On Dec. 17, Racine Police Sgt. Samuel Stulo was arrested for allegedly driving impaired, hitting a car then attempting to flee the scene.
His arrest and subsequent placement on paid administrative leave marked the fourth Racine police officer currently on such leave. One case is relatively recent and involves an officer discharging a firearm at a suspect who was advancing toward the officer. But two officers have been on leave for an extended period of time.
- Racine Police Officer Brinelle Nabors, accused of using excessive force against a 14-year-old Park High School student, has been on paid leave since December 2015. This goes to trial on Tuesday.
- Racine Police Sgt. Terrence “Terry” Jones has been on paid leave since Jan. 3, 2017. Jones has not been charged with a crime, nor has the Racine Police Department revealed why he’s on leave.
While these officers are on paid administrative leave, taxpayers are the ones paying the price in multiple ways. They are paying for an officer to sit at home and likely for overtime for other officers who are working. At the same time, residents are receiving the same level of service they would otherwise because the force is down an officer (or in this case, four officers).
Additionally, in a morale study last year, officers stated that the length of paid leave was affecting morale.
The bottom line is that these cases need to be expedited for the safety of the public as well as the financial stability of the city and for taxpayers.
Racine Police Chief Art Howell said: “While an expedited adjudication process is preferred by all, when cases must be reviewed externally, the jurisdiction of origin cedes control over the investigative process and workload priority level. While not optimal, when cases are transferred to other jurisdictions for impartial review, external agencies must balance their existing caseload with the added workload that comes with accepting external cases.”
Howell was right to transfer the Stulo case to the Racine County Sheriff’s Office and, equally so, Racine County District Attorney Tricia Hanson was right to have the case transferred to Kenosha County District Attorney’s Office. But that doesn’t change how the case should be handled.
Kenosha County officials should treat this case as they would want Racine County to treat one involving one of their officers. It should be expedited.
In the meantime, the state government should take action to prevent such extended leaves of absence.
State Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, has proposed legislation that would prevent long paid suspensions. There is no length limit on paid suspensions in the State of Wisconsin.
If the bill were to pass, police and fire commissions would have a maximum of 150 days to reinstate or fire a suspended police officer. A PFC decision could be appealed in court, but the officer’s wages would be halted upon appeal if the PFC decided to fire him or her.
“We need a timeline,” he said. “This isn’t about punishing an officer. This is about moving the process along … we want to make sure we have confidence in our law enforcement.”
The Stulo case must be resolved quickly. As should the cases involving the other three officers.