Wednesday, June 17, 2020

HSU Independent Review of UPD 'Uncovered Organizational Issues' Within the Department

Posted By on Wed, Jun 17, 2020 at 7:20 PM

The Office of Independent Review group completed its independent review of the University Police Department and allegations against then Chief of Police Donn Peterson and Lt. Melissa Hansen and found "there were broader problems within the department that need to be addressed," including communication and leadership at all levels, internal division, and organizational dysfunction."

Last October, UPD officers cast a "vote of no confidence" toward Peterson, which is a public statement of dissatisfaction with the chief.

UPD officers also accused Peterson of violating labor laws, manipulating crime statistics, excessive absenteeism as well as creating a hostile work environment, including making racist remarks.

The review found that the allegation of manipulating crime statistics didn't occur, "... We concluded that the allegation of manipulation of crime statistics was unfounded, meaning that the information we gathered during our investigation indicated that the alleged act did not occur," the report states.

As to the allegation of making racist remarks, the OIR found the allegations to be “not sustained.”

According to the report, "A 'not sustained' finding does not mean the allegations were false; it means that there was insufficient corroborative evidence to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the allegations of misconduct occurred. In other words, a 'not sustained' finding means that the investigation disclosed insufficient evidence to either sustain the complaint or fully exonerate the employee."

“I see this as an important time and opportunity,” Vice President for Administration and Finance Doug Dawes, whose areas of responsibility include the police department, said in a release. “We strive for constant improvement in every process and effort on campus, and the OIR Group uncovered organizational issues within the University Police Department that very much need attention.”

Read the full press release and report below.
HSU Commits to Broad Review and Changes in Police Department

An extensive review of alleged misconduct within the University Police Department has been completed by an outside investigative group, the OIR Group (Office of Independent Review), which concluded that one alleged act did not occur while others lacked sufficient corroborative evidence and were “not sustained.”

At the same time, the OIR Group concluded there were broader problems within the department that need to be addressed. These include communication and leadership at all levels, internal division, and organizational dysfunction.

Based on the findings, the University will be undertaking an effort to address the issues and make improvements. This will be guided by additional outside review as well as leadership from Interim Police Chief Christina Lofthouse. It will take into account recent calls for changes in police practices that are being made across the country, and include implementation of the recommendations of The President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, reported to President Barack Obama in May 2015. (See: Pledge from CSU Police Chiefs)

“I see this as an important time and opportunity,” said Vice President for Administration and Finance Doug Dawes, whose areas of responsibility include the police department. “We strive for constant improvement in every process and effort on campus, and the OIR Group uncovered organizational issues within the University Police Department that very much need attention.”

The OIR Group’s investigation involved more than 35 hours of interviews on campus, including every member of the University Police Department. They also conducted reviews of documentary evidence.

In the summary of their findings, OIR Group concluded: “While we found that the UPD generally provides effective public safety services to its academic community, interpersonal conflict and poor communication has created dysfunction from within. Our reporting to the University provided insight into the underpinnings of that conflict so that University leadership could use available tools to remediate and repair that divide and facilitate a climate of effective communication and respect.”

The University contracted with OIR Group following serious allegations about the former Police Chief Donn Peterson and Lieutenant Melissa Hansen, by members of the police department. OIR was asked to look at the allegations as well as any related complaints and matters. While the alleged acts were determined to have either not occurred or to have lacked sufficient corroborative evidence, the months-long process revealed the larger issues that the University is now seeking to address.

“This review has been very revealing and speaks to several areas, at all levels and by all officers, that warrant significant action,” said HSU President Tom Jackson, Jr. “It’s vital that we understand any issues in our police department. I’ve been very clear that I expect to see immediate and clear steps taken to begin resolving these issues."

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Iridian Casarez

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Iridian Casarez is a staff writer at the North Coast Journal.

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