Report: Wapato Jail sergeant investigated for official misconduct, harassment

Report: Wapato Jail sergeant investigated for official misconduct, harassment

WAPATO, Wash.  --  A KIMA investigation revealed Wapato Jail officers under scrutiny for abusing their power to take advantage of inmates. An Action News report Tuesday uncovered the story of an officer who quit after an internal investigation focused on claims he had sex with an inmate inside a staff bathroom.

Our reporting found the officer in charge of the jail was also at the center of an internal investigation. Wapato Jail Sergeant Bruce Benscoter's troubles involve an on-duty trip from Tacoma to Wapato.

According to investigation records obtained by KIMA, Benscoter was driving inmates to the jail. But, three inmates along for the ride told investigators they weren't the only ones on board. They say Benscoter had a young woman in the front seat he claimed was his girlfriend.

According to the sheriff's department's report, one woman says she "witnessed inappropriate sexual contact" between Benscoter and the woman in the front seat. And, worried "she might be sexually assaulted during the transport."

KIMA came across this information while investigating claims against Wapato jail officer David Madril.
Deputies say the same inmate claiming she had sex with officer Madril inside the jail was also a witness to the Benscoter case.

According to deputies, Benscoter later questioned the women he drove to Wapato. One inmate in the investigation documents said he intimidated her. Yakima County deputies think those actions were criminal.

Also called into question during this investigation was Wapato Police Chief Tracy Rosenow. Records from deputies say he never filled them in on Benscoter's internal investigation. Detectives go on to say the chief told Benscoter the details of the investigation into his activity.

Documents indicate the police chief was later taken out of the loop.

According to the Yakima County Sheriff's Office, Chief Rosenow says the Benscoter matter was settled. KIMA is waiting for the results of that investigation.

Prosecutors say Benscoter's alleged actions in the transport vehicle were not criminal acts. Detectives, on the other hand, recommend harassment and official misconduct charges.

Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Hagarty says he has not made any charging decisions.

What's more is the recent investigations into the Wapato Jail aren't the first. In 2010 corrections officer Rudy Garcia was investigated for sexual conduct with inmates. Documents we obtained for that case show an independent investigation found probable cause to support those claims.

However, two days later, Wapato's then Police Chief Richard Sanchez dismissed those findings in a letter to Garcia saying the allegations were unfounded. Garcia is still on the job.

As for Wapato Jail Sergeant Bruce Benscoter, he's on paid leave while being investigated for claims he stole thousands of dollars from a Wapato youth organization.

To get all sides, KIMA left messages for Bruce Benscoter. Our calls were not returned.

Wapato Police Chief Tracy Rosenow did not want to appear on camera and declined to comment on the different investigations.

We spoke with one of the inmates who claimed Benscoter intimidated her. She did not want to be interviewed, but told us she hopes the recent controversy in Wapato brings changes at the facility.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Our initial web article incorrectly identified the former Wapato police chief as Richard Hayes. Mr. Hayes is currently the police chief in Selah and has never been with the Wapato Police Department. Wapato's former police chief in 2010 was Richard Sanchez.