Target 2 Investigates Green Bay Police Complaints: Part 1 - WBAY

Target 2 Investigates

Target 2 Investigates Green Bay Police Complaints: Part 1

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Target 2 investigates complaints made against Green Bay police officers.

We wanted to know just how often formal complaints are filed, how they're investigated, and if officers are ever disciplined.

The questions come as we wait for the final report on the use of force by Officer Derek Wicklund during an arrest back in April. Cell phone video prompted an internal review by Green Bay police.

The Training and Standards Division of the state Department of Justice is currently reviewing the case, and police hope to have a conclusion very soon.

While we wait, Target 2 filed an open records request to get a look at complaints and their outcomes department-wide.

After the video of Officer Wicklund went viral, we received a lot of comments and questions from many of you asking how often Green Bay officers need use of force during arrests and questioning whether officers are ever disciplined when a person files a complaint. So we asked police for the numbers and to explain the process.

We found out Green Bay officers have been disciplined, and even police admit it's more often than many probably realize.

Green Bay police estimate officers are dispatched to about 80,000 calls for service every year, but it's during arrests, they say, when people most often complain about an officer's use of force or conduct.

"From being in law enforcement for over 18 years, there is a lot of complaining on officers but they really don't have a complaint," Lieutenant Chad Ramos of the Green Bay Police Department Professional Services Division said.

In fact, police say the vast majority of people who call to complain decide not to file a formal complaint after talking with a supervisor. They don't track the number of those calls.

Ramos characterizes the response as, "I understand it now. May not be happy about the outcome -- that's the officer's discretion to arrest me -- I'm not happy, but OK, I get it."

But department policy dictates each person is given the option of filing a formal complaint. Those numbers are tracked.

Ramos, whose job is to investigate every one of them, pulled all formal com

Of the 237,000 calls for service over those three years, the department has 115 complaints against Green Bay officers on file (see sidebar).

Formal complaints filed
Violation Categories #
Courtesy 25
Use of force
23
Unsatisfactory work performance
20
Conduct unbecoming 20
Procedural
8
Minor misconduct
4
Absent from duty
3
Fail to investigate
2
Law violations
2
Search and seizure
2
Criteria for pursuits
1
Handling property
1
Off-duty conduct
1
Process of evidence
1
Arrest procedures
1
Profiling
1
Total
115

The most common complaint is courtesy, with 25.

20 are for unsatisfactory work performance.

23 are for use of force.
 
"Use of force represents a small fraction of the calls we handle annually. And of the complaints, they're still a small percentage," Ramos said.

Target 2 asked for the number of times officers resorted to use of force.

Last year it happened 255 times out of the department's 80,004 calls -- or about 0.003% of the calls.

In 2012, it happened 262 times during 79,055 calls for service. In 2011, 237 times during 78,369 calls.

The department averaged about 8 "use of force" complaints each of those years.

Every complaint is investigated.

"We're going to talk to as many people as we can to get every angle, everyone else's perception so that we can build a case for or against. We're not going to take sides. We just need to have all the information available," Ramos said.

Police Chief Tom Molitor makes the final decision whether a complaint is justified.

Target 2 found 85 cases where the officer was cleared, meaning there was evidence showing what was alleged in the complaint never happened, an officer followed protocol, or it was a "he said/she said" case and police sided with the officer.

But 30 complaints were sustained, meaning an officer was found to have violated policy, though nothing criminal, in 26 percent of the complaints.

"Our officers are not perfect, and again, remember, even if it is sustained, it could have been something as simple as courtesy where we didn't feel  the officer used professional communication skills," Ramos said.

Police tell Target 2 that 10 of those complaints were filed by another officer or supervisor; the other 20 sustained complaints were made by citizens.

Ramos says many of them resulted with an officer being suspended.

"In the end, what is right, is right. We want to follow that and is just. We are not concerned about image, per se, in terms of how we're going to gear any of our investigations, because if there's misconduct or something went wrong or we can improve upon it, we're willing to do that. People need to have faith in the police that that's what we're doing," Lt. Ramos said.

But even police agree faith is not an easy thing for people to have when officers are investigating their own cases. We ask about conducting their own investigations on Action 2 News at Six.

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