RACINE — An open records request submitted by The Journal Times has revealed that a second Racine police officer has been suspended with pay for nearly two years and collected more than $144,900 in wages during that time.
A payroll report shows that Sgt. Terrence “Terry” Jones hasn’t worked since Nov. 13, 2016 and has been on leave since Jan. 3, 2017. From Jan. 3, 2017 through Oct. 19, 2018, Jones received three raises while not working a single day for the Racine Police Department.
Several officers reportedly expressed concerns in March that suspensions in the department were excessively long, according to a morale survey of Racine Police Department officers. State Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, is hoping to pass legislation next year that will prevent suspensions of this length statewide, as it’s been an issue within the Milwaukee Police Department as well.
The Racine Police Department refused to reveal why Jones has been suspended, despite The Journal Times’ open records request. Police Chief Art Howell deferred questions to the city attorney’s office regarding the cause for Jones’ suspension, and the city attorney did not respond to The Journal Times’ questions.
Jones is one of at least two Racine Police Department officers who has been on leave with pay for more than 500 days. The other is Brinelle Nabors, an officer who hasn’t worked since December 2015, after he allegedly punched and injured a 14-year-old Park High School student a month prior.
Nabors has been charged with several crimes — including felony misconduct in public office and use of excessive force — and has a jury trial scheduled for Jan. 8-10, 2019. That trial had once been scheduled for August 2018, according to online court records, but was delayed multiple times.
Court records show that no criminal charges have been filed against Jones in the State of Wisconsin.
Combined, Nabors and Jones have received more than $304,000 during their combined suspensions, totaling more than 1,750 days.
Pay for Jones
Jones joined the Racine Police Department in 1998, after having worked as a Kenosha police officer, according to a Journal Times report from 1998. He had been assigned to the Wadewitz COP House on Mead Street, but was removed without explanation in 2003, according to another Journal Times report.
He is the son of 2nd District Alderman Mollie Jones, who was appointed in August 2015. The Journal Times reached out to Mollie Jones but did not immediately receive a response.
Jones was promoted to the rank of sergeant in August 2012. Throughout 2016, he primarily served as a second-shift patrolman, according to payroll records.
The last day Jones served in that capacity was Monday, Nov. 13, 2016, followed by four consecutive days of sick leave, according to the time summary report provided to The Journal Times. Over the next two weeks, Jones was paid for vacation leave, received holiday pay, and received one “free day.” He was suspended with pay on Nov. 29 and 30.
Then, from Dec. 1 through Jan. 2, 2017, he was paid five days a week for holidays, free days, or vacation leave. He’s been considered suspended with pay every day since Jan. 3, 2017.
From Jan. 3, 2017 to June 30, 2017, Jones received $305.20 five days a week. That was bumped up to $307.60 for the rest of 2017, increased to $310.64 for the first six months of 2018, and was raised to $314.88 from the start of July through Oct. 19.
There is no limit on the maximum length of paid suspensions in the State of Wisconsin.
Sen. Wanggaard, himself a former Racine police officer, is hoping to pass legislation in 2019 that will prevent suspensions of this length.
“We need a timeline,” he said. “This isn’t about punishing an officer. This is about moving the process along.”
In February 2018, the state Assembly approved a bill that would enforce a timeline for police and fire commissions to hold hearings that would decide the fate of officers placed on leave. However, that bill would only apply to the Milwaukee Police Department, the state’s largest police force, if it passes.
The bill never made it to a vote in the Senate, and Wanggaard hopes it can be “tweaked” to make it apply to more than just Milwaukee police.
Wanggaard is hopeful that Governor-elect Tony Evers, who is a Democrat, would be willing to reach across the aisle to help get this bill passed.
“We want to make sure we have confidence in our law enforcement,” Wanggaard said.
If the bill were to pass — and if it was changed to apply to police departments smaller than Milwaukee’s — police and fire commissions would have a maximum of 150 days to reinstate or fire a suspended police officer. A PFC’s decision could be appealed in court, but the officer’s wages would be halted upon appeal if the PFC decided to fire them.
Wanggaard blames PFCs and police leaders for “dragging their feet” when they allow cases like those of Jones and Nabors to take so long.
He said that PFCs, departments and the courts will sometimes wait for another entity to act on a suspended officer. This brings disciplinary and fact-finding proceedings to a standstill while each entity waits for the other to do something, Wanggaard said.
Creating a set timeline for when charges have to be filed or dropped against an officer accused of misconduct could actually help law enforcement, Wanggaard said.
“When you don’t have real clear guidelines, this makes it more subjective and more difficult for the people in charge,” he said. “(A timeline) holds people’s feet to the fire.”
On top of administrative dawdling, Wanggaard said that speeding up the suspension process could be beneficial both for taxpayers and for the suspended officers themselves.
“Some people think it’s great to be suspended with pay,” Wanggaard said, “but to be under that cloud for months or years, I can’t imagine the mental anguish that individual is going through, especially if they think they didn’t do anything wrong.
“This is also a mental health issue for the officer. They’re in limbo.”