The Mono County Grand Jury conducted more than 50 interviews, held over 25 meetings and examined thousands of documents. They mostly investigated complaints against the Mammoth Lakes Police Department – issues of ethics, personal allegations, job performance, alleged acts against the Wildlife Officer, and favoritism. The report fills 41 pages. You can access it in its entirety on the court website – www.monocourt.org. Click on Grand Jury.
We will start with the end summary which says this: “While there are some organizational and communication issues to address within the MLPD, the Grand Jury feels that the MLPD, under the management and leadership of the Chief, is generally providing quality law enforcement services in the Mammoth Lakes community.” The report says most of the allegations against Chief Randy Schienle and the MLPD, particularly allegations of a personal nature, “have not been substantiated, and the constant churning of rumors and misrepresentations of events and facts relating to the Chief and the MLPD is counterproductive and detrimental to the operations of the MLPD and possibly to the safety of the community as a whole.”
Now to the specifics. The Jury investigated and found that the wildlife officer, who is Steve Searles, was not wrongfully terminated. The report says it was “the failure of all parties to agree to definite terms of a professional working relationship.” The Jury recommends careful handling of agreements and contracts – no “handshake” deals. They also recommend an annual review of employees’ personnel files.
The Jury Report looks into personal allegations against Chief Schienle. Allegations included that the Chief engaged in a recent extramarital affair, that the Chief does not spend enough time on the job and that the Chief has been drunk in public.
The Jury found that since the MLPD ascribes to the Peace Officers Code of Ethics, which requires personal behavior beyond reproach, that their report would evaluate personal behavior. Even so, they found no evidence of an extramarital affair, of a failure of the Chief to spend time on the job, or of instances of the Chief drunk in public.
On allegations that the Chief has discredited the Wildlife Specialist, the Jury found this: “…that while there may be personality conflicts between the Chief and the Wildlife Specialist as a result of their long history in interaction, the allegations that the Chief attempted to discredit the Wildlife Specialist or to create a hostile working environment for the Wildlife Specialist are not substantiated.” The Jury did recommend that the Wildlife Contract be carefully monitored.
What about claims of favoritism and a “Good Old Boy” network within the MLPD? The Jury says given the number of complaints about one Sergeant’s behavior, the Jury could only conclude that complaints have merit and must be addressed.
In the case of another Sergeant, off duty, the Jury found he was appropriately disciplined for a reported fight in Las Vegas. The Jury found investigations into this incident were appropriate and that the Chief did not cover it up. To avoid the impression of favoritism, the Jury recommends that future internal investigations involving sworn management be handled by an outside law enforcement agency or independent investigator.
The Jury found the most pressing organizational issue of all, however, to be a lack of effective communication among the lieutenants, sergeants and down through the ranks. When budget constraints allow, the Jury recommends two lieutenants instead of one. They also recommended regular talks or fireside chats between officers and the Chief.
We will report further on this document which also addresses more police issues, the county jail and juvenile detention facility and voter fraud issues.