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Police union wants hearing for Rahn

April 28, 2014

Butler — A leader in the union that represents Police Officer Chad Rahn says he finds it "suspicious" that the 20-day suspension handed out to Rahn by Police Chief David Wentlandt followed so closely the federal law suit that Rahn and another Butler police officer filed against the village and the Waukesha County Sheriff's office.

Village Administrator Kayla Chadwick has denied there is any link between the suspension and the lawsuit.

Ben Barth, labor consultant for the Labor Association of Wisconsin, the union that represents Rahn and three other officers on the seven-member force, pointed out that Wentlandt sent a memo to Rahn notifying him of the suspension seven days after the federal law suit was filed in February of this year.

The lawsuit

In the lawsuit, Rahn and Lt. Brian Pergande claim their constitutional rights were violated and they were harassed and retaliated against as part of an investigation of the police department conducted by the Waukesha County Sheriff's office at the request of the village.

Rahn and Pergande were lodging complaints against former Police Chief Michael Cosgrove in early 2013, which was about the same time Wentlandt launched his investigation into about 150 reports and other documents that Rahn had failed to properly complete or file.

At the time, Wentlandt was a lieutenant who was later promoted to chief when Cosgrove retired in the midst of the sheriff's investigation.

Union wants answers

Barth said he has received no explanation from Wentlandt as to how and why the investigation of the documents — some more than 10 years old — got started and why it focused only on officer Rahn.

"Why is Officer Rahn the only one being disciplined about these reports? Why hasn't anyone in the chain of command, his direct superior, been disciplined because they failed to follow up with Officer Rahn and made sure the reports were completed and filed properly ?" asked Barth.

Barth noted that Wentlandt was a lieutenant and Rahn's commanding officer during the period of time when the reports were not completed or filed property.

Suspension 'severe'

Barth said Rahn "has accepted responsibility for his actions," but believes that a 20-day suspension was too severe a penalty.

Wentlandt said in the memo that he based the penalty on Rahn's violation of a series of department policies, including unbecoming conduct and neglect of duty.

Barth said the union and the village are following grievance procedures outlined in their collective bargaining contract. A hearing is scheduled for May 12 in front of the village's public safety committee. The village does not have a police commission.

Barth said the union would have no objections to the hearing being held in public.

Barth described a series of memos and letters that have been exchanged between Rahn, the union, and the police chief.

The Sun earlier this month requested documents related to Rahn's suspension. The chief Monday released the two-page letter he sent to Rahn informing him of the suspension, but did not release any of the other documents Barth mentioned.

"There may have been a misunderstanding about the scope of your request. I will discuss it with the chief when he gets back Thursday," Chadwick said.

Accusations, responses

Wentlandt was out of town and unavailable for comment.

Included in those documents is a June 8, 2013, letter in which the chief outlines more than 50 cases of incompleted reports or documents, according to Barth.

Barth said Rahn responded the next day in a memo in which he explained to Wentlandt that some of the reports were so old that he could not remember why they were not completed but accepted responsibility for failing to complete the work.

Barth said at one point during negotiations with Wentlandt that the union and Rahn said they would agree to a five-day suspension rather than the 20-day suspension Wentlandt imposed.

A litany of complaints

The investigation concluded Rahn had inappropriately exposed himself to fellow officers, stirred up controversy in the department, and inappropriately used a state and federal police computer network for personal reasons.

Barth also acknowledged that Rahn was "counseled" for sleeping on the job in December of 2013. However, under the union contract, being "counseled" is not considered discipline, according to Barth.

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