ROGUE RIVER — The city's police force will remain understaffed for at least the coming year, with just four officers providing 24-hour coverage instead of the usual five.

ROGUE RIVER — The city's police force will remain understaffed for at least the coming year, with just four officers providing 24-hour coverage instead of the usual five.

City Administrator Mark Reagles said Wednesday that city officials had opted not to replace officer Butch Lee, who resigned after he was placed on administrative leave in late April after allegations of failure to comply with mandatory state reporting laws in two instances of alleged child abuse.

While Reagles declined to comment on potential legal action against Lee, he stated that the city's police force had planned to "reduce staffing by one at the end of the month anyhow." A public safety levy in November, Reagles explained, would have provided $98,000 toward a needed fifth officer and related equipment had voters approved it.

"We had a young officer we hired a year, year-and-a-half ago, that was a reserve. If the levy would have passed, we were going to hire him full-time," Reagles said.

"Since Butch retired, now we won't have to make that decision." Officer Lee, who left in late May, was the subject of posters and fliers that appeared around City Hall and other areas downtown, reading "Where's Officer Lee" and "Where's Sergeant Lee," alluding to Lee's former position as sergeant.

In documents provided by the city to the Mail Tribune this week, Police Chief Ken Lewis said Lee failed to comply with mandatory reporting laws in two possible child-abuse cases.

An investigation began April 17 and Lee was placed on administrative leave three days later. The two cases involve an April 7 report by a citizen informing Lee of an alleged sexual assault/rape of a child under 18, and the second related to failure to report possible abuse of a toddler by a non-custodial parent.

In the first instance, Lee said he was stopped while on patrol by a citizen he knew.

"It was an out-of-state rape case that was six months cold and one of those things where someone in the community that knew of me came to me and said, 'What do I do? I'm not really sure this happened.' I told them 'You really need to confirm this and get a line of communication going,' " Lee said. "Then I told them, immediately after they'd done that, they needed to contact the department and make an official report."

In the second instance, Lee said a local family contacted him regarding complaints of a non-custodial parent returning a toddler home later than agreed.

"The biological father was bringing the child home late from visits every time and they wanted to document that was happening. I told them it wasn't a crime, so then they said, 'But she's sick and has some bruises on her leg.' I looked and I didn't see anything," Lee said.

"The kid came back after the next visit and this time had a fractured wrist, which definitely would cause suspicion. I immediately gave the case to the officer who handles abuse cases."

In his official response to the city's allegations, Lee said he "did not hinder the report, but in fact, facilitated it being made successfully" by referring the case to the department's officer designated to handle child abuse cases.

Lee said he had requested, and been denied, special training for handling child-abuse cases. He went on to state, "There appears to be something wrong with a system that will not let you investigate what may or may not be a crime, then says you aren't doing your job."

Lee is the city's third police officer to be placed on administrative leave since 2004. Former officer Carl Lehman was placed on administrative leave in March 2005 and resigned a month later. Officer Roger Bigham was fired in November 2004 after eight months' administrative leave for allegations of misconduct.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.