Chief Wetzel: Personnel Issues About Holscher Have Public Effects
A police department, like businesses and other organizations, normally keeps its personnel matters to itself, Chief Jim Wetzel said Tuesday.
But the arrest of its former victim services coordinator James Holscher on charges of sexual assault and exploitation of a vulnerable adult thrust a private personnel matter into some very public arenas, Wetzel said.
"I want the community and the citizens to know this is not reflective of the officers that serve in the department, the many victim advocates/volunteer advocates that we have, and the victim services division as a whole. I want them to continue to have confidence in the services that we provide on that front," he said.
"This is devastating to us, it really is."
Tuesday, Wetzel paid an apparently casual visit to the department's morning media briefing and opened up about the scandal that began in June and blew up Monday in Natrona County Circuit Court when Holscher -- a civilian employee of the police department -- heard the charges against him that, if convicted, could put him behind bars for up to 30 years.
Later Monday, Wetzel issued a press release decrying the alleged behaviors as "beyond disgraceful."
The allegations that Holscher had assaulted a disabled woman at the Garden Square assisted living center came to Wetzel's attention on June 26.
The Casper Police Department immediately turned over the investigation to the Natrona County Sheriff's Office, and Wetzel immediately began the process to terminate Holscher. Before the sheriff's office had finished its investigation, Holscher resigned on July 24 and Wetzel began the search for his replacement, he said.
That put him in an awkward position of trying to keep private a personnel matter of a public figure who assisted officers with victims of some terrible crimes.
The officers and non-sworn employees only knew formally that Holscher had resigned on July 24, Wetzel said. "And we have to leave it at that."
Any organization will have speculation and rumors, Wetzel said. "Given the sensitivity of this, we didn't and couldn't comment on it."
While the reasons for Holscher's departure are known now, he won't discuss specifics, he said.
Some are matters known only to the sheriff's office and the district attorney's office, such as why it took four months from Holscher's resignation to filing the charges last Friday, Wetzel said.
He declined to comment on whether other possible victims of Holscher have come forward.
He also declined to comment on how Holscher and the victim knew each other, and whether he had been a victim advocate for her. "That's really getting into the investigative side of what the SO (sheriff's office) was looking into."
For now, Wetzel's priority in light of the scandal will be a review of procedures, especially background checks for civilian employees, he said.
Wetzel wasn't around to know the hiring procedures when the department hired Holscher as a dispatcher in the 1990s and in 2004 when he became the victim services coordinator.
"So really all I can do is look at moving forward at this point," Wetzel said. "What do we need to do as a department to protecting the integrity of the workforce and the services?"
The department probably employ the same or similar procedures, such as polygraph tests, for screening victim services personnel as it does for sworn officers, he said.
"It will be different from the standpoint of it's going to be more thorough that what I believe we've done in the past for those positions," Wetzel said.