An enraged, off-duty Oregon deputy was captured on a citizen’s dash cam apparently threatening to physically harm a driver he accused of cutting him off.
Then, even after Wasco County sheriff’s deputy Clint Steen was exposed as the caller, his department attempted to cover up for him.
And even today, more than two years after the July 22, 2015 incident, the Wasco County Sheriff’s Office is still refusing to release the Steen’s personnel file, even though Bill Kaminski’s attorney filed a public records request for that information within months of the incident.
In fact, the only reason Kaminski learned it was Steen who called him was because another deputy leaked that information to him.
Local media refused to cover the story, but Oregon resident Kaminski sent us the video this month and we decided to cover it.
The Wasco County Sheriff’s Department initially claimed they were unable to locate the man who had made the phone call to Kaminksi, who was driving his commercial van when he received the call.
Kaminski eventually learned it was Wasco County Sheriff deputy Steen who made the call from a deputy who asked to remain anonymous.
However, Steen’s superiors would not confirm it was one of their deputies, even after he filed a written complaint with the department the very next day.
“Weeks go by. I ask for a name. They say ‘we haven’t been able to locate that man.'”
It wasn’t until five or six months later, after Kaminski hired an attorney to assist him with a public records request, that the department ultimately admitted it was one of their deputies, who was off-duty at the time he placed the call to Kaminski.
“I contacted an attorney. That day is the day I found out it was an off-duty Wasco County Sheriff’s deputy. That’s the only way I found out; I hired an attorney.”
Then they issued an apology and confirmation it was indeed one of their deputies, which can be read below, but the deputy’s name was redacted.
It took a year to finally obtain a copy of the department’s investigation findings, which revealed deputy Steen lied about the incident. But the investigation findings also had Steen’s name redacted.
It started when Kaminski was driving his commercial business van, exiting an off-ramp, driving at a normal rate of speed judging from the video.
Kaminski said a vehicle came flying up behind him at a high rate of speed as he attempted to merge. The camera, which was pointed frontwards did not record the car behind the van, but it did capture the sound of two horn blasts.
Angered at having to share the roadway with a citizen, Deputy Steen then obtained Kaminski’s phone number from the side of his business van and called him less than a minute later, accusing him of cutting him off, threatening to pay him a visit.
“I didn’t cut you off. And now you just called me and now you’re saying shit to me, so know I’m calling the police and I’ll press charges, fucker,” Kaminski replies upon receiving the call.
Kaminski immediately went to the sheriff’s office to report the threatening phone call.
But seconds after hanging up with Kaminski, deputy Steen called the sheriff’s department’s dispatch, asking for Wasco County sheriff’s deputy Seth Routson, informing him that Kaminski would be showing up to file a complaint against him.
Routson then stepped outside to wait for Kaminski in the parking lot, attempting to intimidate him before he could even make it inside the building.
“That man can cite you for many things,” Routson told Kaminski.
“You weren’t there, but my dash cam was,” Kaminski replied.
Upon hearing the incident was captured on camera, Routson split the scene.
“I went up there for help, and instead I got treated like a second class citizen with no rights,” Kaminski recalled in a phone interview with Photography is Not a Crime.
Months later after Kaminski hired the lawyer, filed a complaint and a public records request, the department issued an apology letter, but still refused to confirm it was Steen who placed the threatening call.
“We filed a second Freedom of Information Act request. Then we received an apology letter. [The] letter was nice. But they didn’t tell us what they did wrong (by redacting the name of the deputy). We refreshed their memory of the FOIA we filed. They claimed they had concern for the deputy’s safety. Then they gave us the investigation findings with his name redacted out.”
Had it not been for one of his fellow deputies leaking the identity of deputy Steen, Kaminski says he still wouldn’t know the name of the deputy who called his phone while off-duty.
“By this time, someone in the sheriff’s department contacted me and told me who it was, because I said I was no longer going to do business in Wasco county until the sheriff coughed up the name of the deputy that called my business and threatened me and my family.”
As we’ve seen so many times in the past, it was the camera that confirmed Kaminski’s story.
“I always run dash cams in all of my vehicles, because they’re commercial vehicles with commercial insurance,” Kaminski told PINAC.
Until this incident occurred, the side of Kaminski’s van displayed the name of his business’ name and phone number, which is how Steen was able to obtain his phone number.
Kaminski not only has a squeaky clean record, he has done business in Wasco County for almost two decades. But he has since removed his business information from the side of his van.
“After 18 years in business, I have removed my business’ name and number from my service vans to stop a cop from doing this again,” Kaminski said.
In a letter responding to Kaminski’s compaint, Sheriff Lane Magill extended his personal apology for deputy Steen exercising his law enforcement authority while off-duty and reassured similar incidents would not happen again.
However, the department still refuses to release Steen’s personnel file, which Kaminski and his attorney requested in their public records request.
“I was told he has a bad history. That is why they wouldn’t give us his personnel file when we asked for it on our FOIA request.”
After filing the complaint, Kaminski said he was intimidated and harassed by other Wasco County sheriff deputies on multiple occasions.
Kaminski stated he was disappointed when he finally received the investigation findings, which took more than a year and two public records requests to obtain, stating that deputy Steen never suffered any true consequences for lying to superiors during the investigation.
Last year, Steen nominated Sheriff Lee Magill for an award, returning the favor of covering up for him.