Police commission demotes sergeant

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Kayla Bunge
Friday, November 20, 2009
— A town police sergeant was demoted for engaging in conduct unbecoming an officer and mishandling evidence, the town police commission ruled late Thursday night.

Sgt. Robert Haase has been suspended 90 days and may return as a patrolman with a lower salary. He also will receive a written reprimand.

Chief Ed Gritzner in mid-August filed two charges against Haase. Gritzner placed Haase on administrative leave and asked the police commission to consider firing him.

Haase was accused of:

-- Frequently meeting with a town court clerk, including an unfounded complaint the two had sexual contact in a town squad car while he was on duty.

-- Failing to properly package, label and secure evidence taken in a number of cases after another officer took over his cases while he was suspended.

The committee heard more than eight hours of testimony and deliberated for more than two hours.

Attorney John Olson, who represented Gritzner, argued Haase violated police department policy by having a relationship with the clerk, spending an “inordinate amount of time” texting and meeting during work hours.

Attorney Tod Daniel, who represented the Haase, argued that having a relationship is not something that should be considered in evaluating the conduct of an officer.

“There is nothing in this policy that would prohibit a friendly relationship, a caring relationship or even a sexual relationship between consenting adults,” he said. “ … None of that has anything to do with any standard of conduct.”

Haase and the clerk classified their relationship as a friendship, saying they often confided in one another. Both denied any sexual contact.

Olson also argued Haase repeatedly violated department policies for handling evidence, calling his manner of storing and keeping track of evidence “slovenly.”

“He created a department’s worst nightmare with this amount of material and evidence that can’t be identified,” Olson said. “ … There’s way too big a pattern to be an accident. This goes way beyond the issue of mistakes. It goes to the issue of totally neglecting his duties. …

“Maybe if he hadn’t had so many meetings, maybe if there hadn’t been all these text messages, he would have had time to do his job,” he said.

Daniel argued Haase did not compromise any cases or investigations by keeping evidence—some of which had little or no value to a case—in his desk or the shelf above his desk.

“There has not been one investigation compromised … not one case compromised by what they’re claiming to have happened,” he said. “No calls from the (district attorney), no calls from the sheriff’s department saying, ‘Oh, well, we blew this.’ … Was the crossing of the Ts and dotting of the Is done on all of these cases? No. … But nothing has been compromised.”

Haase denied mishandling evidence. He said sometimes officers lock items in their desks or the shelves above their desks when they don’t have time to process them.

Daniel told the police commission it should consider previous disciplinary actions against other officers in the department. Minor infractions resulted in a written reprimand and a more serious infraction resulted in a three-day suspension.

He said termination was an “over-the-top, beyond-the-pale remedy.”

Haase has been with the Town of Geneva Police Department since 2001. He has been promoted twice, most recently in the summer, when he became a sergeant.

Last updated: 11:54 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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