Frustration over Orcas teacher case | Editorial

A San Juan County detective’s unethical actions have led to the dismissal of serious charges against an Orcas teacher.

Former detective Stephen Parker’s decision to have a relationship with a victim in an active case resulted in the dropping of two counts of sexual misconduct with a minor against Gerald Grellet-Tinner, a former teacher at Orcas Island High School.

In February we wrote that we were in disbelief that a detective who had sex with a victim will not face any criminal charges. We are in further disbelief that this detective’s actions have drastically impacted Gerald Grellet-Tinner’s right to a fair trial – and the victim’s right to pursue justice.

We want to be clear that Grellet-Tinner is presumed innocent due to the fact that a fair trial is not possible, but so many questions are left in the wake of this case. Is this a clear abuse of power by two men or is there more to the story? One fact that remains clear is that a young woman in our community has been failed by the people meant to protect her: the police.

Although Parker has denied the allegations, the victim has stated in an independent investigation that they had sexual relations, the problem is that the sexual relationship is not against the law. Relations with a victim is against the internal conduct code for police officers, but it is not illegal in Washington state. The investigation goes on to allege that Parker showed disrespectful conduct toward the victim, used aliases to hide communication with her and shared details of other cases. The Skagit County Prosecutors’ Office, which was tasked with evaluating the case, declined to press charges.

As for Grellet-Tinner, he has maintained his innocence, and in trial, his defense alluded multiple times to the fact that he had been set up – despite DNA evidence linking him to the victim. The former teacher was found guilty by a jury in June 2016, but the trial is now a black hole in the sky because of Parker and the victim’s relationship.

In our Feb. 1 edition of the Journal, we advocated for a law that would ensure a police officer could not get away with such behavior. Now in the wake of this trial’s dismissal, we again make a similar call.

The law needs to change. Police officials should not be allowed to have sexual relations with victims of cases – especially when it affects other cases. It is a clear abuse of power and an injustice to all.