do, a commission spokesperson told The Chronicle. State law does require law enforcement agencies to complete a background check on an applicant before hiring them as a reserve officer.
“Law enforcement agencies/agency representatives are required to attest under penalty of perjury that they understand and have complied with statutory and regulatory requirements for hiring a reserve officer,” stated a representative of the Washington state Criminal Justice Training Commission’s certification division in an email to a Chronicle reporter.
Svenson’s reserve academy application includes a Jan. 4, 2022, signature from Patrick asserting that Svenson’s background check had been completed.
However, according to Toledo Mayor Steve Dobosh, it is possible the City of Toledo did not actually complete that background check.
Dobosh issued a letter to the Toledo community on Jan. 11, 2023, stating, “Mr. Svenson’s background was never completed by the City of Toledo because he was eliminated as a candidate during the criminal background portion of the process.”
Svenson’s record does not include any convictions that, under Washington state law, would automatically disqualify him from serving as a reserve officer in the Toledo or Morton areas, The Chronicle confirmed.
“At no point in this process did anyone from the City of Toledo ever inform me, or to my knowledge anyone else, there was an issue with my background,” Svenson said in a written statement to The Chronicle. “A background check always occurs prior to being sworn in. Sadly, at the root of this and countless other unfounded personal attacks are just a few malicious individuals that continually harass several electeds in Lewis County based on our political and religious beliefs.”
Svenson stated that his time at the Morton Reserve Academy “was entirely self funded, including my polygraph and psychiatric evaluation performed by independent entities, which I passed.”
In a phone call with a Chronicle reporter, Dobosh said he had received his information about the Svenson’s background check from local activist Kyle Wheeler but was unable to independently confirm whether or not the background check had been completed.
The information fell under the City of Toledo’s radar due to a high turnover of police chiefs within the last two years, according to Dobosh.
He said Wheeler reached out to him in early January about Svenson’s background and encouraged Dobosh to look into it himself, and, after hearing from Toledo’s current police chief that employing Svenson could be considered a conflict of interest due to Svenson’s position as mayor of Winlock, Dobosh drafted the Jan. 11 letter with the help of “a consultant.”
“I don’t want the city to be liable,” said Dobosh. “I didn’t want anything to do with that mess.”
The letter states, “the City of Toledo accepts no responsibility in (Svenson’s) actions. Further, any commission or perception of law enforcement commission for Brandon Svenson is revoked by the City of Toledo.”
After the Toledo Police Department’s reserve officer program was dissolved in July 2022, Svenson applied to be a reserve officer with the Morton Police Department and was hired in August. Svenson served as a reserve officer in Morton until December before leaving the position “for personal reasons,” Svenson told The Chronicle.
He is not currently serving as a reserve officer.
Svenson said he knew for certain that the Morton Police Department properly completed the background check on him before he was hired. He could not say the same for his background check in Toledo, as that was handled entirely by Patrick, Svenson said.
The Chronicle was unable to reach Patrick for comment.
In a Jan. 31 email to The Chronicle, a representative of the Washington state Criminal Justice Training Commission’s certification division stated the division “does not confirm or deny the existence of any pending investigation.”
While Svenson did not identify who he called “malicious individuals” in his statement to The Chronicle, the issue of his background check was first brought to light by Wheeler, who wrote a letter to the editor on the topic that can be read here.