The Napavine Police Department hired an officer in May of 2019 who had been fired from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office eight months prior for reportedly violating two of the agency’s policies and her oath of office, stemming from her association with the Proud Boys, labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office issued a notice on Aug. 14, 2019 regarding the Napavine Police Department hiring officer Erin Willey, stating that it had been previously determined she has potential impeachment evidence in her history with another agency.
“If you were a minority facing a crime, you would probably want to know if the officer was associated, one way or another, with a group like that,” Meyer told The Chronicle. “The issuance of my letter doesn’t necessarily mean that it comes in at trial and it doesn’t necessarily mean that we have found she is dishonest or that she has some type of slant when it comes to her work. It just means there is information out there that the defense may find useful when they are looking at the issue of credibility.”
According to the narrative summary of Willey’s background check during the hiring process, she was referred to the Napavine Police Department by Lewis County Undersheriff Wes Rethwill.
“I simply referred her name to the Napavine chief as he was looking for an officer and she was looking for employment after inquiring with our agency,” Rethwill wrote in an email. “Nothing more, nothing less.”
Napavine Police officer Steve Dawes, who conducted the background check for Willey, wrote in his report, “I was hard pressed to obtain any kind of negative comment regarding Erin. With the exception of one employer who advised Erin wasn’t cut out for this type of employment. “Everyone enthusiastically recommended her for a position as a police officer with our agency.”
Dawes also wrote: “Erin was not known for letting her personal life interfere with her professional life.”
Dawes also raised questions about the validity of the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office including Willey on the Potential Impeachment List, sometimes known as the Brady List, claiming that they could not find any documentation as to why Willey was included on the list.
The Brady List is a list of law enforcement officers who have sustained incidents of being untruthful or an issue that places their credibility into question. Prosecutor’s offices typically compile these lists.
“This lack of documentation causes some concern as it appears neither the Clark County Sheriff’s Office nor the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office followed proper procedure in adding Erin to the list,” Dawes wrote.
Dawes concluded his background narrative stating he believed Willey to be a viable candidate for the position.
Willey took her oath of office with the Napavine Police Department on May 28, 2019, according to a Napavine City Council meeting agenda.
The Napavine Police Department did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
Willey was fired from her role as a probationary deputy with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office on July 17, 2018, 15 days after the agency learned of her affiliation with the Proud Boys Girls, an affiliate group of the Proud Boys, from The Columbian, which had received a photo of Willey in a Proud Boys Girls sweatshirt.
Willey was put on the Brady List by the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office after her dismissal from the CCSO.
On July 5, 2018, the CCSO opened an internal affairs investigation into Willey and her alleged involvement with the hate group and found her to be in violation of the non-discrimination and anti-harassment policy, the off-duty conduct policy and her oath of office.
The investigation report, which was written by CCSO Commander Michael McCabe, states Willey was a member of a private Facebook group called the Proud Boys Girls, sold Proud Boys Girls merchandise and was involved with the group from November 2016 to October 2017, with her most active time affiliated with the group running from November 2018 to May 2017.
The conclusion of the CCSO internal affairs investigation stated, “The Sheriff’s Office concluded that Erin Willey either knew or should have known that any affiliation with or promotion of a group which openly discriminates and is openly anti-government, may undermine or erode the public’s confidence and trust in the Sheriff’s Office.”
Some of the concerns regarding Willey that investigators laid out are as follows:
• In February 2017, Willey actively participated in the manufacturing, advertising and selling of Proud Boys Girls’ merchandise, showing a level of involvement beyond casual.
• Willey reportedly did not disclose her participation or affiliation with the Proud Boys and Proud Boys Girls despite having multiple opportunities to do so.
• Willey admitted during her interview with internal affairs that she participated with the Proud Boys by videotaping her ex-boyfriend’s “beating ritual” that reportedly required a physical assault as a means of gaining membership.
• Willey told investigators she never wore the Proud Boys Girls apparel in public after being shown a photo of her in a PBG shirt in her car, in public.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, who designates the Proud Boys as a hate group, the Proud Boys are self-described “western chauvinists” who adamantly deny any connection to the racist alt-right and insist they are simply a fraternal group spreading an “anti-political correctness” and “anti-white guilt” agenda.
The SPLC states the Proud Boys are known for anti-muslim and mysogonistic rhetoric and have appeared alongside other hate groups at extremist rallies.
Willey told investigators with CCSO and the Napavine Police Department in an interview that her involvement with the group was brought on by her ex-boyfriend. Willey was the victim of multiple domestic violence crimes committed by her ex-boyfriend and Willey told investigators it was his intention to get her fired from her job after she had ended their relationship.
According to the investigation findings, Willey’s claim was substantiated through text messages where it was reportedly very clear that her ex-boyfriend attempted to get her fired and intended to bring harm to her.
However, McCabe wrote in the investigation findings, “While there is evidence to support (Willey’s ex-boyfriend’s) motives and show clearly that Erin is a victim of domestic violence, that information is not relevant to the questions Internal Affairs was asked to answer. What is relevant is that Erin was aware of (her ex-boyfriend’s) Proud Boy membership and that Erin did knowingly and willingly join the Proud Boys Girls, despite having significant training in both discrimination and rules of conduct by the Sheriff’s Office.”