N8I: College staff member did not make negative comments about police department

An investigation into negative comments allegedly made by a college instructor about the La Crosse Police Department has ended. A final report released Friday effectively cleared the Western Technical College employee of any wrongdoing.

The alleged comments led former La Crosse Police Chief Ron Tischer to stop sending recruits to Western’s Police Academy. Instead, recruits would be sent to Chippewa Valley Technical College Academy. According to the report, Tischer said he would be reluctant to hire officers who attended the academy because of the alleged comments made by a Western employee.

But this investigation, obtained by News 8 through a Freedom of Information Act Request, found that the comments that the then-Chief based this decision on were mostly rumor. Often, the alleged comments were relayed through multiple people and were only told to investigators after the issue was reported by local media.

In an email to Western Technical College in August, then-Police Chief Ron Tischer detailed one of the issues. He claimed that an instructor with the Law Enforcement Academy had been telling students the department is “‘full of racists’ and that they ‘shouldn’t work there’.”

“I took it very seriously,” said Western Technical College President Roger Stanford.

College officials worked with the department and met with the student and others who were involved. The initial findings were released in October. It found there was insufficient evidence to conclude that the instructor made those comments. There was no evidence to support that the employee or anyone else made disparaging remarks about the department.

“We communicated that to Chief Tischer. He wasn’t happy with our findings and our investigation, so he did ask that we looked into some other pieces of the investigation,” Stanford said.

Western Technical College Staff worked with two outside organizations to complete this new investigation, where it found five other alleged incidents. Those interviewed said they heard or heard from others:

-[The instructor] makes negative and disparaging comments about the La Crosse Police
Department (Allegation 2);

-[The instructor] made a comment to an adjunct instructor (who was also employed by the La
Crosse Police Department) in front of students that the La Crosse Police Department
“couldn’t solve a homicide if their paycheck depended on it” (Allegation 3);

-[The instructor] made a comment to a member of the La Crosse Police Department at a social
gathering that an officer was not very smart because he had been cheating on his wife
before the wedding; while at the wedding, he was talking to her about being unfaithful to
his wife, and that she told him to stop talking about that because this was his wedding night
(Allegation 4);

-At the same social gathering, [the instructor] also compared the officer with other officers
regarding his intelligence and aptitude (Allegation 5)

-During an in-service training at Western’s Police Academy, [the instructor] called La Crosse
Police Department officers “racists” and continued to “slander the LCPD with her
disrespectful comments.” (Allegation 6).

In the report, investigators said the majority of the witnesses either had no knowledge of the allegations or did not have personal knowledge regarding the allegations. Some of the events took place years ago.

Investigators concluded after interviewing 24 witnesses and follow up, there was either insufficient evidence to corroborate the allegations, no evidence, or the allegation was not job-related. If it was job-related, it is too minor or trivial to require corrective action.

“Throughout my career, I’ve been very careful to be quick to judge anything,” Stanford said.

The report found that “‘rumormongering was a factor in this matter and may have worsened this situation.'”

The instructor who allegedly made these comments still works for Western Technical College. Now the president looks forward to the future and mending the relationship with the police department.

“I think it’s up to La Crosse how they want to respond now. I think we both agree, we’d like to find pathways so that to working together because we have worked as partners for years, and years, and years,” Stanford said.

Stanford said he met with the new Police Chief Shawn Kudron to tell him the report would be coming out. He hopes this eventually becomes a small blip in the relationship between the college and the department.

“We grew stronger and grew better out of this and that’s what my wish is. And I certainly welcome every part of working together with the La Crosse Police Department,” Stanford said.

News 8 is not naming the instructor in question because she has been cleared by this investigation. The employee has declined requests for comment at this time.

Chief Shawn Kudron was not available for comment today. However, the Police Department said it has just received the report and will be reviewing it.

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