Vancouver, WA – A Washington sheriff’s department re-victimized a survivor of domestic violence when they fulfilled her ex-boyfriend’s promise to get her fired from her dream job.
Former Clark County Sheriff’s Deputy Erin Willey, now 26 years old, told Blue Lives Matter she decided she wanted to become a police officer in 2008, when she was still in high school.
So Erin joined the Clark County Sheriff’s Office’s (CCSO) Police Explorers program in 2009 to learn more about it.
After school, she got a job with the state’s Liquor Control Board and then joined the CCSO’s cadet program in 2012. She served in that capacity for two years.
When Erin applied to be a deputy sheriff in Clark County in May of 2016, she had not yet met the man who was going to destroy her life.
That wouldn’t happen until the end of September in 2016, a few months after she completed the sheriff’s department application and background-check process.
Erin met and started dated Graham Jorgensen that fall, and they eventually moved in together.
During that time, 23-year-old Jorgensen would become a member of the Proud Boys, a fringe-right club for men that claimed to espouse traditional values.
He encouraged his girlfriend to get involved in the Proud Boy Girls, a side group for members’ girlfriends and wives, so she joined their closed Facebook group in November of 2016.
Erin said she wore the Proud Boy Girls logo shirts at home, and volunteered to sell them to other members of the Facebook page in January and February of 2017, but didn’t get much more involved than that.
She told Blue Lives Matter that she never wore any of their attire in public and never attended any of their meetings or rallies.
Erin said she didn’t really know what Proud Boys were about at the time, and thought it was just a fraternal Pro-Trump organization.
But a few months later, when she learned of the Proud Boys’ violent clash with antifa on May 1, 2017, Erin disaffiliated from the organization.
She told Blue Lives Matter that she tried to convince Jorgensen, with whom she was living by then, to quit the Proud Boys, but he refused.
Soon after that, the relationship started going downhill after Jorgensen stopped paying his half of the rent and bills.
At the same time, Erin’s career was on the upward trajectory that she’d worked so hard to achieve for many years.
The then-24 year old received an offer from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office on June 6, 2017, and was scheduled to start at the academy on Aug. 2, 2017.
Erin told Blue Lives Matter she was in the thick of her training to become a deputy sheriff when the relationship finally went off the rails in October of 2017.
She and Jorgensen broke up on Oct. 22, 2017 after he had become very controlling, even cutting up some of her clothing that he said was “too slutty” for her to wear, Erin told Blue Lives Matter.
He moved out of their apartment, but continued to torment and threaten her in phone calls, voicemails, and text messages.
On Nov. 13, 2017, Jorgensen texted Erin several nude photos of herself, as well as some pictures of her wearing Proud Boys Girl shirts, along with a threat to send them to the sheriff’s office to get her fired.
Horrified, Erin went to her supervisor while she was at the academy and told her about the threats.
Erin says that Clark County Training Sergeant Linda Hayes asked her if she was doing anything illegal or that would make the sheriff’s department look bad in the photos, and Erin assured her that she hadn’t.
Sgt. Hayes promised to “let the right people know” about the threats, Erin said, and sent her on her way believing that a worst case scenario could result in some officials seeing naked pictures of her, but not that she was in danger of getting fired.
Erin graduated from the academy on Dec. 13, 2017, and was sworn into the sheriff’s department a few days later.
Newly-sworn Deputy Willey began her field training on Jan. 2, 2018. But despite the beginning of the New Year, Jorgensen continued to harass and threaten her.
On Feb. 8, 2018, Jorgensen’s messages became more threatening, and Erin had to do something about it, so she called the Vancouver Police Department for help and filed a report.
Vancouver Police Officer William Whalen’s police report noted the messages from Jorgensen, in which he said he wanted Erin to be hurt or killed on the job.
The report also said Jorgensen had called Erin more than 30 times just that day.
Jorgensen was cited with criminal telephone harassment - domestic violence because of the couple’s prior relationship, according to the police report.
An automatic order of protection was issued with the domestic violence charge, prohibiting Jorgensen from contacting or coming within 250 feet of Erin.
On May 15, 2018, the prosecutor made a deal with Erin whereby they would give Jorgensen court diversion and finalize her temporary protection order to extend it to 1000 feet and make it last for five years.
Erin had completed her field training in April of 2018, and by summer, Deputy Willey was patrolling the streets of Clark County just like she’d always dreamed of doing.
But all that came to a screeching halt in the first week of July when a local newspaper, The Columbian, reached out to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office with pictures of Erin wearing Proud Boys Girl apparel that had been provided to them by an “anonymous source.”
Two of the pictures that were given to the newspaper were selfies that Erin told Blue Lives Matter she had only sent to her ex-boyfriend.
Three days later, on July 5, 2018, the sheriff’s department put Deputy Willey on administrative leave, pending an investigation of her involvement with Proud Boys.
Jorgensen had found a way to continue to harass Erin despite the court order that was supposed to be protecting her.
In the time since Erin had detached herself from the Proud Boys Girls' group, the Proud Boys’ reputation for violence had grown, and become more nationally-known.
There were rumors that Proud Boys had been labeled an “extremist” group by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), although that turned out not to be true, and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) had labeled the organization a “hate group.”
The SPLC has been accused of falsely labeling groups as "hate groups" based on loose criteria.
Outside of the Proud Boys' politics or labels, they actively seek out situations where they can engage fringe political opponents in street fights - behavior which is not expected from law enforcement officers. However, Erin was not an actual Proud Boys member and was not involved in any such behavior.
But the "hate group" label was determined in February of 2018, nine months after Erin quit the Proud Boys Girls' group and disaffiliated from the Proud Boys because she didn’t condone their behavior.
Erin was notified that she had been fired by Clark County on July 17, 2018, and the article ran in the Columbian announcing her dismissal on July 19.
She has screenshots of text messages that Jorgensen sent to friends on the day the article ran saying “I win” and “I didn’t get to pin the badge, but I got to take it. What a pleasure.”
Despite the five-year protective order and the court’s diversionary program, Jorgensen had gotten her fired just as he had promised.
Erin didn’t find out the official reason she had been terminated until an article ran in The Guardian four months later, after the Clark County Sheriff’s Office provided the publication with a link to an Internal Affairs investigation report that Erin had never seen.
The reasoning appeared on the final page of the 15-page report and said only that Internal Affairs had determined “Erin’s participation with Proud Boys and Proud Boy Girls is a violation of at least two (2) policies and her oath of office.”
The report’s conclusion was that Erin “either knew or should have known” that her involvement with Proud Boys could “erode the public’s confidence or trust in the Sheriff’s Office.”
The Internal Affairs report, reviewed in full by Blue Lives Matter, contained pages of contradictions.
Authored by Clark County Sheriff’s Commander Michael McCabe, the report said that prior to the notification from The Columbian, nobody at the sheriff’s department had known about Erin’s prior affiliation with the Proud Boy Girls nor of the lengths Jorgensen had gone to threaten and terrorize her.
However, Blue Lives Matter found that the Order of Protection put in place to protect Erin from Jorgensen carried the stamp of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, who retained a copy on file.
Erin said she continued to update Sgt. Hayes on the threats she received even after she left the police academy.
Additionally, both of her field training supervisors, Clark County Sheriff’s Sergeants Chris Luque and Scott Schanaker, were briefed about the harassment and the protective order, she said.
Erin said she kept Sgt. Schanaker in the loop once she was finished with field training because he became her patrol supervisor, but there were no new developments until the pictures were given to The Columbian.
The Internal Affairs report also said that Erin should have known that Proud Boys was considered an “extremist group with ties to white nationalism” by the FBI, but the FBI has repeatedly denied giving the organization that designation, according to Willamette Week.
The Internal Affairs report also alleged that “Erin Willey failed to disclose her participation or affiliation with the Proud Boys and Proud Boy Girls during her background interview;” however, Erin didn’t even meet Jorgensen until three months after her background investigation was completed.
She joined the Proud Boy Girls Facebook page two months later, and quit it six months after that without ever having attended an actual Proud Boys or Proud Boy Girls event, Erin told Blue Lives Matter.
More important to note, the sheriff’s department report acknowledged that Erin was a victim of domestic violence related to the investigation.
“Erin Willey expressed in her interview what [Internal Affairs] believes is her legitimate concerns about the continued harassment that she is receiving from Graham Jorgensen. Jorgensen is likely the source of the photo of Erin wearing Proud Boy Girls’ apparel. Erin is the protected person in a [Domestic Violence] Order of Protection. Graham Jorgensen is the respondent,” the report stated.
“In those messages Jorgensen makes it clear that he wishes Erin great harm and that he intends to see her fired. There is evidence to support Erin’s claim that Jorgensen exposed the photos to alert the sheriff’s office anonymously that Erin was a member of Proud Boy Girls and therefore place her career in jeopardy, which he did. Her abuse by Jorgensen is well documented in several police reports and within an Order of Protection, issued by the courts,” the Internal Affairs report continued.
“While there is evidence to support Jorgensen’s motives and show clearly that Eric is a victim of domestic violence, that information is not relevant to the questions Internal Affairs was asked to answer, “ the report concluded.
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office took the findings of the Internal Affairs report and terminated Erin’s employment, knowing that she was a victim of domestic violence and her probationary status had allowed that to be used against her.
Prior to the “anonymous” release of the pictures, the report showed that “Erin was reported to be performing satisfactorily and was considered to be in good standing as a probationary employee,” and was expected to complete her probation in December.
“He articulated an attack against me to get me fired by my job. And the sheriff’s office helped him do that knowing what he had planned,” Erin told Blue Lives Matter. “They knowingly fired me for a picture he leaked of me while knowing about this restraining order and all.”
Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins defended his decision in a statement to The Columbian.
“Law enforcement officers are peacekeepers whose core mission is to protect and safeguard the community,” Sheriff Atkins said. “My expectation is that my employees do not engage in activities or associations that undermine or diminish our role as peacekeepers.”
But the police union who represents the Clark County deputies disagreed strongly with the sheriff’s position.
“Many of us feel that [Erin] was a peacekeeper and lived up to the tenets of the stated core mission,” Deputy Sheriff’s Guild Executive Board told Sheriff Atkins in a letter of support obtained by Blue Lives Matter. “Every day she worked she was engaged in protecting and safeguarding this community. Also, she wasn’t your employee at the time of her limited involvement in this group.”
The union further pointed out the suspicious timing of Deputy Willey’s firing and said “it seemed that the Sheriff’s Office was in a hurry to do some kind of faux investigation into it so you could be able to tell the Columbian that she had been terminated prior to the article coming out.”
The Deputy Sheriff’s Guild shamed the sheriff for his treatment of a victim.
“Erin was victimized many times by her ex-boyfriend,” the letter said. “Even after months, and with a [domestic violence] no contact order in place, he was able to affect her life and obviously her livelihood and the [sheriff’s office] assisted in that victimization.”
The sheriff's office did not respond after numerous requests for comment from Blue Lives Matter.