Humboldt State Police Officers Vote ‘No Confidence’ in Chief
A hostile work environment, racial slurs directed at minority officers and manipulated crime statistics are listed as some of the reasons for the vote.
Nine out of 10 police officers at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California, cast a vote of no confidence in Police Chief Donn Peterson, citing an “all-time low” morale.
The vote was publicized Monday by the Statewide University Police Association (SUPA), a union representing officers in the California State University system which conducts annual leadership surveys at each CSU campus.
The union accuses Peterson of being regularly absent from his duties, creating a hostile work environment and directing racial slurs at minority officers, the Times-Standard reports.
Officer Billy Kijsriopas, a night shift officer and local leader for the department’s union, said he was informed of a time when Peterson reprimanded a black officer by citing a Bible verse that describes how a “slave is beholden to his master.” Kijsriopas, who is a first-generation immigrant from Thailand and is part Chinese, said Peterson once made a remark about his facial hair.
“He said, ‘What does (Kijsriopas) think he is, Kung Fu?’” Kijsriopas said, suggesting Peterson may have been alluding to the Fu Manchu mustache associated with the literary villain.
Among other offenses, Peterson is accused of manipulating crime statistics reporting, multiple violations of the Public Safety Officer’s Procedural Bill of Rights Act and blatant violations of labor laws that include a derogatory, anti-labor letter which Peterson authored and posted publically, according to the press release from SUPA.
Peterson started at HSU in January 2015 after leaving his nearly three-decade post with Florida’s Broward County Sheriff’s Department amid scandal. In 2015, Peterson was named in a WPLG Local 10 news story about police officers allegedly swapping license plates with impounded vehicles to avoid paying toll violations.
Peterson still spends a lot of time in Florida, according to Kijsriopas. When he is at work, Kijsriopas says doesn’t interact with his officers, leading to a “total breakdown in communication.”
“Chief Peterson’s frequent, extended bouts of time out of state leave the department in the hands of a Lieutenant who also spends an unusual amount of time away from campus,” he said. “Our officers look to the Chief for guidance and leadership, but he has fallen short of the standards they and the University community deserve.”
The turmoil within the department has carried on for several years, Kijsriopas continued, stating officers have had enough and warnings given to the chief seem to “fall on deaf ears.”
“The damage to morale and the risk to campus safety is too great – it’s past time we had a new chief.”
In a statement sent to the HSU community, administrator Douglas Dawes said the university will investigate the allegations made against Peterson.
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