FOX 11 investigates: GB police 'culture of harassment' follow-up
GREEN BAY (WLUK) - Green Bay's police chief says his department is better today following an internal investigation into harassment of officers by officers.
The investigation began in December of 2016 into claims of harassment, bullying and racial misconduct.
“I think we’re going to be a better department,” Chief Andrew Smith told FOX11.
Smith says he's confident changes made within his department over the past year have led to improvements in officer conduct.
An internal investigation into harassment between officers on the night shift led to the resignation of three officers: Lt. Rob Korth, Officer Casey Masiak and Officer Mike Rahn. All three left the force before the investigation was complete.
That investigation turned up incidents of a "frat house" mentality with alleged hazing and harassment allowed to persist.
“I think the changes in the department are we had removed or several officers removed themselves from the department. I think they had no business being in law enforcement quite frankly,” said Smith. “I think others were given penalties commensurate with their offense and the degree to which they broke the rules.”
Those offenses are detailed in heavily redacted interviews of 29 police officers who took part in or witnessed department policy violations.
They include incidents of racial misconduct., using the "N" word, "mocking" black officers or community members, and "racial harassment."
One officer told investigators racial acronyms were used in the police locker room referring to those on a police call as "just-N-word being N-word."
“In order to make the community better you've got to weed out different things that's not right,” said L.C. Green, pastor of Divine Temple Church in Green Bay.
Green and others from his predominantly black congregation meet with Smith and other officers every month to promote cultural understanding. He credits Smith for taking the action that led to resignations in the department.
“Sort of like a farmer, you've got to get the weeds out before the product can really grow,” said Green. “And that's what he's doing. I think he's doing a great job.”
Six officers all received suspensions without pay for their part in violating policies related to discrimination, conduct, oppression and prohibited speech. They are Kevin Bahl, Kurt Brester, Tim Eickholt, Matt Knutson, Scott Salzman and Paul Spoerl.
The internal investigation revealed one female officer was routinely targeted in what was called a "cultural atmosphere of harassment." It came in the form of "shaming her or embarrassing her"...at times leaving her in tears.
Smith says the public should know the actions of these few officers don't represent the department.
“I think the great majority of our officers are out there doing the right thing all the time, and they're happy to see we're keeping a high standard, maintaining a high bar,” said Smith.
As for Green, he believes there's more work to be done.
“I don't think it's solved,” said Green. “He hadn't got them all but he's working on it. So anytime you 're working on something you got the other ones in fright. They're afraid.”
Smith says the goal is to hold all officers accountable for their actions-- both in and out of the police station.