The South Bend Board of Public Safety unanimously approved the demotion of officer James Walsh from a sergeant in the detective bureau to a patrolman first class. The move means Walsh will return to patrolling the streets as a beat officer.
Walsh was not at the meeting and did not request a hearing to fight the charges.
In 11 cases from Oct. 3, 2011, and Nov. 3, 2011, Walsh is accused of not promptly following up on the cases and keeping victims and witnesses interviewed and informed, a violation of the duties of investigative sergeants.
In some of the cases, Walsh never contacted the victim at all.
Interim Police Chief Chuck Hurley said he doesn’t expect any more problems with Walsh, who has a limited record of disciplinary action over his 25-year career. He was previously suspended 21 days in March 2011 for driving under the influence.
“Walsh’s record on the department is pretty good up to this point,” Hurley said. “He’s considered a very good officer for the department.”
Meanwhile, the board postponed setting a hearing for Patrolman Chris Bortone, who is facing a possible termination on charges of being untruthful in regards to a larceny case he responded to in March at the Meijer on Portage Avenue.
Bortone, the department’s Officer of the Year in 2007, has been suspended two other times since February 2011.
Board of Public Safety President Patrick Cottrell said Bortone has hired an attorney and plans to fight Hurley’s recommendation of termination. A hearing will be set at a future meeting.
Also at the meeting, the board approved a 30-day suspension without pay for South Bend Fire Capt. Thomas Sheets.
Sheets is accused of inappropriately using Scrubbing Bubbles in April to clean a breathing apparatus, causing bubbles to fill the face masks.
Sheets is alleged to have performed the “experiment” to see whether cross-contamination was possible with the Scott Self Contained Breathing Apparatus the department was evaluating.
Scrubbing Bubbles, according to the charges, is never supposed to be used on such equipment.
Aside from the suspension Sheets will not be allowed indefinitely to work as a self-contained breathing apparatus technician.
Staff writer Tom Moor: