Casper Police Chief Responds to Criticism, FOP Survey [VIDEO]
The Casper Police Department is sharply divided following the release of a survey in which sworn officers and department employees criticized the current leadership, Chief Jim Wetzel told reporters Wednesday morning.
Dozens of police officers, in responding to a survey conducted by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 6, said they were seeking other employment and placed the blame at Wetzel's feet.
"The department is very divided right now. There are employees in the department here that are not happy with how that played out," Wetzel said, referring to what he called two "camps" within the department -- the officers and employees who disparaged Wetzel in the survey, and those who stand by his leadership, some of whom feel the survey was inappropriate.
"The big challenge for us is going to be moving forward and mending that so we don't have a fractured department," Wetzel added.
Despite the release of the survey to news media and discussion of the results at last week's meeting of Casper City Council -- not to mention the fact that he is listed as an addressee on the survey's cover letter -- Wetzel says he still does not have an official copy of the survey.
The only copy he does have, he says, was provided to him by a media outlet.
"It is disappointing that I never had an opportunity to speak directly with the FOP about any of this," Wetzel said Wednesday. "Since I've been chief of police for three years, no one from the FOP has ever come to speak to me."
Wetzel said he will continue to try and have a conversation with FOP representatives about the survey. Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 6 has not responded to requests for comment.
He told reporters he takes the survey at face value and is moving to address the constructive comments made by respondents, noting that some concerns raised by survey respondents are issues he simply can't resolve.
"You look at some of those comments in there -- I'm not sure I'm going to change those individuals' minds," Wetzel said. "I want to focus on the constructive pieces. I want to focus on the things I know we can come in and fix with better communication."
Many responses in the FOP survey, Wetzel said, referenced department policy. Specifically, employees and officers raised concerns about new policies being phased-in as part of the v2017 policy manual, which replaces the v2014 manual in effect since before Wetzel became police chief.
"I can tell you, being a member of the department for as long as I have, much of that 2014 version policy is still of the same language and the same policies that were in place back when I joined the department back in '99," Wetzel said.
Of the new policy, Wetzel said roughly 90 percent of the language is identical to that of the 2014 policy.
The 2017 policy was "substantially overhauled in terms of organization, formatting, and consolidation in order to better facilitate policy comprehension and accommodate more efficient navigation to better locate pertinent policies and procedures," according to a department directive Wetzel provided to reporters Wednesday.
Wetzel planned to make previous and new versions of department policy and procedure available for reporters to review Wednesday afternoon before a second meeting with the press -- set for sometime next week -- during which he plans to answer questions.
"We start there," Wetzel continued, "but then, how do we mend?"
Wetzel said his interaction with City Hall since the release of the survey last Tuesday has not been substantial.
"Last week was shocking. I think everyone's still a little shell-shocked as to how that all erupted and exploded," he said.
"Its only been a week. I think through the majority of last week, and then with the city manager announcing his retirement, really put a lot of people into just kind of this numb state," Wetzel continued. "I think one could argue we're still a little bit in that numb state, still trying to make sense of everything and how we're going to proceed and progress through it."