Archive for Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Council adjusts police discipline

January 16, 2002

After deliberating for more than four hours last week, the Baldwin City Council upheld the disciplinary action taken against Baldwin Police officers with a few changes.

The council was hearing the final appeals of the six officers who were disciplined as a result of the investigation into the department conducted this summer. Originally, Police Chief Steve Butell was suspended for three days and officers Bill Dempsey, Eric Garcia and Chuck Woolsencroft were suspended one day. The other two officers were given written reprimands.

Changes to the original discipline included a day's suspension for Sgt. Colleen Larson and the other written reprimand was dismissed, according to city officials.

"That's what I understand," said City Administrator Larry Paine of the decisions made in the appeal process. "I don't know the reason for the changes.

"The council reviewed everything in great detail, considered what the individual officers presented to them during their appeal sessions and made the decision from that," said Paine. "From what I understand, when you go into the appeal process it can be tweaked. For the most part, the council upheld the disciplinary action."

Paine was not a part of the appeal process.

The council's decision was the final word from the city on the matter. The outcome didn't sit well with the department. At least some of the officers are contemplating a lawsuit against the city as a result of the action.

"We are disappointed in the council's action," said Dempsey. "The loser in this is the taxpayers of Baldwin City."

Dempsey said the "process is in motion" to file a lawsuit, but that it hasn't been done yet.

"Obviously we're not sitting still for this," he said. "We are preparing the necessary reports for him (their attorney) to proceed. We'll let the chips fall where they may."

Dempsey said the officers hoped the matter would end with their appeals. However, when the discipline was upheld, he felt he must continue to fight it.

"I think we will be exonerated and it will show what all of this is about," he said, adding that he was speaking only for himself. "It's all politics."

Larson said she's hoping the matter will come to a close, but said the most important thing is that the officers will continue to do their jobs.

"I can't speak for the rest of the guys, but I just want it to be resolved," Larson said. "We're going to try and go on and do our jobs and we're trying our best to take it day by day and get back to where we want to be and that's being a police department."

Paine wasn't sure where the matter would go from here.

"I have no idea if this is the end. I've heard a smattering of rumors," he said in regards to the possible lawsuit.

Paine did say the suspensions will be scheduled soon.

"We're about ready to find that out," he said. "Because of the number of people that have to do a day's suspension, they'll have to be scheduled accordingly.

"When the original disciplinary letters were sent out, I requested Steve to schedule those over a period of time so we wouldn't be without police coverage," said Paine.

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