Sheboygan Police Oversight Board Rejects Report of Alleged Misconduct by Chief, Complainant Petitions Court for Review

By | September 18, 2023

SHEBOYGAN – The boyfriend of a former Sheboygan police officer wants a judge to review the Board of Police and Fire Commissioners’ dismissal of his complaint that the police chief mishandled the sexual assault investigation at inside the police department.

Justin Daniels first filed a report with the Sheboygan Police Department in February. Days later, Sheboygan City Human Resources Director Adam Westbrook informed Daniels that the city would not look into the complaint because “there was insufficient information at that point to proceed with an investigation,” the attorney said. of the city of Sheboygan Chuck Adams. Daniels then filed a complaint with the Sheboygan Police and Fire Board in April.

The Board of Police and Fire Commissioners is a five-member city oversight board charged with disciplining police officers and firefighters. An evidentiary hearing on Daniels’ complaint had been scheduled for July 11, but in an oral motion on June 27, the Board dismissed Daniels’ complaint because he missed the filing deadline.

According to Police and Fire Board policies and procedures, a complaint against a police officer or firefighter must first be filed with the police or fire department. If a citizen is not satisfied with the decision made by the police or fire department, he can file a complaint with the Council, but no later than 10 days after the department’s decision.

Daniels, the board said in its June 27 decision, filed his complaint 37 days after the deadline.

Daniels filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, which is a judicial process seeking judicial review of a decision made by a lower court or government agency, in Sheboygan County Circuit Court on Aug. 16. In the petition, he claims “excusable negligence” should apply, because he “did nothing in bad faith” and the late filing of the complaint “did not impede the process or prejudice the police chief in any way.”

What does Daniels allege in his complaint?

Daniels’ complaint alleges that Sheboygan Police Chief Christopher Domagalski botched his response to investigations into sexual misconduct within the police department conducted between January and May 2021.

Following three internal investigations, 12 officers of the 62-officer patrol force were disciplined or verbally admonished for sexual misconduct. The harshest sanction, given to former officer Bryan Pray, was a two-week unpaid suspension.

Sheboygan Police Chief Christopher Domagalski stands at the podium at Sheboygan City Hall, Monday, Jan. 9, 2022, in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Sheboygan Police Chief Christopher Domagalski stands at the podium at Sheboygan City Hall, Monday, Jan. 9, 2022, in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Daniels argues that this was not an appropriate sanction and that police department policies continue to allow unacceptable behavior to continue.

Among the sexual misconduct findings that emerged from the 2021 investigation was an incident in which Pray took a partially nude photograph of a former officer and shared it with other officers without his consent.

The officer, identified in investigation reports as Officer 8, reported an incident that occurred in 2019 following a training course in which officers were asked to drink heavily to practice using a breathalyzer, then continued to drinking. In a hotel hallway, Agent 8 lifted his shirt and “flashed” Pray, at his request. Please, I took a photo.

RELATED: Sexual harassment scandal rocks Sheboygan Police Department

When Pray showed the photo to the officer the next morning, she told him to delete it. Pray said she would, but she didn’t. The following year, she showed the image to other Sheboygan police officers while on duty, even though she knew Officer 8 would “definitely” feel embarrassed and humiliated, according to the records.

Daniels argues in his complaint that this incident should have warranted a criminal investigation.

State law prohibits the creation or sharing of nude images taken without consent where the person depicted had a reasonable expectation of privacy. Depending on the facts of the case, this may be a Class I misdemeanor, punishable by up to 3.5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Officers convicted of crimes can face decertification, which bars them from working in law enforcement in Wisconsin.

Daniels filed a similar complaint in Sheboygan County Court in December asking for a court to determine whether Pray had committed a crime. A Calumet County judge appointed a special prosecutor for the case, Waushara County District Attorney Matthew Leusink. The case is pending and no hearing dates are currently scheduled.

Despite the board’s firing, Daniels is seeking an evidentiary hearing to present evidence that Chief Domagalski and other administrators mishandled the response and are responsible for enabling sexual misconduct.

“I think this department has a long history, even after this incident, of mistreating women,” Daniels said.

Sheboygan County District Attorney Joel Urmanski in January 2023 placed Pray on a “Brady list,” a list of law enforcement officers with potential credibility issues, which Urmanski is required by law to provide to prosecutors defence. Pray resigned the following month, in February 2023, about two years after the investigation into Agent 8’s complaint.

What is Daniels asking for in the appeal?

Daniels’ petition to the Sheboygan County Circuit Court argues that his complaint should not have been dismissed “for a simple oversight” and that an evidentiary hearing should be held so that all evidence can be properly presented.

In his petition, Daniels challenges the time limit rule and asked why the police and fire board was not presented with the complaint until the May 9 hearing, when he filed his complaint with the board on April 12 .

RELATED: Top Sheboygan officials lacked key details about the police department’s sexual harassment investigation

“I also argue that if that time frame is so important and necessary, then the City Attorney should not withhold the complaint from the PFC for another 30 days or so,” Daniels’ petition reads.

Adams said this was merely procedural; Board members cannot receive a complaint individually, so they had to wait until a meeting at which all commissioners were present.

“They received it promptly,” Adams said.

However, Bob Lettre, a former chairman of the Board of Police and Fire Commissioners who has continued to attend meetings regarding the sexual misconduct situation since his term was not renewed by the commission in spring 2022, said that during his 29 years on the board, meetings to address complaints or other issues were resolved within days.

What else do we know about sexual misconduct investigations within the police department?

About four months into the 2021 investigation into his complaint, Officer 8 resigned, citing a hostile work environment.

Sheboygan’s then-human resources director, Vicky Schneider, expressed concern that the police department’s investigation into sexual misconduct was inadequate. Because of her concerns, the city hired outside attorneys to review the police department’s investigation in the summer of 2021, Mayor Ryan Sorenson told the Sheboygan Press earlier this year.

However, after Officer 8 filed a complaint a few months later with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development’s Equal Rights Division alleging workplace discrimination and retaliation, the city of Sheboygan moved the review external to see if the internal investigation was properly conducted in an investigation focused on defending the city from the Agent 8 complaint.

In February 2022, Schneider filed her complaint with the state Equal Rights Division, alleging that former city manager Todd Wolf retaliated against her after she spoke out about her concerns.

According to the Department of Workforce Development, Schneider withdrew her claims with the Equal Rights Division on July 3.

Adams said the withdrawal of a complaint with the Equal Rights Division does not necessarily mean the case is complete. A person can withdraw a complaint if he wishes to bypass the Department of Workforce Development and go directly to court.

But police records show the sexual misconduct allegations did not end after the 2021 investigation.

RELATED: Sheboygan Police Oversight Board will review complaint against police chief over his handling of sexual harassment complaint

In June, the Sheboygan Press received a report authored by Chief Domagalski of an internal investigation conducted in January into another allegation of sexual misconduct by Pray.

While the internal investigation found that the allegation of discriminatory sexual harassment was “unfounded,” it determined that Pray violated other department policies for which he had just been reprimanded in June 2021, including engaging in conduct” unbecoming of a member of the department.” “, neglecting work duties, and accessing protected information for non-work purposes.

The report includes interviews with Pray and a female officer. Both said they showed each other pornographic videos during a conversation in their squad cars one afternoon in January. Pray told the investigator that the female officer first made the conversation sexual in nature, while the female officer said Pray directed the conversation that way.

“The officer’s proven misdemeanor actions and the officer’s record of being disciplined for the same misdemeanor in a short period of time demonstrate the officer’s failure to understand what is required of the officer to complete his or her duties to the standard expected of the Sheboygan Police Department,” the report reads.

Pray resigned on Feb. 8, days after the internal investigation concluded and after Wisconsin Watch and the Sheboygan Press published an article about the Sheboygan Police Department’s handling of sexual misconduct among officers.

RELATED: Former Sheboygan human resources director claims she was retaliated against for speaking out against sexual harassment in the workplace

Contact Kelli Arseneau at 920-213-3721 or Follow her on Twitter at @ArseneauKelli.

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This article originally appeared on Sheboygan Press: Sheboygan Police Oversight Board dismisses complaint against chief

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