Casper City Council members pledged action Tuesday night after receiving an outside law enforcement group's explosive survey about problems at the Casper Police Department.
Mayor Kenyne Humphrey called for an investigation into the survey’s findings, while councilman and former police chief Chris Walsh said that city management should be examined in addition to the police department.
“Members of the Casper Police Department: Continue to do your jobs and do it well,” Walsh said. “We are not deaf to this.”
Both Humphrey and Councilwoman Amanda Huckabay warned that they would not tolerate any retaliation against officers in the department by the administration.
Huckabay read out profane accusations against police Chief Jim Wetzel, a primary target of the survey, at the meeting.
“He has made officers more scared of his [expletive] rules... than they are of getting shot,” Huckabay read aloud. “If you’re proactive you have a chance of actually fighting crime and then getting [expletive] by Wetzel’s ‘discipline matrix.”
The comments cited by Huckabay were made by an anonymous Casper police officer and collected in the confidential survey on the Casper Police Department created by the local branch of Fraternal Order of Police and shared with Council this week.
Wetzel stood expressionless at the back of the room as Huckabay directed her remarks toward him.
Vice Mayor Ray Pacheco immediately rebuked Huckabay.
“What’s not going to help is us sitting up here and tar-and-feathering someone,” Pacheco said. “It’s wrong.”
Some Council members received the survey, composed of a job satisfaction survey along with comments from individual officers, on Monday night.
But others were presented with copies only minutes before Tuesday’s meeting.
The survey describes morale at the police department as historically low and states that 65 percent of officers who responded to the survey were hoping to leave the department.
The document is primarily an indictment of Wetzel, with officers expressing criticism of his leadership style.
“This is something that needs to be investigated immediately,” said Humphrey. “We are all gravely concerned."
The mayor acknowledged that there were two sides to every story and promised due process in any investigation.
Walsh said he wanted Council to take action before its regularly scheduled work session next week.
“We will have to have some serious consideration on this and on what our next course of action will be,” Walsh said. “I don't think this should wait even seven days.”
Walsh said Council should look beyond problems at the police department to address “overall city government management.”
The survey states that many police department employees had contacted the city’s human resources department but that no resolution had been reached. It also states that most members of CPD’s command staff met with City Manager V.H. McDonald to explain their concerns.
“Sadly, approximately one year after this meeting, there has been no communication, no follow-up, and most importantly, no resolution,” the survey states.
McDonald was not at Tuesday’s meeting and declined to comment on the report.
Huckabay was elected to Council in November on a platform that included addressing perceived problems with how CPD handles reports of sexual assault.
She has criticized the police department several times since taking her seat in January and took the opportunity to do so again at Tuesday’s meeting.
“I’m not surprised by this,” Huckabay said. “I’m not surprised by the information that is included in this report.”
Huckabay read out several comments made by officers in the survey, describing staffing problems and frustrating directives from Wetzel.
Humphrey interjected during her comments to note that there was no way to censor remarks for the meeting’s broadcast on public access television.
Pacheco agreed that the survey called for serious discussion but discouraged Council members from publicly airing their concerns.
“There are issues to be dealt with, but for us to sit here and do that I’m not OK with,” he said. “We are professional people. We run this city as professionals.”