Police shake-up?

City orders Chief Ludwig to change policies, disciplines Officer Mason and Lt. Thompson

The Hood River City Police Department will be shaken up next week by a series of disciplinary actions.

Steve Everroad, city personnel director, said Chief Bruce Ludwig, Lt. David Thompson and Officer Erin Mason have all come under scrutiny in recent weeks.

“The whole situation is unfortunate and unnecessary. However, it is real and management has an obligation to see that general orders, personnel policy in Oregon and administrative rules are followed,” Everroad said Friday.

He declined to reveal the specifics of disciplinary action pending against Thompson and Mason until after a meeting on Monday. He did verify that the lieutenant faced sanctions tied to the results of a gender discrimination complaint filed by Officer Tiffany Hicks. He said Mason would be held accountable for remarks made during an off-duty telephone call to a dispatcher. In that call on a recorded line, the officer admitted to being intoxicated.

Everroad said the decision to retain or remove Mason from the Mid-Columbia Interagency Narcotics Task Force will also be made next week.

Everroad and Bob Francis, city manager, have already met with Ludwig to provide “guidance and leadership.” Everroad would not provide specifics about new policies and procedures the chief had been ordered to adopt and enact.

“Management has strongly recommended a course of action that we assume will be taken,” he said.

Everroad said all police personnel were required to attend a training class against sexual harassment and discrimination last week. He said operational changes will now be made in the way the department does business to ward off future problems.

“The chief has been told that there are some things he needs to do to fix an unacceptable environment,” he said.

Everroad said a consultant from Public Safety Liability Management Inc. was hired by the city to investigate the complaint brought forward by Hicks in late May. She requested intervention from city management after the chief appointed Mason, a less experienced officer, to fill the vacancy on MINT.

According to Everroad, the scope of the investigation into gender discrimination widened as other problems surfaced within the department. He declined to cite examples until the disciplinary process is complete.

The chief had already drawn fire from the Hood River Police Officer’s Association for promoting Mason without following established policy. No other officers were given the opportunity to apply for the position as outlined in that policy.

Ludwig agreed to resolve HRPOA’s grievance by advertising the position and he then re-appointed Mason.

Ludwig created a MINT vacancy in April by removing a detective over a $17.34 accounting error. He also claimed the officer had been “disloyal” to the department. However, that individual reiterated this week that he was never provided with facts by the chief to back up the accusation.

Hood River District Attorney John Sewell has sharply criticized Ludwig for shutting down local MINT operations with his actions. The county prosecutor is tying up the only remaining case from the undercover operation that has crossed his desk since the chief suspended the city’s detective from duty in February.

MINT operates with funding and law enforcement representatives from the Oregon State Police, cities of Hood River and The Dalles, and both Wasco and Hood River counties.

“There have been some very good investigators on the team in the past and some of the officers on the team now are very capable,” said Sewell.

“If there’s a problem now it’s due to mismanagement by the police agency supervisors who have the responsibility for directing the team.”

Mason heightened the controversy at the police department by making the June 13 call on a non-emergency line to the 9-1-1 Dispatch Center.

During almost 24 minutes of dialogue, he violated department policy by requesting the telephone number of a woman for personal reasons. He also made sexual innuendos mixed with negative references about gender, at least one ethnic group, and homosexuals.

In addition, Mason revealed not only that he was working with MINT, but the name of another officer who worked undercover.

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