3 WSU police commanders retiring amid misconduct investigation

Police Commissioner Bill Gardner, Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Hansen and Capt. Mike Larsen are retiring after being notified of pending disciplinary actions in late July.

PULLMAN, Wash. — Three members of the Washington State University (WSU) Police Department are leaving work following disciplinary action for failing to notify university officials about an officer allegedly involved in sexual activity on duty in 2020.

Police Commissioner Bill Gardner, Deputy Commissioner Steve Hansen and Captain Mike Larsen announced their resignations after being notified of pending disciplinary actions in late July.

According to a press release, the university reports these matters to the state agency that certifies law enforcement officers in Washington.

WSU Police Sgt. Matt Kuhrt is facing disciplinary action after allegedly engaging in inappropriate activities on duty and on the Pullman campus grounds. The university has not yet made any determinations as to jurisdiction in the officer’s case.

Kuhrt has been working from home since March 2022, when the earlier allegations were first brought to the university management by employees of the WSU police department. Joint investigations by the Office of Compliance and Civil Rights (CCR) and Human Resource Services (HRS) have also been launched.

“These are positions in which the public has a great deal of confidence, and WSU will not tolerate this type of behavior nor the negligence of departmental command,” WSU President Kirk Schulz said in a written statement. “When the university management recently became aware of these allegations and the questionable handling of them earlier within the department, we immediately launched a comprehensive investigation.”

Following the allegations, the WSU Police Department has appointed new police commanders for the Pullman campus.

Retired Pullman Police Department (PPD) chief Gary Jenkins will serve as interim chief of the WSU Police Department. WSU Police Sgt. Dawn Daniels, who temporarily served as Acting Boss, is promoted to Deputy Boss. Victoria Murray, Executive Director of Finance and Administration, serves as Deputy Assistant Vice President for Public Safety.

“We expect the highest level of integrity and character from our police force, and WSU is grateful for the dedication these individuals have shown to help,” said Stacy Pearson, vice president of finance and administration. “The entire WSU community is fortunate to have leaders with this kind of experience and helpfulness.”

“Following Misconduct Allegations, WSU Appoints New Acting Police Chief, Vice President of Public Safety”

According to the press release, as early as December 2020, a WSU police officer briefed the WSU Police Department Executive Staff on third-party allegations against Kuhrt.

According to the press release, the officer received information from a third party who initially suggested possible non-consensual sexual activity. However, the person later contacted the officer to clarify that it was consensual, but said it happened while Kuhrt was on his shift.

KREM 2 confirmed to WSU officials that the person involved with Kuhrt was an adult and not a student.

Despite allegations, which included reports of sexual activity in the Martin Stadium Presidential Suite and at the WSU Observatory, senior management did not notify CCR in accordance with WSU policy, the press release said.

Instead, the WSU Police Command conducted a departmental investigation and could not locate a witness willing to file a complaint against the officer.

The investigation concluded that there was insufficient evidence to take any significant personnel action. However, the officer faced a departmental misconduct complaint while on duty.

On July 15, based on the results of the joint investigation, the duties of chief, deputy chief and captain were transferred to others, and the three members of the department’s senior staff were transferred home.

The university told senior staff that disciplinary proceedings would be instituted against them as the investigation found that they displayed gross misconduct, incompetence and dereliction of duty in their response to the official’s allegations of sexual misconduct, the press release said.

All three senior management members announced their resignations prior to the completion of the formal disciplinary process and are contributing to an orderly transition in leadership.

The results of the joint investigations will remain in their WSU files and will be available to prospective employers should they seek employment elsewhere.

Disciplinary proceedings against Kuhrt are ongoing and will include a formal hearing conducted under Title IX, the Federal Act Prohibiting Gender Discrimination and Harassment in Educational Programs and Environments.

The university has not made any final determinations regarding the officer, who is believed not to be responsible pending the completion of the hearing process.

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https://www.king5.com/article/news/local/3-wsu-officers-retiring-amid-sexual-misconduct-investigation-of-fellow-officer/293-dc5347b3-442c-4106-a53b-6ff5cdda2c94 3 WSU police commanders retiring amid misconduct investigation

Alley Einstein

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