Tim Troxel to retire from Police Department following email, surveillance probe; read the documents

Tim Troxel, who was Renton's deputy police chief until being placed on paid administrative leave in May, will retire effective Friday.

Troxel was placed on leave after what are described as unprofessional email exchanges came to light through a public disclosure request and it was learned he attempted to conduct a surveillance of a Police Department employee.

Renton Police Chief Kevin Milosevich's initial recommendation, spelled out in a memo to Troxel on June 15, was to fire Troxel. Milosevich wrote that Troxel's conduct violated city and department policies regarding unbecoming conduct, unsatisfactory performance and the use of emails.

The emails were exchanged between Troxel and Renton Police Sgt. Todd Frazier who also was disciplined for his role in the email exchange with Troxel and another sergeant.

The other sergeant's name was redacted (obscured) in documents requested by the Renton Reporter that detail the outside investigation of the complaint. The documents include adult content, including language.

"These emails openly disparage other members of the department and in some cases could be viewed as racist or biased towards some individuals. Some of the information included in the emails describes a deliberate attempt to covertly watch over other department members," the city complaint reads.

The City of Renton and Troxel signed a separation agreement in July in which Troxel retired from the Police Department. Under the agreement Troxel received a letter of recommendation from Milosevich and the city will not challenge Troxel's certification as a police officer.

Rather than fire Troxel, Milosevich had decided to give Troxel a written reprimand after reading Troxel's response to his June 15 memo. Troxel responded to Milosevich's discipline memorandum on July 16.

In his response Troxel wrote that the language he used in some of the emails was unprofessional, but he didn't intend for anyone other than Frazier to read them. He wrote that he meant no disrespect and would make every effort "to make sure I do not make those same mistakes again."

He wrote that he started the investigation of the department employee because of his concern she had been operating a "personal business from her desk at City Hall for some time."

"Finally, all told, these are relatively minor transgressions that do not rise to the level of warranting termination of my employment with the city," he wrote. "The twelve or so emails, and one pursuit of a single, personnel investigation, is small when weighed against the considerable hours, time and caring I spend each day making the Renton Police Department a contributing member to the city and the community."

Troxel has worked for the Renton Police Department since 1984.

Right now, the Police Department has no deputy chiefs and Milosevich said he will work more closely with commanders himself. He doesn't plan to name a new deputy chief in the near future.

City spokeswoman Preeti Shridhar said  in May the investigation was unrelated to the personnel action taken against Troxel last summer and was unrelated to the controversy over the Mr. Fuddlesticks videos about the Police Department, also from last year.

The investigation by attorney Katherine F. Weber looked at emails starting in December 2008 through the present. She divides her summary report into three sections, one dealing with emails between Troxel and Frazier, one dealing with the "surveillance" of a department employee and the third detailing the email exchange between Frazier and the unnamed sergeant.

In the summary of her investigation, Weber writes that Troxel's emails to Frazier show evidence of a "'casualness' between DC Troxel and Sgt. Frazier that could be construed as unprofessional and/or as 'blurring the lines' within the chain of command."

She offered some examples, including one in 2009 in which Troxel referred to Frazier as "Be-otch." Other emails used profanity. Frazier calls Troxel "Chubbs."

In his defense, according to Weber's report, Troxel "asserted that he and Sgt. Frazier are friends, that they are comfortable around each other, that their informal interactions have not confused the chain of command, and that he is able to separate his friendship with Sgt. Frazier from his official responsibilities as a superior officer."

Weber concluded that the Frazier wasn't offended by the content of Troxel's emails and they didn't constitute a hostile work environment. However, the emails did violate the city's email policy about appropriate communication.

Weber also investigated a plan by Troxel in April 2011 to install surveillance equipment to monitor an employee's work productivity. Troxel involved Frazier in the plan, asking him to determine what type of equipment to use, Weber's investigation showed.

The plan was called "Operation Deep Throat." Frazier met with a contact at the federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agency at the department on April 13, 2011, to evaluate what type of equipment could be installed.

In his letter of reprimand to Troxel, Milosevich wrote that, "You also admitted to devising a plan to investigate a subordinate of mine and proceeded without my prior knowledge. While I recognize you thought you had the best interests of the Department in mind, the manner in which you chose to proceed was not proper."

The equipment was to be installed on April 19, 2011, but was delayed because of a pending marijuana bust, according to Weber's report. Troxel suggested April 21, but all the ATF cameras were in use. April 25 was chosen, but it was canceled when Milosevich became aware of the plan only when contacted by Frazier to confirm the plan, according to Weber.

Despite Troxel's explanations, Weber concluded that Troxel did not notify Milosevich of the plan nor obtain his approval.

Weber also investigated an exchange of emails between Frazier and the unnamed sergeant which she describes as "jabs" and "jokes" and sometimes of a sexual nature. She wrote they weren't the best use of department time.

However, she wrote that the "most concerning exchange" by email occurred on May 20, 2009, involving the sergeants' discussion about a black male suspect.

Weber found that some of the exchanges between Frazier and the sergeant included "disparaging terms." She found that Frazier also engaged in email communication that was "unprofessional, unproductive and a violation of the city's email policy."

For his role in the exchange of emails, Frazier was reassigned to the Patrol Operations Division and was suspended for 12 hours.

The unnamed sergeant received verbal counseling.

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