West Valley chief confident department will be OK, but knows it's not out of woods yet
Anita Schwemmer won't throw her hat in ring to be new leader
She was the captain over the drug unit in 2009 and 2010, she said. But her duties did not call for direct supervision of the day-to-day operations of the unit. There were lieutenants who reported to her while she oversaw several units within the division.
Still, when the allegations of misconduct started to surface, she said it was hard because she knows all of the officers. Schwemmer admits she is disappointed with a small number of the officers but is still proud of the 190 others.
"The problems are limited to just a few officers," she said.
Schwemmer also reiterated that the problems were not systemic throughout the department.
"I do believe that the actions of these officers were independent, that these things they were doing were against the policy and training they had," she said. "It appears that most of it was just not following procedures and that it could be termed as 'laziness.' It definitely doesn't seem like anything that was done was done maliciously."
But with the review of the Willard shooting still pending from the district attorney's office as well as an FBI investigation, Schwemmer knows her department isn't out of the woods yet.
"There are still issues out there that are yet to be resolved, and until those are resolved from other agencies, I don't believe we're quite through this yet," she said.
An internal investigation uncovered problems including undisclosed amounts of missing drugs and money, officers taking "souvenirs" from crime scenes, the use of GPS trackers without warrants, improper use of confidential informants, improper handling of evidence and officers taking small amounts of cash and other items from seized vehicles.
Some plans have already been implemented for fixing the problems, such as improving the department's system for auditing. By the time a new police chief is selected this summer, Schwemmer believes many changes will have already been made.
"We are not waiting for a new chief to come in to fix these problems and resolve these issues. By the time that new chief is in place, we plan on having these issues resolved and the department moving forward," she said.
"The most broad solution to this issue is to train our officers to do what is right. That's what it comes down to. We give our officers ample training in how they should do things, what they should do, what police polices and procedures are. If they will do what is right, these issues and problems will not reoccur."
But Schwemmer said she will not be applying to be the new police chief. The mother of seven children (including stepchildren), all between the ages of 21 and 32, said her husband recently retired, and for personal reasons, she will not seek to be chief.
"The chief's job is extremely demanding and time-consuming. I would like to spend time with (my husband) and my seven children and nine grandchildren. So I don't plan on applying for the chief's position."
But Schwemmer said she does not plan on retiring, either.
"I see my role as being one in assisting the department to move forward to make those improvements," she said.
Schwemmer also believes that the next chief could be selected from within the department and still have the public's confidence.
"I absolutely believe there is someone within this department who could lead this department," she said.
The most frustrating part of the past several months has been the "misinformation" that the public has received about the depth of the problems within the department, she said. She believes being more open with the public will result in residents seeing how limited the problems really are.
Until then, she said, morale among the current officers has remained steady.
"The officers have been very good about rallying around each other and working very hard to help each other through this. And also to up their game professionally so they can show they public when they go on these calls what kind of professionalism the department has."
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