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Butler cop suspended for neglect of duty

April 29, 2014

Butler — Police Officer Chad Rahn has been suspended for 20 days for neglect of duty, unbecoming conduct, unsatisfactory performance, failure to properly complete an investigation, failure to make a written report when required, and failure to turn in seized, found or recovered property.

The discipline is the result of an investigation that determined that Rahn had failed to properly file nearly 150 police reports and other documents that were found in a box at a temporary village storage facility and on his desk.

Documents found in both locations included 39 cases of no reports being filed, 11 cases of unfinished reports or investigations, 22 cases where there was evidence that was not properly inventoried, 12 cases of report numbers not being properly used, 21 cases of original witness statements, 3 possible felony cases now beyond the statute of limitation for prosecution, and 36 cases of possible misdemeanors or municipal ordinance violations beyond the statute of limitation for prosecution.

The details of the misconduct and suspension were revealed in a memo to Rahn from Police Chief David Wentlandt obtained by the Sussex Sun through a Wisconsin Public Records Law request to the village. Rahn began serving a previously unexplained suspension without pay last month.

Wentlandt was out of town and could not be reached for comment on the memo.

Lawsuit, suspension

The memo from Wentlandt to Rahn was written seven days after Rahn and fellow officer Lt. Brian Pergande filed a federal lawsuit against the village.

Village Administrator Karla Chadwick said there is no connection between the timing of the Rahn suspension and the filing of the federal lawsuit against the village.

"There are a lot of things going on here at the village. Some things take longer than others. There was a process that we went through. I can assure you there was no intention to retaliate. We had no way of knowing there was going to be a federal lawsuit when the decision was made to discipline the officer," Chadwick said.

The lawsuit contends that the village and the Waukesha County Sheriff's office engaged in retaliation and harassment against Pergande and Rahn and violated their state and federal constitutional rights during a sheriff's department investigation of the police department, conducted during the first quarter of 2013.

The investigation was apparently triggered by complaints that Rahn and Pergande lodged against former Police Chief Michael Cosgove, who retired in the midst of the investigation.

A year-long investigation

Based on the documents obtained by the Sun, it appears that Wentlandt's investigation of Rahn began in February 2013, which was about the same time that Rahn and Pergande were lodging their complaints against Cosgrove with village officials, including Village President Richard A. Ensslin, former Village Adminstrator Jessie Thyes and Village Attorney Paul Alexy.

Separate from Wentlandt's investigation, the sheriff's department's so-called "Porn in the Morn" investigation, begun about the same time, identified various forms of police misconduct and sexist and racist attitudes in the village police department, including Cosgrove and some of his officers frequently watching pornography on police computers while on duty.

The investigation cited Rahn for improper personal use of a state and federal law enforcement computer network, inappropriately exposing his penis to other officers on several occasions, and creating an uncomfortable work environment by making unfounded allegations that he had enough inside information "to bring the entire department down."

Rahn received a three-day suspension as a result of the sheriff's investigation. In addition, Rahn was cited for sleeping while on duty on December 4, 2013, according to Wentlandt's memo.

"If you fail to adequately perform your duties in the future, you will be subject to further disciplinary consequences, up to and including termination of your employment," Wentlandt warned in the memo.

Harsh charges

Wentlandt said in his memo to Rahn, "I located files on numerous cases and paperwork in the Lions' garage after the box they were kept in was brought to my attention. I located additional paper work in your desk drawers inside the police department ranging from 2004-2011."

The so-called Lions garage was a building once owned by the local Lions Club and used by the village as a storage and office facility while village hall was being remodeled.

In a written response to Wentlandt, Rahn said he did not have "a good answer as to why the reports were in the garage," and said it was his mistake the reports were not completed and properly inventoried, according to the memo.

The suspension is spread out over five months to alleviate manpower shortages.

It requires Rahn to be off work and unpaid during four days in March, which he served last month, five days in April, four days in May, three days in June and four days in July.

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