In what is becoming an all too often post lately, our police department has lost another officer. Another officer who I've never met in person, but who I've heard praises sung about. A Marine, he worked 15 years Full-time as a police officer prior to coming to Lakewood. He has a list of special qualifications that are longer than my arm (somethings I didn't even know existed like 'Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) and community service outreach that included the Special Olympics and Toys for Tots.
So, when you read his resignation letter (shared with expressed permission), understand that this officer is not a glorified mall cop. This is a man who has trained and grown and lived to be an officer. He has the respect of his department -- I know this from conversations I've personally had with others. They call him out as being part of that special breed of officers -- that special breed that Lakewood once attracted and enjoyed and now appears that our administration is pushing out as fast as they can.
In reviewing this, I see two major issues that Ofc. Pluviose raises. Each of these have the potential to being costly to the village, both in terms of legal bills but in terms of good qualified personnel and morale.
1. Racist Remarks by an Supervising Officer
I'm heartbroken. I'm heartbroken because I knew there were problems in our village. While I thought our problems were limited to poor financial sense, oversized egos, and undersized backbones, I never thought our problems included racism. As a village that has roots in discrimination, we have no excuse for turning a blind eye to any discrimination and to have it come from one of our officers, who was recently promoted to a supervisory position this should be investigated to the fullest extent possible -- including a similar leave, interrogation, and if justified termination that was done to our former chief.
2. Promotion Process Failures and Falsehoods
I've known since the words left Phil's mouth that now-Sgt. Cole's promotion was not a result of no one in the department coming forward. Rumor has it that his promotion was done in near secret (to the point his wife was not even invited) and no one else in the department was considered for the promotion. What I was not aware of was that Ofc. Pluviose had formally sent a letter expressing his interest. Please note -- given the issues in the first problem; Ofc. Pluviose may have a very costly discrimination suit against the village. Let's not mince words, he has proof he asked to be considered, he was the more qualified candidate, and he was not even interviewed for the position. Additionally, Phil (our board president) is on record stating that the department was offered the opportunity to apply and no one did --- so, how is this possible? Did Ofc. Pluviose's race play any factor in him being passed over? Even if it didn't (and that appears to be a hard case to make), you can not change the fact that the Village President told the residents (and the police department) something that is completely untrue. Additionally, it appears that the rest of the department was not in alignment with the promotion either -- what I wonder is how many of the officers felt comfortable coming forward in light of what CAO Smith and Phil did to their last chief.
To be incredibly clear, I will ask the board, and encourage everyone of you to reach out and do the same, to launch an immediate and complete investigation into the allegations of racial slurs from Sgt. Cole in the presence of another officer and in the presence of a prisoner. Additionally, if this board has any concern for the potential financial hardship a lengthy and potentially devastating discrimination suit would have, I would strongly suggest they investigate Sgt. Cole's promotion process to ensure it was handled without discrimination and adopt the Standard Operating Procedures that were requested by the Roth Administration on running the Lakewood Police Department. Given that the promotion was done by the CAO, I would suggest that she not be part of the investigation and in fact, should likely be put on Admin Leave and go through the same process that has been established to determine if she truly evaluated the most qualified officer or if she promoted a person favorable to her administration as a reward for information or access. This investigation should be carried out outside the current board, either fully independently or even perhaps prior board members who could offer an unbiased view of the events.
The police community is small. Word gets around as to who are the departments to work for and who are the departments to avoid. I believe our village deserves the best police department, like I believe we deserve the best roads, the best drainage, and the best staff that we can afford. When it comes to our police, I think our department has the potential to be the place where experienced police officers from the area can come and mentor and train the next generation of officers. I believe that we can give young officers their start in a safe and growth oriented department. To meet those goals, you must attract and retain talent. What this administration has done is pushed out so much of the experience and that undermines our ability to attract the best and brightest of the young, new officers.
Specifically to Eddie: I hate that you reached the point that walking out was the only option you could chose. I know you know you are well respected by the officers; but I want you to know that you are respected by the residents of Lakewood. It pains me to see men and women of your caliber leave our village -- and leaving on these terms. Please forgive me for not being able to act sooner. I know as an officer you believe it is your job to protect us (and you are right) -- but as a resident and ultimately your employer, it is my responsibility to protect you. If my delay in getting involved didn't protect you, I'm deeply sorry.