A Greenwood police officer was fired Friday after receiving dozens of reprimands, including for not completing police reports, arriving late to work and not investigating possible crimes.
The city police merit commission chose to end officer Paula Redd’s 14-year career with the department based on the request of Chief John Laut and the recommendations of four officers who worked with or supervised her.
Redd was suspended and reprimanded orally or in writing 44 times, with her first discipline happening while she was training as a new police officer at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy in 2000.
Recently, she didn’t investigate some police reports filed online, including a resident’s concern that a protective order was being violated, which could have been dangerous to the person involved, Laut said. Other cases she didn’t look into included reports of an abandoned vehicle, stolen property and damaged property. Redd lied to Laut in April about completing police reports that weren’t done, he said.
Redd also burdened other officers who had to work shifts with her when she repeatedly showed up late for work, Laut said.
Laut and four other Greenwood officers, including some who said they talked to Redd repeatedly and tried to help her get her work done and show up on time, recommended that she be fired. Merit board commission members Al Stilley, Martha McQueen, Wendy Trietsch, Helen Walker and Tom Brogan attended the Thursday meeting, and the board’s attorney Linda Meier read their decision to fire Redd after they deliberated for two hours.
The announcement came at 2 a.m. Friday after a nine-hour meeting.
Redd initially got reprimands in 2000 while at the state police academy, including one for taking a squad car out of the county. Nearly every year since 2005, her supervisors confronted her about being late to work. In 2006, supervisors talked to her about missing a mandatory meeting and formally reprimanded her for failing to turn in police reports on time. In 2007 and 2008, she got in trouble for staying too long at crime scenes and not contacting child protective services in a case. She also didn’t complete paperwork, including a document necessary for an arrest.
In 2009, Redd was reprimanded for not responding when paged, failing to make an arrest in a domestic violence case, using her emergency lights to get to work quickly when she was late, not turning in marijuana to the police department as evidence for a case and more tardiness and incomplete paperwork.
Personal life a factor
In March, Laut disciplined Redd for telling him she had looked into all of the cases assigned to her from the department’s online reporting system when she had not. Laut then ordered that the online cases assigned to Redd be checked to see if there were others she hadn’t handled, according to charge documents filed in May.
The chief can suspend an officer, but if he wants to fire an employee, the five-member board, appointed by the city council and mayor and elected by members of the police department, has to make that decision.
When Laut became police chief in 2012, he met with Redd and offered her a chance to start fresh under the new administration, Redd’s attorney Peter Nugent said.
Redd understood that opportunity to mean her prior disciplinary issues would not be considered in the future, Nugent said.
The offer of a fresh start was based on potential he saw in Redd as an officer, Laut said. He also didn’t know the extent of her discipline problems at that time, Laut said.
Redd told the board she forgot to do paperwork and other small tasks due to distractions in her personal life, but she didn’t lie to the chief about investigating multiple cases. She didn’t realize she had put some unfinished files in the wrong folder when organizing her work, so she hadn’t purposely misled him when he asked her if she had finished her cases, she said.
“I adamantly deny that I lied to anyone,” she said.
Redd was under tremendous stress because of a divorce and custody issues with her child and also had been injured several times while working as a police officer, Nugent said. She is a compassionate officer who worked with people in the community and got complimentary letters even from a driver she ticketed, Nugent said.
She got distracted and made mistakes because of her personal problems, Redd said.
Others’ work affected
But Redd hampered other officers’ work when she talked repeatedly about personal problems while on the job, Laut said.
She also may have endangered residents, Sgt. James Ison said. When he was her supervisor, he reprimanded Redd for not calling child protective services to check on two small children who could have been in danger, he said. In 2008, Redd had written a report about a case in which a mother was intoxicated and another person at her house was possibly abusing the woman’s two children, Ison said.
He felt Redd made a bad judgment call in that situation, so he contacted child protective services himself to make sure the children were safe, and he disciplined Redd, he said.
Sgt. Jeffrey McCorkle, Redd’s supervisor for nearly seven years, said he has suspended an officer only one time in nearly 13 years of working as a sergeant for the police department. That officer was Redd, and he suspended her for not promptly completing a report on a hit-and-run accident, he said. He found out about the missing report when the records division contacted him looking for it, he said.
Redd also was reprimanded for not completely filling out a report regarding an argument at the mall between two women, Ison said.
Because Redd didn’t supply information on how to contact witnesses, he had to do extra work days later while Redd wasn’t on duty, Ison said. He went to mall security to find out how to reach witnesses before the case could be investigated, he said. Charges later were filed in the case.
Getting information promptly is important so victims aren’t left in danger, witnesses’ memories are fresh when they’re interviewed and evidence isn’t destroyed, he said.
‘Too many times’
City attorney Krista Taggart asked McCorkle how many times he’s tried to coach Redd about completing a report and arriving at work on time.
“Too many times to list,” McCorkle said. “I additionally placed my own career in jeopardy to try to protect her.”
He has talked with her, yelled at her, tried to embarrass her over the radio system and tried to have her peers pressure her into being a better employee by showing up for work on time and filing police reports on time, he said.
“I could not make her do it,” McCorkle said.
Redd talked often with other officers about her divorce and fight for custody of her son, he said.
“Personally, I would say her personal life consumes her work,” he said.
Redd’s ongoing tardiness and other mistakes have caused other officers to ask why more hasn’t been done to discipline her, Assistant Chief Matthew Fillenwarth said.
Laut also provided Redd with a new police car in hopes she would take pride in it and take better care of her equipment than she had in the past, Fillenwarth said. Fillenwarth said he had advised the chief against letting her use a new car because she had a track record of not taking care of her equipment.
When Redd returned the car to the police department this year, it was in deplorable condition, with food crumbs, dog hair and children’s toys inside and scratches on the outside, Laut said. He suspended her in April for five days because of the condition of the car.
Laut then suspended her again in May and asked the police merit commission to discipline her after the department discovered she hadn’t investigated several cases but told the chief she had dealt with them.
“I do admit to some of the things that happened, but I’m still a good officer,” Redd said.
‘People like her’
She was given multiple chances to become a better officer over the years, Taggart told the commission.
“People like her. They wanted her to succeed,” she said.
Redd told the commission she is the type of officer who stops and plays basketball with neighborhood children and whom residents trust.
Laut offered her a clean slate for the tardiness and the other mistakes she made but needs to consider that Redd is important to the community and residents love her, Nugent said.
Two members of the Greenwood Police Department also spoke as character witnesses for Redd, saying she is a compassionate officer who works well with people.
Patrolman Steven Estrada worked with Redd eight years ago and said he is her friend. He never heard a complaint from residents about her and saw her work well with people in the community. He trusted her to back him up if he needed help with a case and remembered that she had been praised for her work in a shooting case, Estrada said.
The fresh start Laut offered didn’t erase Redd’s disciplinary record, and that record shows a pattern of unreliability as an employee and lack of trustworthiness as an officer, Taggart said.
A good employee shows up to work on time, does her paperwork, doesn’t lie and follows up on cases, Taggart said. A good officer isn’t a safety hazard, doesn’t make reports improperly and fail to investigate cases, she said.
“When is enough enough? I would argue that 44 (disciplinary notices) is enough,” Taggart said.