A Polson police officer already disciplined twice by the Montana Public Safety Officer Standards and Training Council (POST), first for alcohol-related domestic abuse and then for intimidating a witness in a poaching investigation that implicated several Lake County law enforcement officers, was placed on administrative leave for an alleged assault that occurred Aug. 25 at Swanee’s Bar and Grill in Polson.
The POST council, a quasi-judicial board that certifies and investigates police officers accused of misconduct, suspended Polson Police Officer Cory Anderson in 2005 while he was employed at the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. The two-year suspension came on the heels of Anderson’s arrest for partner/family member assault in Beaverhead County, and the POST council cited “alcohol related gross misconduct” as the grounds for the suspension.
Late last year, the council took another look at Anderson’s history of professional and ethical violations, which includes a host of alcohol-related incidents culminating in a June 2010 event in which Anderson and Polson Police Chief Wade Nash, while off-duty and under the influence of alcohol, intimidated a witness in an ongoing criminal investigation that focused on several Lake County law enforcement officers accused of poaching.
POST, which has the authority to permanently revoke a public safety officer’s certification, allowed Anderson to keep his badge on the condition that he underwent a chemical dependency evaluation, which he completed.
POST Executive Director Perry Johnson said Chief Nash contacted the council about Anderson’s administrative leave and explained that the Polson Police Department is conducting an internal investigation while the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office leads the criminal investigation into the alleged assault at Swanee’s Bar and Grill.
“We will wait to see how both of those cases shake out before becoming involved,” Johnson said.
Asked if Anderson’s law enforcement certificate could be permanently revoked because of the recent allegation, Johnson said “we will cross that bridge when we come to it.”
“The last time the POST council took any action was in December and I can’t even speculate what will happen now because there are so many potential factors,” he said. “We are going to make sure that he is afforded due process.”
Nash said he placed Anderson on administrative leave Aug. 26 and requested that the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office, rather than the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, investigate the criminal case to avoid any conflict of interest.
“We don’t want any conflict of interest or even any speculation about it,” Nash said. “It’s hard to say what will happen. We have two individuals making allegations about an assault, and that is what they’re looking at in Missoula.”
The Polson Police Department’s investigation will focus on whether Anderson violated any administrative or professional policies and will correspond with the criminal investigation.
If criminal charges are warranted, the case will be passed on to the Lake County Attorney’s Office.
Last year, Nash and Anderson were two of seven officers from four different law enforcement agencies in Lake County to be served notices of possible law decertification by POST, which accused the officers of a range of offenses, both criminal and ethical, including perjury, poaching, nepotism and witness tampering and intimidation.
Three cases were dropped, while Ronan Police Chief Dan Wadsworth was suspended for 15 years. Former Lake County Sheriff’s Sgt. Dan Duryee was stripped of his badge.
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