UPDATE: Casper Police Chief Responds To Favoritism Allegations
Casper Police Chief Jim Wetzel said his department will investigate allegations that several officers gave deferential treatment to a woman who was charged with drunk driving in October because she was another officer's girlfriend.
In a news release Wednesday afternoon, Wetzel recounted the story of the Oct. 25 traffic stop and the subsequent charge of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI).
Here is the release...
Casper, Wyoming (April 6, 2016) – As has been previously reported, Casper Police officers conducted a traffic stop on October 25, 2015, on a vehicle with a driver suspected to be intoxicated. The driver was subsequently charged with driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). A motion hearing to suppress evidence in the case was filed. Ultimately, the breath test results in this matter were suppressed; however, probable cause for the stop of the defendant was upheld. As such, this matter is still pending trial in the Municipal Court.
During the suppression hearing, issues were raised concerning the officers’ deviation from normal DUI arrest procedures in processing the defendant. In particular, it was learned the defendant was, at that time, the acquaintance of a Casper Police officer. Consequently, rather than booking the defendant into the Natrona County Detention Center, the officers issued the defendant a citation for DUI and arranged for the defendant to have a ride home. An evaluation into the officers’ decision-making and the reasons for their deviation from normal procedure in this case is currently underway.
In this case, the Municipal Court Judge believed there was not sufficient evidence presented in the suppression hearing to show that the defendant was technically arrested prior to being read implied consent. As this is required for admissibility of the breath test, the Judge ruled the breath test results were not admissible and therefore suppressed.
The fact that officers elected to not take the defendant to jail, but rather to release with a citation was not illegal, and is allowed by Wyoming law. It is important to reiterate, the officers appropriately charged the defendant with DUI in this matter.
However, I recognize the question of preferential treatment by a police department as a legitimate and concerning question. Transparency and accountability to our community in situations like this is of utmost importance to me as the Chief of the Casper Police Department. I want to ensure the community that the appropriateness of the officers’ decisions will be scrutinized and properly addressed as a personnel matter.
The Casper Municipal Court hearing on the matter happened last month, during which Judge Keith Nachbar argued such action amounted to special treatment because police do not typically release DUI suspects with only a citation unless there is a medical emergency.
Nachbar called the incident “a complete and total deviation from every policy I have seen in sixteen years of handling these cases.”
“This looks to me like special treatment of a person who happens to be the girlfriend of a sergeant with the Casper Police Department,” Nachbar said during the hearing.