Investigation finds use of racial slurs, harassment on Green Bay night shift
Nine Green Bay Police Officers were involved in harassment and bullying during the night shift, according to the results of an internal investigation on allegations of misconduct.
Action 2 News has obtained the 200+ page investigation document and is working to go through it. Sarah Thomsen will have full reports Tuesday on Action 2 News.
The report says there was a pattern of harassment by a small group of officers who worked the night shift.
Some officers who were interviewed during the investigation described the night shift atmosphere like a "frat house."
The report reveals that a female officer was the target of hazing and harassment.
An officer reported the harassment to supervisors, friends, family and other officers. She said she was "so stressed out" that she would take off work when she could "not face more harassment."
Officer Casey Masiak and Lt. Rob Korth resigned as result of the investigation. Officer Mike Rahn was also part of the bullying and harassment investigation. He resigned his position based on a separate investigation into his falsifying of police reports.
Other officers received a suspension. These officers are identified as Officer Matt Knutson; Officer Kurt Brester; Officer Tim Eickholt; Officer Paul Spoerl; Officer Kevin Bahl; and Officer Scott Salzmann.
The investigation started in December 2016 when the Professional Standards Division was made aware of an officer possibly abusing sick time. During this investigation, an employee approached a supervisor to ask him what would be done about harassment against an officer who worked the night shift.
That's when the investigation into harassment and bullying started. Investigators found "a substantial amount" of harassment was happening over the Mobile Data Terminals in squad cars. The officers use these terminals to send messages to each other.
Other statements were made in the presence of others.
Investigators found that some officers made sexually-explicit statements. It was discovered that one officer had used the n-word. One officer admitted to sending disparaging messages about another officer's medical condition.
Twenty-nine members of the department were interviewed during this investigation.
"These Officers should have known that the MDT messages that he sent, the statements made, and the actions they took do not reflect the conduct of what a Green Bay Police Officer should be displaying," reads the report.
Korth resigned before he could be interviewed by the Professional Standards Division. Interviews with other officers determined that he participated in "harassment, unbecoming conduct, and other unprofessional behaviors."
The report states Korth made "monkey noises" behind a black officer.
Masiak resigned before he could be interviewed by the Professional Standards Division. He was placed on Administrative Leave in December 2016 for his role in "participating in harassment, unbecoming conducts, and other unprofessional behaviors."
30 DAYS UNPAID SUSPENSION; PLACED ON FIELD TRAINING OFFICER INACTIVE LIST FOR TWO YEARS
The investigation found that at least 25 of Knutson's messages "involved inappropriate content that were in violation of policy or were in poor taste," reads the summary report.
He also admitted to printing and posting a photo of another officer "in a manner that was harassing in nature," reads the report.
Officer Knutson was interviewed four different times. It wasn't until after he was placed on administrative duty that he fully answered questions.
"Officer Knutson's inability or unwillingness to provide accurate and truthful statements during his first or second interview resulted in investigators need to interview him multiple times when they could have been working on other duties and responsibilities," the report reads.
In addition to the suspension, Knutson received retraining on harassment, discrimination, prohibited speech, general standards and conduct.
15 DAYS UNPAID SUSPENSION; PLACED ON FIELD TRAINING OFFICER INACTIVE LIST FOR TWO YEARS
The investigation found Officer Brester's MDT messages involved inappropriate content. Some were in "poor taste."
In addition to the suspension, Brester received retraining on harassment, discrimination, prohibited speech, general standards and conduct.
SEVEN DAYS UNPAID SUSPENSION; PLACED ON FIELD TRAINING OFFICER INACTIVE LIST FOR ONE YEAR
Officer Timothy Eickholt admitted to making inappropriate statements and "using inappropriate language about other officers." Investigators reviewed his MDT messages and found that he was "involved in harassment or bullying of certain officers."
He also admitted to making sexually explicit statements in the shift commander's office in the presence of co-workers. He also said that he made a "sexually natured" comment about two other officers in a relationship.
The investigation found that he also used a racial slur.
In addition to the suspension, Eickholt received retraining on harassment, discrimination, prohibited speech, general standards and conduct.
ONE DAY UNPAID SUSPENSION
Officer Bahl's message review found that he had expressed concern with a female officer taking time off. He also expressed that he was frustrated with how the female officer responds to calls for service. He also wrote messages about another female officer and "what she does or does not do at work."
In addition to the suspension, Bahl received retraining on harassment, discrimination, prohibited speech, general standards and conduct.
ONE DAY UNPAID SUSPENSION; PLACED ON FIELD TRAINING OFFICER INACTIVE LIST FOR ONE YEAR
Officer Salzmann's messages revealed "several inappropriate messages" to other officers. The review found that he was "not particularly involved in harassment or bullying of certain officers."
TWO DAYS UNPAID SUSPENSION
The review found that Spoerl sent 15 inappropriate messages. Spoerl initially denied knowing anything about the investigation. When asked why he was not upfront with investigators, Spoerl said, "It's tough when they are friends."
Officer Rahn "had participated in bullying and harassment of fellow officers," according to the review.
He resigned his position based on a separate internal investigation in which it was found that he falsified police reports during use of force incidents.
Action 2 News spoke with Green Bay Police Chief Andrew Smith about the investigation and the results. He called the allegations "very disturbing." He denounced the use of racial slurs.
"There were some racial things that were just disgusting that occurred in our department and that really hurts," Smith says. "And that hurts all law enforcement. There's absolutely no place for that in any police department, especially here in Green Bay."
Smith wants the community to know that the department acted swiftly when they learned of the allegations, and the department has a high standard.
"I hope everybody recognizes that as soon as we came across this misconduct, we took appropriate action and very swift action," Smith says. "And there's people that are no longer employed by this police department because of the things they did."
The department brought in a trainer to refresh officers on appropriate behavior.
"Everybody on the department received an update on appropriate interactions, because clearly in this incident, people didn't meet that bar," Smith says. "We also had an outside trainer come in and train our entire department on what's appropriate and what's not in incidents like this."
Smith says it's been a tough time for his department, but they are better off with the so-called "bad apples" out.
"I think most people on this police department are glad that those that committed these acts are gone and we're moving on and we're going to be a better department for it in the long run," Smith says.
The chief says he's worked hard to build a positive relationship with the city's African American and Hispanic communities over the last two years. He wants that continue.
"I hope it's quite clear to the community that we have a high standard here in Green Bay that if people don't meet that standard, they'll be held accountable up to and including removing them from being part of this department," Smith says.