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Polson Police Chief and Officer Required to Take Ethics Training
In wake of investigations, attorney says chief trying to clean up his department
In describing the need for state oversight and intervention, an assistant attorney general called the law enforcement environment in Lake County “utterly terrifying” and compared it to the “wild, wild West,” characterized by a lack of ethics and professional protocol.

Assistant Attorney General Sarah Hart made those statements at a Dec. 20 meeting of the Montana Public Safety Officer Standards and Training Council (POST), during a discussion about allegations of witness tampering, intimidation and other infractions by members of the Polson Police Department.

“When we went into this case, the stuff that was going on – I mean, you wouldn’t believe it,” Hart told council members, speaking generally about the conduct of Lake County law agencies.

And though she said Lake County law officials were “furious” when POST began investigating their agencies, she noted that some officials – specifically Polson Police Chief Wade Nash – are now making efforts to implement policies and address those concerns. Hart is POST’s legal counsel.

“What happened,” she said, “was POST came in and rang some bells and even though we’re not going through to full revocation, we want you to know that, ‘Hey, we’re paying attention here, guys. You’ve got to clean this nonsense up. This is not okay.’”

Over the last several years, multiple law enforcement agencies in Lake County have been investigated for a wide array of allegations. The Beacon first reported in November 2011 on conduct investigations by POST and a criminal poaching investigation by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The investigations prompted legislative hearings last year.

Last month, POST reached resolutions on two conduct cases involving Nash and Polson Police Officer Cory Anderson, with both men required to take ethics training in order to keep their law certifications. Those cases were under discussion at the Dec. 20 meeting.

Nash and Anderson were two of seven officers from four different law enforcement agencies in Lake County to be served notices of possible law decertification by POST. Three cases have been dropped, according to the Missoula Independent, while two others for Ronan Police Chief Dan Wadsworth and former Lake County Sheriff’s Sgt. Dan Duryee remain open. Duryee resigned in early January.

Nash was accused of tampering with and intimidating a witness, as well as accepting a shotgun as a gift in exchange for setting up a sale of guns seized as evidence, according to POST documents obtained by the Independent.

Anderson was also accused of multiple violations, including being under the influence of alcohol while on duty and “the use of alcoholic beverages in the manner which tends to discredit the profession.”

An amended POST complaint from Oct. 18, 2012 cites instances where Anderson was kicked out of a bar for public intoxication, a 2002 alcohol-related crash where he was the driver and an alcohol-related incident in which he was arrested for domestic abuse. The domestic abuse led POST in 2005 to suspend Anderson – then working at the Lake County Sheriff’s Office – for two years for “gross misconduct.”

The complaints for Nash and Anderson both share one common allegation of witness intimidation. In June 2010, according to POST, Anderson used his cell phone to call a witness in a state poaching investigation at 1:17 a.m. Nash then spoke to the witness on Anderson’s phone and told her not to speak to investigators “in a forceful manner,” according to POST’s complaint. The complaint alleges both men were intoxicated.

As a result of the late-night phone call, the POST complaint states that the witness told investigators “she was afraid for her safety.”

In addition to ethics training, POST stipulated that Nash attend training in evidence procedure and implement a policy in the police department requiring subordinate officers to attend ethics training every two years. Anderson must undergo a chemical dependency evaluation and comply with all recommendations of that evaluation, in addition to ethics training.

Failure to comply with those conditions, POST states, could lead to automatic suspension for both Nash and Anderson.

Hart described Nash and Anderson as apologetic and eager to take the necessary steps to keep their law certification. She said Nash owned up to his mistakes and is trying to learn from them, even bringing forth his own ideas to ensure his officers are receiving proper ethics training, which Hart said was “awesome.”

Knowing what he knows now that POST has come in, Nash said he “would never do 90 percent of the things” that he had done before, according to Hart.

“And he said, ‘It’s been really painful and awful and everybody’s hated it, but the outcome, I think, is really good because now there are policies in place and there is training in place where there was not any before.’”
 
On 01-30-13, Legal Eagle commented....
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