Poulsbo chief to make changes

POULSBO — Poulsbo Police Chief Dennis Swiney is ready to move on — learned lessons in hand — the week after the city of Poulsbo released a report alleging Detective Grant Romaine’s improper computer queries and harassment of women, a situation raising questions about the police force’s integrity.

The situation is one that could be far from over. The report, conducted last fall by the Bremerton Police Department, is now in the hands of the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s office for review, and could potentially reveal criminal findings that impact pending cases. Swiney said should allegations prove true, the department will assist in follow-through, but until more is known, the sobering episode is one he isn’t waiting to adjust to.

The police department, which has a 2008 operating budget of $2.2 million, maintains clear standards on appropriate behavior, and Swiney’s made it his personal responsibility to hold personnel accountable to them.

Following the investigation into Romaine, installing random periodic computer usage audits and limiting employee access to databases are policies he’s considering, along with continuing the city’s thorough applicant screening and potential personnel background checks. But Swiney was quick to remember humanity’s foibles that can surface despite every effort.

“People are human and people have choices, and sometimes people make poor choices,” he said. “I can’t 100 percent control them, but I can hold them accountable.”

While Swiney could not comment on the choices made before his tenure — which began November 2007 — he said the situation with Romaine was one he inherited and followed through on as necessary.

Poulsbo Mayor Kathryn Quade said she, too, could not comment on why an investigation did not occur before her leadership with the city began in 2006, although she said statutes of limitations could have come into play, as accounts against Romaine date back a decade. But once the situation was brought to her attention, it was dealt with, she said, just as it should have been.

“I would like to underscore the fact that when I found out about it, I did something about it,” Quade said. “Any claims that have been made on my tenure have been dealt with.”

Swiney said the department does not have any specific standard on what warrants an investigation, but personnel complaint forms are available at the department office and at city hall, and each is attended to when submitted. As little as one complaint could be enough to jump start a probe into a matter, which can be in the form of a simple administrative review, or swing to the more serious end of the pendulum and spark a full-fledged internal affairs investigation, as was the case in looking into Romaine’s actions.

Bremerton police Sergeant Kevin Crane, who conducted the investigation along with BPD Capt. Jim Burchett, said he and Burchett worked exclusively on the case “in excess of two months.”

“This was massive,” he said of the particular investigation’s scale.

The work will continue as the prosecutor’s office expects to complete its review of the document before this week’s end. It will then be sent to the Pierce County prosecutor’s office to review for criminal findings, said Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge.

Romaine, who was one of two detectives for the city and worked on the force since 1989, has referred all questions to his attorney, Randy Loun of Bremerton, who has not returned phone calls.

Though it remains to be seen whether pending cases — and how many of them — could be affected, for Swiney it’s an issue he’s ready to see come to an end.

“It’s gone through its process and all I want to do at this point is put it behind us and move forward and continue to serve the citizens of this community,” he said.

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