Sultan police chief put on leave

SULTAN -Police Chief Fred Walser was placed on paid administrative leave Friday while his department is the focus of two internal investigations, officials said.

The move comes just weeks before he said he planned to quit anyway.

“I don’t know what to say,” Walser, Sultan’s police chief for nearly a dozen years, said when reached at his home Monday.

One investigation is being conducted at Walser’s request by the Washington State Patrol. It involves alleged misuse of a city computer by a police department employee, Walser said.

Walser said he believes he also is the focus of a second investigation involving allegations that he withheld information from the city attorney related to the computer-misuse investigation.

The Everett Police Department’s internal affairs unit, the Office of Professional Standards, is handling an investigation involving Walser, Everett police Sgt. Robert Goetz said.

Sultan Mayor Ben Tolson declined comment Monday on the substance of either investigation.

The chief is ultimately responsible for behavior in the ranks, Tolson said.

“The chief’s involved with that. He is the chief of police, it’s his department,” the mayor said.

Walser, 66, has been police chief in Sultan since the mid-1990s. On May 25, he announced plans to resign from the job. His last day is scheduled for Aug. 17.

Walser said he is surprised to be placed on leave now.

Sultan Police Cpl. Scott Berg will lead the department as the city works to hire an interim chief, Tolson said.

The city is not considering hiring a Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy for the position, the mayor said.

In May, the Sultan City Council voted to study disbanding the police department and instead to contract with the sheriff’s office to provide police services. The matter remains under review despite Tolson’s opposition.

Walser announced his retirement the day after the vote.

Before coming to Sultan, Walser served more than 28 years with the Washington State Patrol, rising to the rank of lieutenant.

Walser was placed on leave once before in 2003. He was cleared in that case when investigators found there wasn’t enough evidence to support the allegations.

Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 or jholtz@heraldnet.com.

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