The Kennewick Police Department will investigate allegations that Yakima police Capt. Rod Light abused his estranged wife, a city official said.
Light was placed on paid administrative leave Monday pending an investigation into alleged misconduct, days after the city received copies of divorce papers filed by Darla Light in Clark County Superior Court in which she alleged abuse by Light. She also obtained a temporary restraining order barring Light from coming near or harassing her.
Yakima City Manager Tony O’Rourke said Kennewick was asked by police Chief Dominic Rizzi Jr. to handle the investigation because Yakima’s internal affairs unit is headed by a lieutenant, and it would create a conflict for him to investigate a superior officer.
Light, who is the department’s spokesman and commands the special operations division, did not return a phone call seeking comment. But in court papers, Light denied the allegations.
In her divorce filings, Darla Light said Rod Light threatened to kill her, struck her hard enough to leave bruises and intercepted her email, prompting her to seek an order protecting her from him.
Light will be represented in the misconduct investigation by attorney Bill Pickett, who previously represented Light when he successfully challenged a demotion to sergeant in 2010.
Pickett said he was unfamiliar with the accusations, but he said it was not uncommon for allegations of abuse to be made in divorce proceedings, and for spouses to get restraining orders against each other.
Pickett agreed with the city’s decision to have an outside agency investigate Light, as it allows for transparency.
O’Rourke said city officials became aware of the allegations last week when an advocate for Darla Light filed a complaint with the city and provided documents from the restraining order and divorce filing.
He said the city was aware of another complaint in June 2013, when Yakima County sheriff’s deputies were called to Light’s home after a neighbor said that Light had assaulted Darla Light, who had taken refuge in her home. But O’Rourke said deputies concluded there was no abuse.
Sheriff’s deputies said Light told them he got into an argument with his wife during a party at their home, and she had left. The deputies reported that Darla Light told them that no assault had occurred, and that the dispute had been verbal.
No charges were filed, and Rizzi said Light assured him that there was nothing to the incident, according to reports.
But in divorce papers, filed May 21, Darla Light said her husband had been “extremely threatening” and “verbally abusive” throughout their three-year marriage. She said she ran to the neighbor’s house that night in Yakima because Light had threatened her.
“It was very intimidating for me to live in Yakima, where Rodney, as the captain of the police department, had unlimited ability to threaten me without repercussion,” Darla Light said in court papers.
In her petition for divorce, she said she moved to a condo the couple owned in Vancouver, Wash., in December because her husband was having an affair with a woman in Yakima. She said Light came to the condo in February, got drunk, chased her around the condo, and threatened to kill her when she said she would not reconcile with him.
She said Light also beat her on the legs with his fists in March, leaving bruises. She said Light also threatened to kill her, and said he had the means to go through her email and track her movement.
In his response filed in court, Rod Light said: “I have no interest or desire to stalk or track her. Again, if she was truly fearful, she would have sought a protection order long before now, not because she wants to paint me in a bad light before this court and not because she is bitter that I have moved on.”
O’Rourke said he did not know how long Kennewick police would take on the misconduct investigation.
This is not the first time Light has been under scrutiny.
In 2010, he was demoted to sergeant after being accused of having romantic relationships with two subordinates and surreptitiously getting a draft of his evaluation and copying it. Light was reinstated as a captain after an arbitrator ruled there was no department policy prohibiting personal relationships outside work at that time, and a two-grade demotion for copying the draft evaluation was disproportionate.