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Indio Police Command Unit votes no confidence in police chief; Police Chief responds

KESQ

Members in the Indio Police Command Unit have voted on a position of "No Confidence" in Chief Mike Washburn and assistant chiefs Christopher Shaefer and Brian Tully. This is according to a letter written to the Indio city manager from an attorney.

The letter states 77% of IPD lieutenants and sergeants have voted "No Confidence."

"The IPCU has had almost 5 years to reach the conclusion that these 3 individuals lack the ability and character to continue in leadership positions in the Indio Police Department," said the letter. "This organizational expression of discontent has been created by nothing less than an abject failure of character and leadership at the senior executive staff level of the Indio Police Department."

According to the letter, the transcripts of recent departmental disciplinary negotiations show that Washburn and Shaefer do not meet the standard of integrity under oath.

"Those two police managers testified falsely about certain procedural facts involved in the underlying investigation of the incident upon which that discipline was based," said the letter.

The letter ends with a plea to have Washburn and Shaefer on administrative leave immediately and have them replaced.

Chief Washburn sent out a statement to News Channel 3 addressing the letter:

I welcomed the in-progress investigation into the allegations leveled against me and Assistant Chief Shaefer by the Indio Police Command Unit’s attorney; however, I am disappointed that they would not provide me the same consideration that I give them – to make fact-based decisions and judgements instead of reaching conclusions based upon unsubstantiated allegations.

While the Indio Police Department has a strong reputation with our community, and is comprised of stellar officers of integrity and character, there are a handful of influential individuals who are concerned about the level of accountability I have held them to since my appointment in 2016. While the majority of our department embraces accountability, and being held to a higher standard as a point of pride; there are few individuals that have a difficult time accepting that lapses of moral character, the same standards upon which we judge our police officer candidates in their background investigations, are usually career-ending.

Additionally, due to California’s restrictive stance on police disciplinary records, even union leaders are not privy to the facts on which a police chief makes his or her disciplinary findings – unless the disciplined employee chooses to share it. This creates an unhealthy situation in which department leadership can only say, “there is more to it, but I am not allowed to discuss it.”

The City of Indio hired me knowing that I had a long history of being involved in, and even driving police reform – particularly in the areas of de-escalation, transparency, accountability and use of force. I was literally at the table with the U.S. Department of Justice negotiating Seattle’s consent decree and later had a key role in ensuring the Seattle Police Department’s compliance to that agreement.

Make no mistake about it, the Indio Police Department is a good department and I am proud to lead it; however, I have brought about change which a small group are uncomfortable with and purposefully mischaracterizing for their own self-serving agendas. At the end of the day this change is necessary in a forward-thinking agency like ours – and universally expected by those we serve. When chiefs fail to make those changes, the result is often a public demand for civilian oversight.

The City of Indio can expect IPD to be at the forefront of progressive policing while its employees – to include me - are held to the highest standards of professionalism and accountability. This will continue as long as I have the honor of serving as Indio’s police chief and will be sustained by a healthy and enlightened organizational culture.

- Indio Police Chief Mike Washburn

News Channel 3 has reached out to the City of Indio and the Indio Police Department for further comment. The City of Indio's spokesperson, Brooke Beare, said the city cannot comment on personnel investigations.

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Marian Bouchot

Marian Bouchot is the weekend morning anchor and a reporter for KESQ News Channel 3. Learn more about Marian here.

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