Glasgow Police Department Sgt. Jarrod Steele doesn’t deny he’s handled personal situations over the past few months poorly, but he said he has a clean record on the job and does not believe his personal life has affected his ability to do his job.
Countering that, City Attorney Ben Rogers asked whether he couldn’t understand the city’s concern over allowing someone whose anger was “out of control” to continue representing the police department and carrying a city-issued firearm.
Nine of the 10 Glasgow City Council members present for his disciplinary hearing Monday found Steele guilty on six of the seven charges against him, and eight of them agreed with the recommendations of the police chief and mayor setting his punishment as termination.
Reached by phone on Tuesday, he said, “I do plan to appeal it.”
Charges 1 and 3 related to violations of the portions of the Code of Ethics dealing with personal conduct and courtesy. Charge 2 related to violation of the “domestic misconduct” standard operating procedure, including the fact that he did not report being issued an emergency protective order.
Charge 4 related to the policy in the city’s personnel manual regarding posts on social networking websites.
Charges 5 and 6, also relating to personal conduct, stemmed from citizen complaints filed by Chris Brown regarding confrontational discussions between Steele and him after Brown learned from his wife she’d been having an affair with Steele. Charge 6 was the one on which the council’s finding was “undecided” because it could not reach a conclusion.
The seventh charge of insubordination was added in response to Steele’s reaction when he was served with the charges on Aug. 5, when he told GPD Chief Guy Turcotte in no uncertain terms where he could stick the documents and made multiple other remarks using expletives.
Although Turcotte’s learning of the May 22 issuance of an emergency protective order initiated an internal affairs investigation, the judicial system charges against Steele are not the same ones the council considered.
The EPO was later converted to a domestic violence order after “it was established, by a preponderance of the evidence, that an act(s) of domestic violence or abuse has occurred and may again occur.” Steel is also accused of violating the DVO by contacting by phone the alleged victim. The DVO is being appealed in the Kentucky Court of Appeals, and a hearing regarding the alleged violation is scheduled for Sept. 5.
State law defines domestic violence as: “physical injury, serious physical injury, sexual abuse, assault or infliction of fear of imminent physical injury, serious physical injury, sexual abuse or assault, between family members or members of unmarried couples.”
The version of the SOP in place when Steele’s violations were alleged to have occurred, however, has a broader definition of domestic misconduct.
City Attorney Ben Rogers called as witnesses Sgt. Jennifer Arbogast, who conducted an internal investigation into the charges; Cheryl Berry, with whom Steele had a verbal altercation on May 22 and who is the attorney representing the alleged victim of the domestic violence; Brown; and Turcotte.
The Daily Times does not name alleged or confirmed victims of domestic violence.
During Turcotte’s testimony, a video recording of Steele’s reaction to being served the papers was played, and photos of a phone with text messages between alleged victim from before May 22 were displayed. The messages mostly consisted of Steele’s urging a reconciliation, and Peppers asked him to specify where the threat was. Turcotte said it stemmed from Steele’s overall refusal to realize the relationship was over and continuing to ask to see her.
In her cross-examination, Steele’s attorney characterized the reason his termination was recommended as being about “yelling and cussing.”
Peppers brought up a few instances of “more serious” violations, e.g. theft of gasoline, by other officers who received less drastic punishments before Rogers objected, saying they were not relevant.
Steele’s attorney said they are relevant because the council would also be deciding on punishment.
Peppers had planned to call other witnesses, most of which, she said during a break, had to do with those past incidents, but she said the council was well enough aware of them. She dismissed all of her witnesses except her client.
Steele said the dissolution of the relationship with the alleged victim was one of the most stressful times in his life, adding he had lost 25 pounds in three weeks.
“I was maxed out,” he said, and when Berry approached him in what he called “a hateful manner,” it was a case of bad timing, and he was willing to apologize to her for his manner and the language he used.
Regarding the circumstances with Brown, Steele said that during the face-to-face conversation they talked about what Brown’s wife had told each of them.
“Maybe we both got played in that incident,” Steele said. “He’ll never have another problem from me.”
After three and a half hours of testimony, questioning and then closing statements, the council went into closed session for almost exactly an hour before emerging to take its votes.
“I’m a little disappointed,” Peppers said after the meeting adjourned, “in that there have been much more serious charges in the past that were not terminated and so we are going to look at filing an appeal to circuit court and dealing with it in circuit court.”
They have 30 days to appeal.
City Attorney Ben Rogers said he had no comment.
Turcotte said no supervisor likes to take this type of action, but it is necessary with certain kinds of circumstances.
“Of course, these kind of decisions are not at all easy,” Trautman said, “and I know it was a difficult one for the council, but I think they considered the facts that were presented and they obviously contemplated for a while and came back with their decision.”