Warsaw Common Council won’t pursue outside investigation into police chief’s actions

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After nearly two hours of hearing from constituents, many of whom were Warsaw Police officers, the Warsaw Common Council reached a consensus not to further investigate the actions of Warsaw Police Chief Scott Whitaker.

Councilman Klondaris originally stated he would like to explore the possibility of an outside investigation into Chief Scott Whitaker’s actions on January 25. He later rescinded that request, noting that he might “catch hell for it”.

Whitaker’s decision in question was to apply pressure to a man’s shoulders, taking him to the ground, to prevent him from entering a vehicle when he believed the man to be impaired. The man was later determined not to be impaired and not to have been the driver Whitaker said nearly ran him off the road earlier that evening. Chief Whitaker was off-duty at the time of the incident. The Indiana State Police and Kosciusko County Prosecutor’s Office already completed a review of the actions, determining nothing criminal occurred.

Councilmen Frush, Wilhite, and Shoemaker were among those calling for a possible outside investigation when the matter was initially brought up at the Monday night meeting.

After hearing from police officers, Wilhite and Shoemaker expressed gratitude to the them for coming and speaking to the Council. They both maintained that the matter could be left as is without further investigation, but that some sort of healing was needed for the community after the January incident.

Councilman Grose and Council President Diane Quance strongly spoke out against any further investigation during the entire discussion.

One issue that was brought up during the Council meeting was the chain of command.

Council President Quance reminded officers that they signed off on their employee handbook, which tells officers they can go to the HR department if they do not feel comfortable going to the Chief of Police or Mayor Thallemer with an issue. The Mayor echoed those statements.

A handful of Warsaw Police officers of various ranks spoke in support of Chief Whitaker’s actions, with dozens of officers clapping in response to the each statement.

Several constituents asked questions of Councilman Klondaris, specifically over his previous statement to the Times-Union in which he called the Warsaw Police Department a “toxic environment”. Klondaris said he was “not on trial” and would step down from the Council if he was continued to be questioned in that way.

Police officers said Mayor Thallemer was the only one of the elected officials present who had been on a ride-along with them. By the end of the meeting, several Council members shared their desire to spend time with on-duty officers as well.

Council members also told Warsaw officers their request for funding for new phones would be discussed at the next Council meeting. Councilman Klondaris said the issue had been delayed in the “fallout” from the investigation of Chief Whitaker.

The archive of the Common Council meeting can be seen on the City of Warsaw’s website: https://www.warsaw.in.gov/watchcitymeetings

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