La Crosse Police investigation report released
LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — After an outside investigation, the La Crosse Police Department is cleared of allegations of any wrongdoing.
In October, Mayor Tim Kabat called for an investigation into the Police Department after Officer Nathan Poke came to him with concerns about the workplace environment and retaliation within the department.
The outside investigation took about a month to complete. Here’s a look at what led up to the investigation.
La Crosse Police Chief Ron Tischer said on Aug. 17, the department opened up an internal investigation into Officer Poke after department supervisors and citizen witnesses accused him of misconduct while on and off duty. About two weeks later, on Aug. 31 Chief Tischer told Poke that he was being re-assigned from his neighborhood resource officer position. That’s when Poke claimed misconduct against his partner, Officer Dan Ulrich. Chief Tischer said he immediately opened an internal investigation as well.
Then, on Sept. 11, Poke went to La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat’s office and claimed retaliation by the department and that’s when the mayor called for an outside investigation.
Once that happened, the two internal investigations were suspended until the mayor’s outside investigation could be complete.
That outside investigation is now complete and the results were released on Monday. Now that the La Crosse Police Department has been cleared of any retaliation claims that part of the investigation is complete.
However, there are still many questions yet to be answered when it comes to Poke and Ulrich.
“The agency didn’t do anything wrong,” said Tischer.
After a month of interviews with the La Crosse Police Department and reviewing hundreds of pages of documents, independent investigator Jim Lewis said in a statement that, “There does not appear to be evidence to support claim of retaliation.”
“We treat all employees the same. It doesn’t matter who they are,” said Tischer.
However, Lewis did find a mistake when it came to placing donated funds in the right spot.
“Some money that was donated for the neighborhood officers was misplaced in a wrong account. So that was cleared up. It was an accounting error we made. It was fixed and the money donated was used for what we said it was for,” said Tischer.
“The investigator found there was nothing inappropriate but there could be some improvement made to the transparency and I know the chief is already working on some of those corrections,” said Kabat.
The investigator’s report still leaves many questions unanswered. A significant portion of the report is blacked out including many of the officers’ names who were interviewed as part of the investigation.
“I am a firm believer in transparency and making as much public as possible but there is still the balance,” said Kabat.
The mayor, along with his legal team, has decided to release a heavily redacted document because of other impending investigations.
“The last thing we would want to do is release things that were unsubstantiated or hearsay that could cause problems down the road,” said Kabat.
Now that the outside investigation is complete, Tischer said the investigations that were put on hold will start back up.
“There are two internal investigations going on right now with Officer Poke and Officer Ulrich,” said Tischer.
Tischer said the reason behind those investigations can’t be released right now.
“Those are personnel investigations that I can’t comment on,” said Tischer.
“At some point those other investigations will be resolved. We will have more of the complete story but because of the ongoing investigations parts of that report have to be withheld,” said Kabat.
Poke and Ulrich are still on paid administrative leave from the department.
The two internal investigations will be carried out by a third party. There is no timeline on when the investigations will be complete, but Tischer hopes it happens quickly so he can either discipline the officer for any wrongdoing or if nothing is found, get them back on the force.
The attached document is an exact copy of the full report released to media Monday morning about that external investigation.
Tischer also released a statement Monday morning regarding the investigation.