A Lose-lose Scenario at the Nampa, Idaho Police Department

Or is there a chance for a win in here somewhere?

Let me begin by stating that I have been treated well by the Nampa Police Department over the last four years, very well. In addition, the dreaded words “racial profiling” have yet to come from my mouth in Canyon County, nor is there any buzz of that particular evil. As an ethnic minority, that stuff matters to me. But we have other problems: The Idaho Statesman is reported that three longtime Nampa police officers and one officer’s wife filed a federal lawsuit against the police department and the city Thursday afternoon.

The lawsuit was filed by NPD investigator Leonard Claunts, Lt. Joe Huff and Sgt. Curtis Shankel, who all worked in the department’s Internal Affairs division and say they reported various wrongdoing and policy violations by officers and supervisors to top police administrators to no avail. Frustrated by the lack of response, they ultimately conveyed their concerns to the mayor, City Council and human resources director, according to the lawsuit.

The fourth plaintiff is Leonard Claunts’ wife, Ginger, who reportedly emailed Human Resources Director Ed Simmerman last November, alleging various issues of public safety and misuse of public funds. About the same time, Shankel sent an anonymous letter to Mayor Dale and the City Council about the same general issues, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit (Read the complaint here) claims Augsburger threatened to sue two of the officers for slander, reassigned Lt. Huff and took various retaliatory actions against all three, ranging from a negative performance review to downgrading their police vehicles and office space. One month ago, according to the lawsuit, all three officers were served with “personnel notices” from Augsburger and told that the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office would conduct an internal affairs investigation against them.

Win-win scenarios are sought after, by successful people, when there is conflict. But here’s what puts this case dangerously close to the lose-lose zone: if the plaintiffs, who were internal affairs officers (before being reassigned to street duty) win, what does that say about the administration? If the administration debunks their claims, what does that say about — of all units — internal affiars, the police integrity arm? The lawsuit was filed by investigator Leonard Claunts, Lt. Joe Huff and Sgt. Curtis Shankel, who say they reported various wrongdoings and policy violations to top police administrators, which resulted in little or no discipline. According to the lawsuit, the misconduct they reported included:

• One officer’s use of excessive force against a suspect.
• Another officer disconnecting the GPS system on his patrol car and spending shift time at home.
• An officer running his personal business during department shifts and using department equipment.
• An officer repeatedly showing up for work under the influence of alcohol.
• Salaried lieutenants taking more time off than they had earned.
• Top administrators golfing during work hours.

The plaintiffs were shunned by command staff and other officers who became afraid to be seen with them, according to the lawsuit. “Members of the department, including the command staff, have also begun to refer to the plaintiffs and a few other officers who have stepped forward in support as ‘the Satan Six,’ ” the complaint states.

Can a win still occur in this rock-and-a-hard-place scenario? Perhaps, as has happened in the past with other police problems, the complexities of this case will be analyzed and studied; and solutions will be intergrated into both law enforcement training and in municipal government human resources practices. I hope they arrive at an agreement that cleans up this mess, for the sake of the citizens of Nampa.

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