Officer resigns during investigations
November 8, 1999
Criminal charges have been avoided, but a break in policy has led the Craig Police Department to hand out one of the most severe penalties available.
Former Craig Police officer Doug Kaiser was found in violation of two Craig Police Department policies, according to Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta.
Kaiser was being investigated both internally by the department and externally, for any possible criminal violations, by the Steamboat Springs Police Department.
The investigations followed a July 25 incident where two women, Lyndsey Wolschon of Smoot, Wyo., and Suzanne Fadely of Craig, alleged Kaiser struck Wolschon during an incident where Kaiser attempted to question Fadely’s son, Kenneth Durrant.
The Craig Police Department turned the criminal investigation over to Capt. Rick Crotz of the Steamboat Springs Police Department.
Crotz investigated the matter and turned it over to the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. The internal investigation ran parallel to the criminal investigation.
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District Attorney Paul R. McLimans, in a statement regarding the actions of Kaiser, stated, “I have reviewed the charges and have determined that no charges will be filed in connection with the events that gave rise to your (Capt. Crotz’) investigation. While I again repeat my earlier expressed view that there is little to be recommended or endorsed in the manner in which this incident was initiated by the officer, I do not find any of his actions to have constituted the criminal use of excessive force.”
Wolschon contended she was hit with excessive force. After investigating the alleged criminal act by Kaiser, both internal and criminal investigations found the injury sustained to Wolschon was accidental, not intentional.
Crotz’ report given to McLimans states, “Kaiser observed a male acting suspiciously next to a parked car. Kaiser attempted to contact the male. The male was uncooperative. Kaiser knew the male (Kenneth Durrant) from a previous arrest and tried to physically control the male because he was unsure of what happened with the parked car …
“The attempt to physically restrain Durrant after he was recognized was unnecessary and helped to create the situation, however this was not a criminal act.”
Although not a criminal act, this display of force toward Durrantwas out of line with police policy.
According to Vanatta, guidelines as to what extent force may be used by police officers are set by the U.S. Supreme Court. What may not be considered a crime may have implications within a police department.
With the initial contact lasting less than one minute, the incident on July 25, according to Vanatta, was based strictly on reaction.
“He (Kaiser) didn’t have time to sit back and think about the situation,” Vanatta said. “He was a good officer trying to do his job.
“In the heat of the moment he got carried away and the incident went beyond the scope of what the policy allows.”
According to Vanatta, trying to put oneself in the place of an employee is a difficult task and such is the case in Kaiser’s attempt to control the situation.
“My viewpoint is the officer was doing what we wanted him to do,” Vanatta said. “He saw a person in a place with lots of vandalism. He was trying to do the right thing.”
Internally, the Craig Police Department found Kaiser in violation of two policies. The policies deal with legalities of field interviewing and frisking people and the other deals with use of force.
According to Vanatta, based on the internal investigation, complaints from both Fadely and Wolschon have, in part, been “sustained.”
“That means the allegation is supported by sufficient evidence. The area of the complaint that was sustained deals with Officer Kaiser’s contact with (your son) Kenneth Durrant,” Vanatta stated in a letter to Wolschon and Fadely.
“Our finding was that he violated department policy,” Vanatta said.
Personnel actions are held confidential and Vanatta said, “He received one of the most severe penalties available to me in our disciplinary policy.”
According to Vanatta, the department has three categories of violations, with one being the lowest, and four levels of punishment counseling, written reprimand, suspension and dismissal or termination.
Kaiser’s actions were considered category three, and violations in this category, according to Vanatta, may result in suspension or dismissal depending on how many times the incident has occurred or the seriousness of a particular case.
Kaiser resigned from the Craig Police Department effective Oct. 21 and now works as a police officer in Michigan, according to Vanatta.