Skip to Content

I-Team: Indio Police Chief says he won’t give in to what he calls “unethical bullying tactics”

Indio Police Chief Mike Washburn is stepping up his defense against multiple allegations coming from people and unions in his department.

Washburn says he's not planning on leaving as he faces new allegations from Indio Police Command Unit President Lt. Chris Hamilton.

Hamilton, in a News Channel 3 exclusive interview, revealed that Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin has received a Public Integrity Complaint involving the department.

In an e-mail to Hamilton, Hestrin writes, "I am aware of the situation unfolding in Indio.  I am also aware that a public integrity complaint was received by our office."

Hamilton also says Indio Police Sgt. Leo Parafan has been interviewed by someone with the district attorney's office.

A district attorney spokesman would not confirm or deny an investigation.

Parafan has been at the center of allegations that Chief Washburn lied during a disciplinary hearing involving former officer Sergio Ramirez, who was fired after being acquitted in a rape case.

Hamilton says Parafan is now facing retaliation for reporting the chief.

He says Parafan is now facing six internal affairs investigations.

Hamilton laid out all of his concerns in an e-mail to City Manager Bryan Montgomery on December 9th.

The city manager is ultimately responsible for the chief of police.

Montgomery responded with an e-mail.

"For sound, legal reasons, I am not going to make a determination, public comment, or any decision until after I have received and thoroughly reviewed the results of the investigation," Montgomery wrote in that e-mail.

Hamilton says he will continue to pressure the city.

"I think they've been stalling on the Chief Washburn investigation.  The main reason I think, is because they don't want it to appear that the unions are running the city."

Hamilton wants Washburn removed.

"If he really cared abut the city and the organization, and not himself, he would resign.  So resignation or termination," Hamilton says.

 Chief Washburn responding to News Channel 3 in an e-mail.

"I have no intention of giving in to Lt. Hamilton's unethical bullying tactics.  My commitment is to create a healthy police department culture that allows staff to thrive, feel a sense of belonging, and model the Indio Police Department values of integrity, professionalism, service, and respect."

The Chief also responding to other questions via e-mail....

Chief Washburn responded to four requests for comment submitted by News Channel 3. Washburn's responses are in bold.

1)    Lt. Hamilton says Sgt. Parafan has been interviewed by someone with the D.A. Public Integrity Unit over a complaint received on November 9th.  

You will have to ask the D.A. about that. 

2)    Lt. Hamilton alleges that Sgt. Parafan is now the subject of six Internal Affairs investigations that have been initiated or solicited by the Chief of Police.  He says these investigations are retaliatory in nature.  

The police department has a ministerial duty to investigate all allegations brought to our attention, as indicated by California case law and our own policies.  See Galzinski v. Somers (2016) and our Policy 1020 (attached).

Similarly, the City is required to investigate complaints of misconduct made directly to Human Resources which have bypassed my office.

3)    Lt. Hamilton says the department is poorly staffed and that's raising public safety concerns.   

Police staffing continues to be a concern that has touched nearly every police agency locally and nationally.  According to the National Police Foundation, 86% of police departments are reporting staffing shortages. That being said, our recruiting efforts are robust and on-going.  In fact, I will be attending a ceremony tonight for our two newest officers graduating from the police academy.  Additionally, just yesterday, 10 candidates successfully passed our initial police officer testing process and will be moving to the next phase.

You should also be aware that our recruiting team was recently approached by another Coachella Valley police agency to inquire as to why our hiring and recruiting efforts have been so successful compared to theirs.

In terms of safety concerns, please see the attached crime statistics which speak for themselves. 

4)    Lt. Hamilton expresses that resignation or termination for the chief are the only acceptable outcomes.

I have no intention of giving in to Lt. Hamilton’s unethical bullying tactics.  My commitment is to create a healthy police department culture that allows all staff to thrive, feel a sense of belonging, and model the Indio Police Department values of Integrity, Professionalism, Service, and Respect

Indio City Manager Bryan Montgomery provided some additional information in explaining why the city doesn't jump into the public discussion relating to confidential personnel investigations:

"The first link provides information regarding the Police Officer Bill of Rights (POBAR). The slide covers various components of POBAR, but you’ll see that confidentiality of personnel investigations is a very important protection set forth in the law.  All police officers, including Chief Washburn and Asst Chief Shaefer (and Sgt. Perafan), are protected by these rights and it would be unfair, inappropriate and illegal to discuss publicly any allegations, or make judgements about the allegations, as the investigations are not even complete. As I asked Lt. Hamilton, would he want any allegations made about him to be made public and assertions made about the potential wrong doing, even before the investigation was complete?

Staffing police agencies is becoming increasingly difficult all across the country - the link below explains that in more detail.  The Indio City Council approved and budgeted for 4 additional police officers in this year’s budget, and we have had success in recent recruitments with two police officers being sworn in a couple of months back and two more will be sworn in on Monday.  We have an aggressive recruitment campaign, as does every police agency, and we will continue to bring on new and replacement officers to the Department.  The public airing of personnel investigations doesn’t help recruitment efforts, but you do not see City officials involved publicly discussing those investigations."

Article Topic Follows: I-Team

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

John White

John White anchors News Channel 3 Live at 5:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m., and 11:00 p.m.on KESQ-TV and CBS Local 2. Learn more about John here.


News Channel 3 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content