A former Myrtle Creek police chief who spent most of his law enforcement career in Coos Bay was arrested Tuesday after investigators found child pornography in his Rice Hill home.
Leland Dale Benson, 67, was booked into the Douglas County Jail on suspicion of five counts of first-degree encouraging child sex abuse and five counts of second-degree encouraging child sex abuse. He was in custody today in lieu of $750,000 bail.
Douglas County sheriff’s deputies assisted the Oregon Department of Justice in serving a search warrant around 7:30 a.m. at Benson’s home in the 200 block of Oakwood Drive, according to the sheriff’s office.
Investigators searched computers and other electronic devices for images of children depicted in sexually explicit conduct. Investigators seized several pieces of evidence during the search, according to the sheriff’s office. Benson was arrested at his home.
Benson was the Myrtle Creek police chief for five months in 2000 before retiring. At the time, he said if he continued working he risked losing pension benefits.
He had previously been a contract employee with the Douglas Interagency Narcotics Team to develop an anti-drug team. He also worked as a crime prevention specialist for Douglas County Sheriff’s office, according to a 2000 profile in The News-Review.
Sheriff John Hanlin said today he expected Benson’s law enforcement background to draw attention after his arrest.
“It’s a slap in the face for law enforcement, whether you’re active or not, either way, when someone gets tied up in one of these messes,” he said.
The Justice Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force initiated the investigation. Efforts to reach the task force’s spokesman were unsuccessful today.
Sheriff’s Lt. Curt Strickland said state investigators asked for help serving the search warrant. Four detectives and a patrol car assisted in the arrest, and deputies helped search the house during the arrest.
“We’ll search for other things, like thumb drives and DVDs and other things that may be hidden around the house,” he said.
The Department of Justice will continue the investigation, Strickland said.
“If the Department of Justice asks us to help them do something else, we would,” he said. “I would think our involvement is likely finished.”
Benson entered law enforcement as a 20-year-old police cadet in California and in 1970 joined the Coos Bay Police Department, where he worked for 25 years before retiring for the first time. His assignments included directing the Coos and Curry counties Interagency Narcotic Team for three years.
Benson moved to Rice Hill in 1996 and was recruited to help reorganize the Sutherlin Police Department, according to the 2000 profile. He retired again in 1997.
After working with the sheriff’s office, he became executive director of the American Cancer Society office in Roseburg before the office closed.
• You can reach reporter Betsy Swanback at 541-957-4208 or firstname.lastname@example.org.