Former Casper Police Chief Slams City Council, City Manager
Former Casper Police Chief Jim Wetzel on Tuesday lashed out at Casper City Council, Interim City Manager Liz Becher, the Fraternal Order of Police, and media coverage of the events of the last two months preceding his dismissal on May 5.
Wetzel, who made his first public appearance since his dismissal, told council during the public comment period that they and Becher denied him due process, abused their power, and used the Fraternal Order of Police survey released in early April to justify their behavior and assassinate his character.
"I believed, I mistakenly believed, in something called due process,"he said.
"Although I've been in law enforcement for nearly two decades, I recently gained a new appreciation for this fundamental concept and principle of procedural due process, the idea of which intends to protect an individual from unfair or arbitrary treatment and afford them the right to sufficient notice, the right to an impartial arbiter, the right to give testimony and admit relevant evidence in their defense," Wetzel said.
"We unfortunately live in a world of immediate gratification, and because of that one only has to make an accusation and it will stick. Some refer to it as 'fake news.' Within this realm wicked individuals only have to be the first to sling an accusation whether there's any truth to it at all and they already have half their downgrading defamation won," he said.
Wetzel said he's watched many people during the past three years make a variety of claims and accusations, and City Council let them slide.
"And I've watched a majority of you time and time again validate or invalidate the credibility of statements and accusations within a matter of mere seconds after hearing them, demonstrating no critical thinking and nullifying any application of due process for the accused," he said.
Wetzel especially castigated the Fraternal Order of Police survey.
"Now that you have ceded control of the police department to the Fraternal Order of Police I now believe it is time for the community receives a fuller account of the FOP's actions and conduct," he said.
No one from the group attempted to meet with him, Wetzel said. "The FOP also claimed they had no intention for the survey to be public or to go to the media."
The survey claimed nearly the entire command staff asked to meet with former City Manager V.H. McDonald in April 2016.
Only three of the command staff met with him. After that, McDonald requested a meeting with all the command staff, including him, and they discussed the concerns of the three command staff.
"The FOP has been blatantly dishonest in suggesting a different account," he said. "So is it any wonder that none of them wanted to put their name on the survey's allegations? After all, you don't put your name on it you can't be held accountable for making a false accusation."
However, Councilmember Shawn Johnson disputed some of Wetzel's claims. was not
Because of these and other accusations, Wetzel said the City Council and Becher conducted a witch hunt against him and did not get his side of the story.
"You applaud her (Becher) for the due diligence and leadership she displayed," he said. "Let's be clear. No credible industry leader or executive would define such conduct as leadership, let alone find these actions acceptable or thorough. There was no due diligence and there was little semblance of due process afforded me."
However, Becher made her decision after meeting with nearly every member of the police department.
Wetzel said he's received a lot of support in the community, and that every decision he made was moral, ethical and legal.
After his 15-minute talk, most of those in the crowded City Council chambers stood and applauded him.
Before Wetzel spoke, the president and CEO of the McMurry companies said the controversies are bad for business.
Cary Brus said the recent turmoil has caused the private sector to not have much confidence in local government and that also has an effect on philanthropy. Brus asked the council to be more professional, deliberate and patient in the language that it uses.
After all the criticism of City Council and Becher, and the support for Wetzel, Mayor Kenyne Humphrey stood up for Becher.
The past couple of month have been hard for the community, the council, the families of those affected by the recent turmoil, Humphrey said.
"It was hard for the employee (Becher) who had to make the tough decision," she said. "But that employee had strength, insight, integrity. I'm proud of you."