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Bainbridge police union president was author of email that warned officers against participating in study of problematic department
Bainbridge Island Police Lt. Bob Day sent a warning to other police officers about talking with the police department's top man about problems within the department just days after an outside review of the embattled agency began.
Day, one of four lieutenants in the department, is the president of the Bainbridge Island Police Guild, the union that represents the city's police officers.
City council members were told of the warning at their council meeting Wednesday when consultant Michael Pendleton briefed officials on his long-awaited report on the police department.
The city hired Pendleton, a former police officer and University of Washington professor who runs his own Kingston-based consultant company on police matters, to take a comprehensive look at the department earlier this year. Pendleton has worked as a consultant on police issues for the cities of Olympia, Lacey, Kenmore, Sumner and Kent, and is also on retainer to the city of Seattle as a consultant on police accountability.
Pendleton told city officials this week that the Bainbridge Island Police Department was not holding its officers accountable and noted the agency had "long-standing, unresolved allegations of incidents of police misconduct and retaliation."
He also found a lack of leadership in the department, and recounted how officers said the department's first-line leaders, the lieutenants, were viewed as unprofessional slackers who ignored assignments and were poor role models.
Line officers also said the lieutenants were resistant to change, and had led the movement to get rid of the city's last police chief.
Pendleton interviewed every member of the police department, as well as city officials and community members, before compiling his report.
In his report, Pendleton said face-to-face interviews were conducted, and officers told him the rank-and-file were not "in sync" with the lieutenants.
Further complicating matters was the fact that the city's police guild includes both the rank and file and their immediate supervisors, the lieutenants, in the same union. That made officers afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation, and they said they were unable to file complaints against their supervisors. They also noted the union was headed by two of the department's lieutenants, who serve as president and vice president of the guild.
In his report, and in his briefing to the council Wednesday, Pendleton said one police supervisor sent an email to subordinates that some viewed as a warning not to participate in Pendleton's review.
It was an attempt, Pendleton noted, to "stifle full participation in this project."
Pendleton did not name the supervisor who sent the email in his written report or in his briefing to city officials this week.
The email noted by Pendleton was obtained by the Bainbridge Review via a public records request late this week.
Day, a first-line supervisor and the president of the union, sent an email to four officers on March 8, four days before Pendleton was to meet with Interim Public Safety Director Larry Dickerson to kick off the interviews for the study.
Day warned officers about talking with Dickerson about problems and situations that had occurred in the department.
"It has been brought to my attention that sqaudmates [sic] have been having conversations with IPSD [Interim Public Safety Director] Dickerson," Day wrote.
"Here is the deal, please respect the chain of command, e.g. give your direct supervisor a chance to work a problem/question/situation before going to the boss with it. By going to the boss it makes everyone look bad, it is bad for morale, and is a very bad way of doing business. If you are doing this; stop now - this is the only warning you will get."
Day also said that if officers did talk with Dickerson, that they should tell him what had been said.
"I understand that Larry, and any good executive, has an open door policy. Please feel free to use it, but do me this courtesy; if you have a conversation with Larry or Doug, please communicate it to me after the fact, either by phone, car-mail, or e-mail. By bringing me into the conversation I can be prepared when I get questioned about something you bring up. If you refuse to follow this request, I will consider that refusal in the context of the above paragraph."
"Additionally, if you have conversations with anyone, while in an official position, and it may bounce back to me in some form – please bring me into the conversation," Day concluded.
Pendleton told city officials at his briefing this week that the email "easily could be interpreted as encouraging [officers] not to participate fully in this study."
"Of course, it did not go down well with me," Pendleton added. "But before I had an opportunity to act on it, your city manager did."
Day did not respond to a request for comment Friday on Pendleton's report, or the email Day sent to other officers.
In his report and in his comments to the council this week, Pendleton called the lieutenants' participation in the union "problematic" on several levels.
"This is an issue that needs to get dealt with. It's a structural issue. It's not a simple issue, but it's profound," he said.
In his report, Pendleton said the city should plan to remove the lieutenants from the union that represents the rank and file officers.
After the Pendleton report was issued this week, City Manager Doug Schulze said he would work with new Police Chief Matthew Hamner to develop an action plan to address the recommendations made in the report.
Schulze said the plan will be presented to the city council during a public meeting in September.