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Misconduct Charges and Disciplinary Actions Carried Out This Week at Police Departments Around the County

Multiple misconduct charges, criminal sentences and disciplinary actions were carried out this week against police officers across the country, while one major city launched a new tool to track and address police misconduct.


One of the most serious cases involves a Middlesex County, New Jersey sheriff’s deputy, Joshua Padilla, who was sentenced Friday to 15 years in prison and 10 years of supervised release on child pornography charges, including filming and performing sexual acts on a minor.

Padilla was indicted following a Homeland Security investigation. The investigation was part of  Project Safe Childhood, a federal program combating child sexual exploitation since 2006. 


In Boulder, Colorado a review of the city’s police department case management system identified malpractice by five officers. Police Chief Maris Herold, who ordered the review, found that multiple cases under one detective, Commander Thomas Trujillo, were under-investigated or not investigated at all between 2019 and 2022. Trujillo is known for his work on the JonBenét Ramsay case. He has been moved to the night patrol and placed on a Performance Improvement Plan. 


“We had an employee who apparently became overwhelmed. He has since been reassigned from the Investigations Unit,” Herold said.

Four officers under the detective’s command were disciplined in November, including one officer suspended for five days and another for one day without pay for substantiated violations. One sergeant on the team has retired by resignation. The District Attorney’s office is now conducting an independent audit of the case, according to a press release. 

“Our department understands the tremendous responsibility it has to investigate reported crimes diligently and in a timely manner,” Herold said. “This is a sacred trust our community has placed in us. We take this responsibility seriously.”


An investigation into allegations against eight officers at Golden Valley Police Department in Minnesota led to the firing of one officer and investigation of seven others.

A new city report chronicles an investigation into both a “toxic workplace culture” and regular data practice violations resulting in one officer, Kristen Hoefling, being fired in August 2022 for making “racially biased and insensitive statements,” recording staff meetings and distributing the recordings externally, Alexandra Simon reports for Kare 11. 


In a May 2021 meeting, Hoefling recorded herself laughing at and dismissing statistics shared by a presenter discussing inequitable health outcomes for Black women. 


“The independent investigation was necessary to bring clarity to the allegations of misconduct, hold employees accountable, and have a better understanding of the systemic issues that harm community trust in policing,” City Manager Tim Cruikshank said in a statement.

Greene Espel, the law firm hired to lead the investigation, also suggested social media and data practice training and a focus an internal focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. 


A former Muncie, Indiana police officer pleaded guilty Monday to a number of civil rights and obstruction offences for his improper use of force and attempts to cover up his criminal actions.

Former officer Chase Winkle admitted on Monday that he knew his use of force against arrestees was wrong at the time, and pleaded guilty to five federal civil rights offenses for assaulting the people he had arrested, and six obstruction offenses for false reports for covering up the assaults. 


Winkle, the son of former Muncie Chief of police, was involved in multiple incidents in 2018 and 2019.


In August 2018, Winkle and another officer had an arrestee on the ground with the other officer holding the arrestees hands behind his. The arrestee verbally insulted the officers and Winkle proceeded to push his full force on the arrestee’s neck and head using his knee as the arrestee screamed in pain and claimed his face was being crushed.

Winkle then proceeded to tase the arrestee in the back and then file a false report about the incident, recounts a DOE press release.  Winkle admitted he knew at the time of the incidents that he knew his use of force was excessive and that he knowingly tried to impede investigations into the incidents by creating false reports. 


Winkle is one of four Muncie Police Department officers who were indicted in April 2021 for excessive force and/or attempting to cover up misconduct. 


Meanwhile, as open source systems by police departments become more common across the country, San Jose, California launched its own online tool for the public to search for police misconduct investigations and obtain Independent Police Auditor records, Sarah Wray reports for Cities Today. 


The tool that will give access to 2014 to 2020 San Jose Police Department records comes as a 2019 law expanded California’s Public Records Act disclosures. 


“This online search tool leverages transparency to continue building trust between our police force and our community, as we advance the national conversation around police accountability,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

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