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

Target 2 Investigates Green Bay Police Complaints: Part 2

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Target 2 filed an open records request with Green Bay police to see how often formal complaints are filed against officers and if they're ever disciplined (read part 1 of our report at http://www.wbay.com/story/25764462/target-2-investigates-green-bay-police-complaints-part-1). We also wanted to know how the investigations themselves work.

We did this as we wait for the final report on the use of force investigation into Officer Derek Wicklund after an arrest back in April. A cell phone video promoted a Green Bay Police Department internal review of his actions, which is complete.

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

That incident and the review prompted a lot of comments and questions from people asking whether police can investigate their own officers and if they're ever disciplined or always cleared. Target 2 found out officers have been disciplined or suspended in 26 percent of all the formal complaints filed against officers in the last 3 years (see related story).

We also asked police to explain how they investigate their own.

Chad Ramos has a job a lot of police officers don't want. As a lieutenant in the Professional Standards Division of the Green Bay Police Department, he investigates every formal complaint filed against one of his fellow officers.

"It's difficult, but if you know that you have a job to do and you're trying to be thorough... You don't look at it that way. I look at it as saying, you know what, let's just put the facts out there, let's not be afraid of what happened. Never be afraid. Just report what happened and what happened is already done. I'm only putting it together, OK, and we all have to be accountable for our actions."

After Target 2's open records request, Green Bay police ran the number of total complaints filed against all sworn officers in the last 3 years. Out of the 237,428 calls for service in that time, there are 115 complaints on file, averaging 38 each year.

The most frequent complaints were courtesy (25), use of force (23), and unsatisfactory work performance (20).

Eleven of the total complaints were filed by other officers or supervisors, the rest came from citizens.

"No matter how we're looking at it, the end result is... It's going to be very small. It's a fraction of a percent when you look at it as a whole," Lt. Ramos said.

Police acknowledge there is a perception among the general public that officers are always cleared in every internal investigation, but Ramos says that's not the case.

And Target 2 found the numbers back up that claim. Of those 115 formal complaints, 30 times officers were disciplined, even suspended for policy violations, though nothing was criminal. Twenty of those complaints that led to discipline were filed by citizens, 10 from other officers or supervisors.

"We are held to higher standards. We really are. Are we perfect? Absolutely not," said Ramos.

Ramos explained to Target 2 the entire process, which can take weeks or even months.

They interview the officer, the person filing the complaint, and every other possible witness willing to talk to them.

If there is a video or audio recording of the incident, they review that, too.

"The work we do behind closed doors is exponentially more thorough than most people think," Ramos said.
 
He asks the public to understand that.

"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 up on it, we're willing to do that."

The police chief makes the final decision on all complaints. The department then notifies the person who made the complaint of the outcome and their reasoning.

Police say they try to be as transparent as possible with the public in all these investigations.
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