IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa Department of Public Safety employees must behave professionally in their private lives or face the loss of credibility and potential disciplinary action, the agency's interim leader has warned.
The department's standards for conduct extend to off-duty behavior because private actions can be relevant to whether an employee has good judgment and can testify credibly under oath, Acting Commissioner Roxann Ryan told employees Tuesday.
"The bottom line for our department is this: When there are allegations of misconduct, they will be taken seriously and investigated impartially. That includes incidents in work or private life that may reflect on honesty, integrity, impartiality or competence," Ryan wrote.
The memo to employees, including those in the Iowa State Patrol and Division of Criminal Investigation, comes after two cases involving supervisors have generated negative publicity.
The agency launched a disciplinary investigation Monday into Lt. Kelly Hindman, who wrote on Facebook that he wished a sniper would shoot ESPN college basketball announcer Dan Dakich in the head. The apparent joke, written during Saturday's Iowa-Ohio State game, was criticized as inappropriate by a former state senator.
Hindman, district commander of Post 7 in Fort Dodge, declined comment when reached at his office Wednesday.
Capt. Ken Clary was ticketed this month for driving 92 miles per hour in a 70-mph zone near Des Moines in November following an internal affairs investigation.
Clary was wearing his uniform while off-duty and driving a vehicle owned by Special Olympics Iowa, for which he volunteers. A video of the stop shows trooper Bryan Guill passing more than 10 cars at a high speed to catch up with Clary, then letting him go without a ticket after a brief and friendly exchange. Clary faced unspecified disciplinary action, while Guill wasn't sanctioned.
Department spokesman Scott Bright has refused to say whether the speed listed on the ticket was reduced so that Clary wouldn't lose his license, the typical sanction for driving 25 mph over the limit. Maj. Todd Misel, who signed the ticket, hasn't returned messages.
In her memo, Ryan said that she understood why employees are frustrated that they often receive no information about disciplinary cases beyond what's in the news. But she said that personnel information is usually confidential by law, and the department will continue to keep secret many details about investigations and their outcomes.
She acknowledged that more could be released at times but the risk is "that it could amount to defamation of character if it is widely disseminated."
Ryan told employees that she understood why some turn to humor and social media to relieve stress from their tough jobs.
"Keep in mind, though, that all of your interactions reflect on you as an individual and on the department," she cautioned.
She noted that employees who make statements indicating racial or gender bias could lose credibility when testifying in criminal cases where such issues are relevant.
Ryan, a department lawyer, is serving as acting commissioner following this month's retirement of Commissioner Larry Noble.
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