La Crosse Police Chief Ron Tischer said Monday an outside investigation of the department failed to find any evidence to back claims of retaliation or a hostile work environment brought by Officer Nate Poke.
In a statement, Chief Tischer outlined the results of the investigation into the work claims and also claims of irregularities in community policing funds.
The statement said, "After a thorough outside investigation by Mr. Jim Lewis, he could not find evidence to support Officer Poke’s claims against department members or claims of retaliation and hostile work environment. Mr. Lewis also looked into the accounting of the community policing funds, which is a public record, and found no inconsistencies. At this time, Jim Lewis’ investigation is considered closed."
News 19 filed an open records request and obtained the official report conducted by Lewis. Much of the report is blacked out to protect police personnel matters, reputations and the community members involved.
Lewis' report also said that the internal investigation started in August by La Crosse Police be allowed to continue. La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat stopped that investigation in September to bring in outside investigators from Green Bay for an impartial look at the department. Kabat made the move after meeting with Officer Poke who made claims regarding the workplace environment inside the department. As part of the investigation, the department placed Officer Poke and Officer Dan Ulrich on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
Mayor Kabat said the city takes workforce issues like this seriously, which is why he called for an outside investigation.
"We want the La Crosse Police Department and the entire city operation to be a good place to go to work and for people to feel safe and that these issues of retaliation are investigated thoroughly. We did that in this case. We brought in an outside party and now we are trying to make some those corrections that were addressed in the findings," Kabat said.
The report provided some recommendations on which the department could follow up, including accounting systems to make grant funding more transparent and better communication between the administration and officers.
Kabat said he spoke with Chief Tischer about these changes and the department is working on implementing them.
Read Chief Tischer's complete statement below.
Today, the results of an internal investigation into claims made by Officer Nathan Poke against the City of La Crosse Police Department have been released by the Mayor’s Office.
The La Crosse Police Department fully cooperated with the investigation. We as an agency always looks for ways to improve transparency and hold ourselves accountable. The La Crosse Police Department continuously strives to provide the best possible working conditions for our greatest asset; the men and women that make up our agency.
After a thorough outside investigation by Mr. Jim Lewis, he could not find evidence to support Officer Poke’s claims against department members or claims of retaliation and hostile work environment. Mr. Lewis also looked into the accounting of the community policing funds, which is a public record, and found no inconsistencies. At this time, Jim Lewis’ investigation is considered closed.
The La Crosse Police Department around August 17th opened an internal investigation into Officer Nathan Poke after citizen witnesses and department supervisors came forward with allegations of misconduct while he was on and off duty. On August 31st, while being informed of his re-assignment from the NRO position, Officer Poke raised allegations against Officer Daniel Ulrich. The La Crosse Police Department immediately opened an internal investigation into Officer Ulrich. As with any officer, the department has an obligation to take all complaints against department members seriously and investigate them appropriately.
On Sept 18th, the police department suspended the internal investigation into Officer Poke, by order of the Mayor, after Officer Poke approached the Mayor on Sept 11th with various claims. The Mayor brought in independent investigator Jim Lewis to look into Officer Poke’s claims.
Jim Lewis has recommended the La Crosse Police Department be allowed to continue the internal investigations into Officers Poke and Ulrich. At the request of the La Crosse Police Department, an outside party has been retained to conduct the internal investigations for impartiality. We hope the investigations will be handled expeditiously for the officers, the department and the public we serve. Both officers are on administrative leave pending the investigations.
Internal investigations and personnel issues are confidential matters, and the La Crosse Police Department cannot provide additional comment on these cases.
Results from an investigation into the La Crosse Police Department stemming from several incidents earlier this fall is scheduled for release on Monday.
The Green Bay police chief conducted the outside investigation which focused on what La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat describes as issues with the workplace environment inside the La Crosse Police Department.
Mayor Kabat says the issue involves a personnel matter.
Two department employees, Neighborhood response Officer Nate Poke and Officer Dan Ulrich are on leave pending the outcome of the investigation.