Back in April the Poulsbo Police Department released its analysis of complaints the department has received over the course of 2018 and how those complaints were addressed.
The department conducted a total of 47 reviews over the course of the last year, nine of which were initiated due to complaints received. Of those nine complaints two were sustained or found to be valid.
“The process allows us to administratively review all the complaints we receive, no matter the format they come in. It provides us with a clearer picture of officer conduct and how the community perceives the department and our officers,” said Poulsbo Police Chief Dan Schoonmaker.
“As a department, we want to be as transparent as possible and demonstrate that we are willing to look critically at our own actions,” Schoonmaker added.
Of the nine complaints received, five were related to the complainants being dissatisfied with the handling of a call, investigation or report. Three were regarding the officers demeanor and one was accusing an officer of committing a traffic violation.
These complaints were reviewed and categorized following further investigation.
The categories are as follows:
• Unfounded, meaning the alleged act did occur, but the act was justified, lawful, or proper.
• Exonerated, meaning the allegation turned out to be false or the alleged acts did not occur at all or involve an officer.
• Not Sustained, meaning there was insufficient evidence to sustain the complaint, nor to fully exonerate the officer.
• Sustained, meaning the alleged act occurred and constitutes misconduct.
Of the nine complaints three resulted in exonerations, three were not sustained, two were sustained and one was unfounded.
The sustained complaints resulted with the officers in question receiving written reprimand, one was asked to also attend additional communications training as well.
“When our officer’s do something wrong, we want to take the correct action, but we also want them to be better officers. So often times we will send them to training to improve their skills for related situations,” Schoonmaker said.
In one case, a complaint came after Officer Luke Bogues “accessed a police report writing system out of curiosity rather than for law enforcement purposes,” Schoonmaker said. The files, while public record, were not under the Poulsbo Police Department’s jurisdiction. Schoonmaker said he regarded the violation as a technicality, which could have been avoided by utilizing existing public information request procedures. “We want to make sure that our officers are doing everything by the book,” Schoonmaker added. “He should have known that you do this the way that doesn’t violate policy, by submitting a public records request.”
In the second, a citizen accused officer David Gesell of inappropriate behavior and failure to take a sexual assault report. Schoonmaker explained that the victims doctor had called to report the assault, but Gesell had been uncomfortable taking the report from the doctor and wanted to speak with the victim. Schoonmaker was careful to note that the department did eventually take the report in the days following the incident but a review found that Gesell had indeed violated department policy. Following the determination, Gesell was sent to supplemental training for trauma informed sexual assault investigation and general interaction and public communications.
“It’s important to note that we had about 12,500 calls and nine complaints and two overall sustained for conduct,” Schoonmaker said “that’s an important fact for the public to know and understand. These stats are annually produced and put out on public display through our website in order for our department to be as transparent as possible.”
“For the last two years I have been working really hard to get things settled internally at the department. We are now shifting towards working and creating a better relationship with the community,” Schoonmaker added.
In addition to working toward better transparency, Schoonmaker said he believes that his department could better reflect the community it serves.
Currently the department has 18 officers, 17 of which are men with one female officer, all are White.
According to the U.S. census 76% of Poulsbo’s residents identify as white with 12% identifying as Latino, 6% as two or more races, 4% as Asian, 1% as African-American and less than 1% identifies as Native American. Additionally 56% of the population identify as female.
“I would love to hire more female officers and we really need more officers that can speak Spanish,” said Schoonmaker.
The Poulsbo Police Department is set to begin a big recruitment push later this summer.