Former Portland police chief won’t face charges for 2018 ‘joy ride’

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PORTLAND, Ind (WANE) — A former Portland police chief won’t face charges for “criminal, conduct” that took place in 2018.

Earlier this year, an Adams County prosecutor was assigned to investigate an incident surrounding the then Portland Police Chief Josh Stephenson that occurred prior to him becoming chief.

According to court documents the incident took place back in August 2018. That day Stephenson and a colleague took a fellow officer’s personal car for a “joy ride.” While they were driving around, they passed a traffic stop conducted by other Portland police officers, including the car’s owner.

When the officer who owned the car saw his car driving down the road, he began a pursuit.

Both Stephenson and the other officer were ordered to return the car to the police department. A report was written about the incident along with videos, but nothing further happened.

Stephenson was later promoted assistant chief and eventually became chief of the Portland Police department in January 2021.

FILE: Portland Police Chief Josh Stephenson

Court documents say an anonymous letter was sent to the Jay County prosecutor’s office and others in early 2021 claiming an alleged incident was a “cover-up.” That’s when the Jay County prosecutor had the Indiana State Police Department and eventually, a special prosecutor was assigned out of Adams County to look into the “joy ride.”

After months of investigating the special prosecutor released his finding in September. In the report, the prosecutor found that Stephenson did not intend to deprive the officer of the use or value of the vehicle. The evidence also showed that there was not enough to charge Stephenson with a misdemeanor.

Though the author of the letter was never revealed, the officer who owned the car did not write the letter that prompted the investigation.

Time also played a factor in the case according to the prosecutor. Due to how much time had passed, no criminal charges will be filed.

Chief Stephenson tendered his resignation from the position in July and has since retired from the force after 20 years with the department.

“There was no criminal intention in any way from the incident. It was a prank that was taken the wrong way. And it was dealth with in 2018. Me leaving Portland was a hard decision. I love the community. I became a part of it, became really involved with it.”

Joshua Stephenson, former Portland Police Chief

Court documents go on to say that since Stephenson’s registration the “morale of the police department has risen significantly in the last several weeks based in no small part on the new chief and assistant chief.”

Stephenson has been replaced by Mitch Sutton, a 33-year veteran of the Jay County Sheriff’s Department. Sutton is the third Portland police chief in less than a year.

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