Sheriff’s detective is charged with domestic violence

An Island County Sheriff’s detective was arrested Saturday on two allegations of domestic violence.

The detective, who lives north of Oak Harbor’s city limits on Wilson Road and works on South Whidbey, was taken into custody at 12:30 p.m. Saturday by the Oak Harbor Police Department, according to Jan Smith, spokeswoman for the Island County Sheriff’s Office.

The detective’s 36-year-old wife alleges that her husband threw her down and struck her several times. She called 911 from a mini market outside of Oak Harbor, and the Island County Sheriff’s Office responded to the call.

According to Smith, Detective Mike Birchfield was arrested in connection with the crime. He was charged with domestic assault in the fourth degree, and with interfering with reporting by allegedly trying to prevent his wife from calling 911.

Due to the serious nature of the crime and possible conflict of interest, the sheriff’s office asked the Oak Harbor Police Department handle the arrest and investigation, even though the alleged crime took place outside of city limits.

Oak Harbor Police Captain Rick Wallace said Birchfield’s wife suffered bruises and scratches on the back of her head, arms and on a hand. She was transported to Whidbey General Hospital in a personal vehicle and treated and released later that evening.

Smith said Birchfield has been placed on administrative leave and was relieved of his duties as a detective at the Island County Sheriff’s south precinct. He has been reassigned to non-law enforcement duties at the Island County Courthouse.

Sheriff Mike Hawley said this week no member of his office has been charged in connection with domestic violence in the 10 years he has been sheriff. He said he is not handling the situation lightly.

“We take all domestic violence allegations seriously,” he said.

In addition to an investigation by the Oak Harbor Police Department, Hawley said the sheriff’s office will conduct an internal review to determine if allegations violated department policies. Sustained findings could warrant discipline up to and including termination, Hawley said.

Birchfield made a preliminary appearance in front of a judge from the Oak Harbor Police Department Saturday night by telephone. He was released on his own recognizance and was barred from contact with his wife.

In addition to serving as a detective at the Island County Sheriff’s Office south precinct, Birchfield has also been on patrol at both the North and South Whidbey precincts. Prior to 1993 he served as an officer for the Langley Police Department.

Birchfield is scheduled for an arraignment at 1:30 p.m. today in Island County District Court in Oak Harbor.

Birchfield had not returned calls to The South Whidbey Record as of Tuesday afternoon.

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