City of Tenino Launches Third-Party Investigation Into Officer Fired From Another Agency for Excessive Force


The City of Tenino has hired a third-party law firm to investigate a recently-hired officer after a KING 5 investigation released last month revealed the officer was fired by a different agency for using excessive force on suspects. 

The Tenino Police Department removed the officer, 35-year-old Christopher Backus, from patrol and he is on modified assignment until the investigation is concluded, Tenino Mayor Wayne Fournier said in a written statement dated Feb. 23. 

“Everyone deserves to know the truth, and that’s what we’re trying to figure out,” Fournier said during a Tenino City Council meeting on Feb. 28. 

The KING 5 investigative report citing city and police records found Backus had a “pattern” of using excessive force during his three years at the Tukwila Police Department, prompting multiple internal probes before the department fired him in 2017. 

The year after Backus was fired, the City of Tukwila reportedly agreed to revoke Bakus’ termination, reverse all findings of misconduct and remove the disciplinary records from his personnel file, according to KING 5. The city then reportedly paid Bakus $75,000 “in exchange for his promise to resign from the police department and remain quiet under a confidentiality clause,” KING 5 reported. 

The Tenino Police Department hired Backus in the summer of 2022, according to KING 5. As part of the hiring process, the City of Tenino conducted a full background investigation, which included a review of Backus’ files from previous employers, a criminal history check, a psychiatric evaluation and a polygraph, according to the news release signed by Fournier. 

“Currently and at the time of Officer Backus’ hire he was and is in good standing with the Criminal Justice Training Commission,” which handles certification and training of peace officers in Washington state, Fournier stated in the news release. 

He read that written statement out loud at Tenino City Council’s regular meeting on Feb. 28, where he explained that since this was a personnel matter, he would not make further comments on the situation. 

“We’re going to look at facts, we’re not going to act rashly, we’re not going to act emotionally and we’re not going to investigate ourselves,” Fournier said last week, adding that an agency investigating itself is “not a good practice.” 

The third-party investigator hired to investigate Backus is a Seattle firm with an attorney “that does investigations into this sort of thing,” Fournier said. 

“We expect them to give us some kind of full report on everything from 2015 to yesterday and that will likely come with some kind of recommendations,” Fournier said. “After that’s all done, we’ll make a decision and we’ll be very transparent, we’ll be open with the public about it, and we’ll have more community conversations and we’ll figure out what we’re going to do.” 

Backus was involved in four “controversial” incidents in Tukwila, according to KING 5: one in January 2015 where he tackled and punched a 15-year-old boy who he mistook for a suspect then falsified reports; one in July 2016 where he improperly tased a man at a Tukwila bus stop; one in November 2016 where he shoved a teenager head-first into a cement planter and threatened deploy his taser; and one in December 2016 where he tased an intoxicated homeless man who posed no threat to the officer. 

In its investigative report, KING 5 noted that “(U)ncovering details of Backus' law enforcement record was no small feat. It underscores the great challenges facing employers who are tasked with vetting police job candidates named in similar deals that change or hide the existence of disciplinary records.”