Discipline infrequent among city employees

When two Bartlett Police Department officers recently found themselvesBartlett police badge subjects of internal city investigations, they also found themselves caught up in a process that doesn’t happen very often.

“When it rains, it pours,” said police Chief Gary Rikard. “I wish I knew what caused them to come up all at once.”

Rikard said in the past seven years -- including his time as chief and as assistant chief involved in disciplinary matters -- he believes the department has had fewer than five officers whose discipline rose to the level of dismissal. Smaller offenses, causing some internal investigation but not rising to a heightened level, happen more often. But even those, he said, can six or so months apart.

“We do discipline throughout the year, paperwork throughout the year,” he said.

For matters of investigative hearings, however, that’s a different story, said the chief. And for the two officers headed toward those hearings earlier this month, only one likely will get there.

Officer Quinten Crowley likely will face disciplinary action after the internal investigation into his actions wraps up this week. Crowley, 37, was charged with domestic assault in a case involving his wife, Amanda. The charges in the case itself are on hold as Crowley pursues a counseling option that could lead to the charges being dismissed after a July 10 hearing.

Meanwhile, he’ll face a second kind of hearing within the department itself. After police captains bring up the initial charges, the department has its own internal hearing to determine if further disciplinary is necessary. The chief makes a recommendation to the mayor based on the outcome, and the mayor makes the decision to carry out the discipline or not.

“Most of the time, the mayor goes along with our recommendation,” said Rikard.

If the employee doesn’t agree, the city has a grievance process in place that includes a panel of an alderman, citizens and other employees not within the same department as the accused, said city personnel director Peter Voss. That group makes another recommendation to hold or stay the original discipline, and the mayor has 10 days to decide if he wants to accept or reject it.

“After that, if an employee wants to appeal, he’d be going to court,” said Voss.

Voss said even the grievance process is infrequent. In the case of the second officer undergoing internal scrutiny, the officer never even made it to the grievance process before he resigned.

That officer, Zack Watkins, was charged with violating the city’s sick policy. He underwent an internal hearing earlier in June after city officials realized he was using his sick days immediately after they accrued. In fact, he did not have a single sick day available to him despite the fact that he had been an officer with the Bartlett force since 2001.

Watkins resigned late last week following his internal hearing. That means for him, the investigation is over, said Rikard.

Voss also said cases such as Watkins are infrequent.

“Every now and then, something will catch my eye and I’ll run a report,” said Voss. “But it’s not like we sit here and nitpick every single employee to death.”

In fact, the city offers its sick leave time not only so that employees themselves can recover from illness, but also so that those employees can help take care of ill family members. But even then, he said, the city tells its employees during orientation that they need to save some of their sick days.

“They need to think if them as an insurance police,” said Voss.

And even in the cases where employees violates policies, Voss said it’s not the city’s goal to be unfair.

“Disciplinary action is not meant to be punitive,” said Voss. “It’s meant to change a behavior.”