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Renton police chief working to restore trust within department
Following the disciplinary actions against two deputy chiefs, Police Chief Kevin Milosevich is working to restore trust in leadership within his department.
At the same time, the Police Department is aggressively pursuing the creator – possibly an employee with an insider's understanding of the department – of animated cartoons that are critical parodies of the Police Department.
Milosevich is steadfast in his resolve to find the creator because he maintains and is supported by city prosecutors that some of the cartoons – there are nine – meet the definition of cyberstalking.
But it's the discipline of the two deputy chiefs – including the demotion of one to sergeant – that has Milosevich and other command staff meeting with employees to figure out how to move forward from the breaches in leadership.
"Obviously, it has had a substantial impact on morale," Milosevich said in an interview about the two disciplinary actions.
Milosevich has the support of Mayor Denis Law in his disciplinary action against the two deputy chiefs and in pursuing the creator of the cartoons.
"Chief Milosevich knows that it's a priority to restore trust with our employees and move past the troubling controversy surrounding the internal investigations and the two video incidents," Law said.
"Like the first video, which was developed by one of our police officers, the remaining videos contain hurtful and un-sustained rumors against several of our officers, and we feel strongly they were also created by someone in the department or an individual very close to the department," Law said.
The two deputy chiefs who were disciplined are Tim Troxel and Charles Marsalisi. Troxel remains a deputy chief; Marsalisis was demoted to sergeant in July.
The Marsalisis investigation centered on what the deputy chief knew about an animated cartoon critical of the Police Department that surfaced in January.
The Police Department launched an investigation last November into allegations that Troxel asked an on-duty sergeant to accompany him to the home he shared with his then-girlfriend in Newcastle in summer 2009. The city first learned of the incident in an anonymous letter sent to Law in November 2010.
The investigation is spelled out in documents released by the City of Renton. The initial suggestion was that this was a case of stalking; however, in a recent interview with the Renton Reporter, Milosevich said this was a personal matter involving Troxel and his then-girlfriend.
"He (Troxel) could have made better decisions in that situation," Milosevich said.
Troxel took responsibility for his actions from the beginning of the investigation, Milosevich said.
Troxel told the sergeant, whose name hasn't been made public, that he was concerned his girlfriend was seeing another man. Troxel and the sergeant, who was in plain clothes, drove to Newcastle in an unmarked city vehicle. In interviews both agree that Troxel went to the backyard to see who was inside. He saw the two embrace. Troxel spoke with the woman on the front porch for about 45 minutes. Troxel, accompanied by the sergeant, returned later for another conversation.
But their recollections also diverge. The sergeant said Troxel entered the house using his key to determine whether luggage belonged to a man or woman. Troxel denied this happened.
The next day Troxel and a second sergeant returned to the house to retrieve Troxel's cell-phone charger.
The final finding of fact reads:
"Tim understands the seriousness of this incident; that it is embarrassing; and that he thought he was doing the right thing by bringing a second person with him to assist him in his thought process."
Initially, Milosevich considered suspending Troxel for 40 hours without pay. In the final discipline memo Troxel signed on Feb. 9, that was reduced to 24 hours without pay for "unbecoming conduct." In formal language, Troxel used "department resources to further a personal issue."
In an interview with the Renton Reporter, Troxel, a 27-year veteran of the Police Department who oversees administrative services, said he has accepted responsibility for his actions from the beginning.
"I was cooperative and truthful from the get-go," he said. He said he doesn't want to relive the situation over and over. Now, he said, all members of the Police Department "want to move on," including himself.
"It's one of those things that you learn from your mistakes," he said.
He's "extremely proud," he said, to be a member of the Police Department.
In the second disciplinary action, Charles Marsalisi was demoted from deputy chief to sergeant in July, following an internal investigation into who posted early this year the animated cartoon called "SCORE Parody," which has an officer talking to a jailer wearing a clown face.
The City of Renton is a partner in the regional jail in Des Moines known as SCORE, or South Correctional Entity.
That investigation continued with interviews late last week; also potentially involved are two sergeants and an acting sergeant. This week, Milosevich was preparing a final decision in those cases and the details of those internal investigations will be released early next week.
Milosevich said Marsalisi didn't create the video, but he withheld information about who did.
Investigators determined the cartoon was made by a department employee. However, what police hadn't determined immediately was whether any or all of the other animated cartoons were made by the same employee, Milosevich said.
The same technology was used to create all nine videos, Milosevich said.
"Our role is to hopefully find out who is responsible," he said. He said he'd like to think it's not a department employee.
Marsalisi, who was deputy chief over patrol operations and patrol services, has been temporarily assigned to investigations. The acting deputy chief is Kent Curry. Marsalisi joined the Police Department in February 1993 as an officer.
The Renton Reporter attempted to contact Marsalisi for comment.
Law said he's "very disappointed that members of our department have been involved in inappropriate behavior that has been hurtful and demoralizing to others within the police department."
Now, Milosevich said the department will look at developing its leadership more effectively, including meeting with command staff and sergeants. He'll work to better identify issues, which he said is easier said than done.
Troxel, too, is meeting with different work groups, pointing out that he took responsibility for his actions.
"I am actively seeking input from them to see what is it that they think will restore trust and confidence," he said. He's confident, he said, "we will find some common ground."
Law has been regularly briefed on the investigations.
Law said the city is "blessed to have a great Police Department comprised of very dedicated and professional individuals. It's disheartening to see them facing unfair scrutiny due to the actions of a couple malcontents.
"I'm confident we'll get past this issue and continue to provide quality police services to our citizens," he said.
THE STATE'S CYBERSTALKING LAW
(1) A person is guilty of cyberstalking if he or she, with intent to harass, intimidate, torment, or embarrass any other person, and under circumstances not constituting telephone harassment, makes an electronic communication to such other person or a third party:
(a) Using any lewd, lascivious, indecent, or obscene words, images, or language, or suggesting the commission of any lewd or lascivious act;
(b) Anonymously or repeatedly whether or not conversation occurs; or
(c) Threatening to inflict injury on the person or property of the person called or any member of his or her family or household.
(2) Cyberstalking is a gross misdemeanor, except as provided in subsection (3) of this section.
(3) Cyberstalking is a class C felony if either of the following applies:
(a) The perpetrator has previously been convicted of the crime of harassment, as defined in RCW 9A.46.060, with the same victim or a member of the victim's family or household or any person specifically named in a no-contact order or no-harassment order in this or any other state; or
(b) The perpetrator engages in the behavior prohibited under subsection (1)(c) of this section by threatening to kill the person threatened or any other person.
(4) Any offense committed under this section may be deemed to have been committed either at the place from which the communication was made or at the place where the communication was received.
(5) For purposes of this section, "electronic communication" means the transmission of information by wire, radio, optical cable, electromagnetic, or other similar means. "Electronic communication" includes, but is not limited to, electronic mail, internet-based communications, pager service, and electronic text messaging.
[2004 c 94 § 1.]
Severability -- 2004 c 94: "If any provision of this act or its application to any person or circumstance is held invalid, the remainder of the act or the application of the provision to other persons or circumstances is not affected." [2004 c 94 § 6.]
Effective dates -- 2004 c 94: "This act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety, or support of the state government and its existing public institutions, and takes effect immediately [March 24, 2004], except for section 3 of this act, which takes effect July 1, 2004." [2004 c 94 § 7.]