Two Washington C.H. Police Department officers have been suspended without pay and placed on probation following an altercation on June 22.
The disciplinary decision came from Washington City Manager Joe Denen on Friday. Officer Logan George will be suspended for 10 days and will be on probation for six months. Sgt. Derek Pfeifer will be suspended for three days and placed on probation for 30 days.
As recently reported, the June 22 police report included the names of three off-duty police officers. The incident occurred at 516 Waverly Drive in Washington C.H. Pfeifer was listed as the reportee and officer Ricky Musser as the witness. The on-duty officer who reported to the scene was David Page and George was mentioned in the narrative information.
The Record-Herald made an official request Friday for an email sent from Denen to Washington C.H. City Council members regarding his final decision of disciplinary action. In this email Denen said, “The disciplinary hearings of George and D. Pfeifer have been completed. Both George and D. Pfeifer accepted responsibility for their actions and appeared to genuinely regret that the incident occurred.”
In the email Denen explained a more detailed summary of the incident that occurred: “A group of off-duty police officers, significant others and friends attended the Toast of Summer event. This group of people included George’s former girlfriend.”
“George and D. Pfeifer’s residences are in relatively close proximity. Upon concluding their time at the Toast of Summer the group of people elected to meet back at D. Pfeifer’s residence. D. Pfeifer did not return in the same vehicle that contained George’s former girlfriend.”
The vehicle that George’s former girlfriend was a passenger in passed in front of George’s property. George and his father were on his property but outside at the time. George’s former girlfriend yelled an expletive when passing by them, according to Denen’s summary.
At this point, George reportedly traveled with his father down the street and parked the truck in front of Pfeifer’s residence. George then attempted to confront the former girlfriend about her comment, but Pfeifer instructed George to leave.
“In the disciplinary hearing both George and Pfeifer stated that the altercation was verbal. Neither George nor Pfeifer made any mention of pushing or shoving in their written statements,” Denen wrote in the email.
On an audio recording from the incident, George said that Pfeifer pushed him and he pushed back.
Denen wrote, “I am satisfied that assault did not occur. Events prior to the arrival of the police department are almost impossible to clearly define.”
Both George and Pfeifer acted disrespectfully to members of law enforcement upon their arrival to the scene, according to Denen’s email.
“D. Pfeifer did consume alcohol at the Toast of Summer. At one point Sergeant Page tells D. Pfeifer that he is drunk. D Pfeifer’s speech and movement don’t appear impaired on the recordings,” Denen wrote.
“After the incident D. Pfeifer called Chief (Brian) Hottinger and Chief Hottinger had no suspicion of intoxication. Sergeant Page noted an odor of an alcoholic beverage. Sergeant Page did not administer a PBT Test for alcohol. D. Pfeifer in his disciplinary hearing exhibited a openness in his comments on all issues even those events that did not reflect well on him,” the email stated.
“I don’t believe that sufficient evidence exists for me to conclude that D. Pfeifer was drunk,” wrote Denen.
The email further states, “If George had ignored or elected to respond to the comment from the former girlfriend in a different manner this issue would not have occurred. I am disappointed that George made the decision to drive down the street and seek resolution on D. Pfeifer’s front lawn.”
Denen wrote of his disappointment with George for not leaving Pfeifer’s property when told to do so.
As Pfeifer’s past disciplinary history is more than three years old, it is not considered appropriate for consideration when deciding disciplinary actions. George has a reprimand less than three years old for inappropriately speaking with a Highway Patrol Officer.
Denen explained, “The on-duty performance of D. Pfeifer is reported to be good. The on-duty performance of George is reported to be acceptable.”
“I believe that the events of June 22, 2019 were embarrassing to the City of Washington Court House,” Denen wrote in the email.
Denen also outlined his disciplinary conclusions:
“I have concluded that D. Pfeifer violated rule #148 Public Statements & Appearance. D. Pfeifer was argumentative and disrespectful with Sergeant Page. Chief Hottinger recommended a suspension of not less than three days.”
This means that Pfeifer’s current rank as sergeant is held on a probationary period of 30 days. When his suspension is to begin is at the discretion of Hottinger, as Pfeifer has military leave coming up. However the suspension must be imposed at some point.
The email further explained that Denen has “concluded that Ptl. George violated rules #104 Conformance to Laws, #148 Public Statements & Appearance and Rule #102 Unbecoming Conduct. Ptl. George was disrespectful to several uniformed police officers, failed to leave private property upon the instructions of the property owner and illegally parked his vehicle.”
Hottinger initially sent a recommendation for George to be terminated. Hottinger said Friday that his recommendations were based upon what he felt is the best for the police department currently and in the future.
“A patrolman challenging a sergeant is a major problem,” Hottinger said in an interview with the Record-Herald on Friday. “Joe has every right to make the decision that he did and I respect that decision. That’s the plan and process we have in place. As a police department, I expect my people to hold themselves to a higher standard. The public expects us to be held to a higher standard. If you look at my recommendation, I am more than willing to hold my people accountable for a mistake like this.”
“I have considerable respect for Brian Hottinger and don’t fail to consider his recommendations with considerable weight. However, I am not comfortable with terminating George’s employment,” wrote Denen in the email.
Even though George was not terminated, his probationary period of six months means that if a similar disciplinary action is made against him within that time frame, he will not be granted “recourse to grievance/arbitration.” George’s suspension was set to begin immediately.
“Juvenile drama combined with ego resulted in an embarrassing situation. Hopefully, the correction given will result in the desired change in behavior,” wrote Denen.
Follow the Record-Herald for more information concerning this incident following a full interview with WPD Police Chief Brian Hottinger.
Reach Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355.