Richmond police commission urges city to hire full-time misconduct investigator

Richmond's Community Police Review Commission is urging their City Council to hire an investigations officer who can dig into a growing backlog of complaints alleging police misconduct.

The job pays between $61 and $97 per hour and there have been nearly 100 applicants, but only about a dozen of them might be considered qualified, according to Assistant City Attorney Bruce Soublet.

"There are people who are interested in the job," Soublet told the commissioners Wednesday night during their regularly scheduled meeting in the basement at City Hall.

"The question is ... do they reflect the values we want?" Soublet said. "You can be qualified and not have the right type of values for this community."

The job used to be full-time, but there wasn't always a full workload.

Former Investigations Officer Don Casimere, who recently retired, reportedly also handled disputes over towed vehicles to round out his schedule.

Since Casimere's retirement, however, the city turned the position into an on-call, part-time job.

That's at the heart of their difficulty filling it.

Two people have been hired for the job in recent years, but both of them quickly moved on to better paying, full-time jobs.

"Because it's part-time, people who have those qualifications tend to gravitate towards other jobs," Councilman Jael Myrick, who serves as the City Council's liaison to the police commission, explained to commissioners Wednesday night.

"The way I see it," said Commissioner Oscar Garcia, "it's either no investigator or an investigator that doesn't have enough work."

"I think the City Council will have to make a decision if it wants to have an investigator," Garcia said. "If it does, it will have to be a full-time position."

Commissioner Yenny Garcia asked city officials to produce records of hours logged in previous misconduct investigations in order to establish a frame of reference.

Other commissioners suggested that it might be worthwhile to assign additional duties to justify full-time employment for the next investigations officer, or to hire someone full-time on a temporary basis.

"I think we have a number of pretty serious cases to investigate right now," Commissioner Carol Hegstrom said. "I would think we would almost have enough work for a full-time investigator at least for a certain period of time."

At one point in the city's history, they went more than two years without an investigations officer, and several people at the meeting expressed concerns about letting this hiring process drag on like that a second time.

Myrick, however, said he would not let that happen.

"I'm committed to making sure we have at least an interim person in the next two months," Myrick said. "I want to get that done before the end of October."

The City Council will take up the matter in closed session at an upcoming meeting, according to Myrick.

Hiring a full-time investigations officer will be expensive, however, and payroll was at the heart of a recent municipal budget battle.

Thirteen city staffers, including a number of department heads, were told they would be laid off due to a deficit during the eight-month tenure of former City Manager Carlos Martinez, but those layoffs were rescinded in June and Martinez was fired amid allegations of unfair labor practices in July.