System not catching every Indiana police officer whose certification should be revoked

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INDIANAPOLIS — A dramatic law passed more than 10 years ago gave the Indiana Law Enforcement Training Board the power to revoke a police officer’s basic law enforcement certification.

The board has revoked 45 certificates since then, but the current system is not catching every police officer who should be on that list.

A CBS4 investigation found this loophole makes it possible for officers convicted of serious crimes to get a job in your community.

Every professional police officer in the state must have a basic training certificate to have a badge.

The current state law says the Law Enforcement Training Board (LETB) may revoke a certificate if an officer has been convicted of a felony, or at least two misdemeanors that would cause a person to believe the officer is potentially dangerous or violent, or shows a propensity to violate the law. A certificate can also be revoked if the officer has been found not guilty of a felony by reason of mental disease or defect.

Yet, several former Indiana police officers convicted of felonies never had their certificates revoked.
Former IMPD officers David Bisard and David Butler were both convicted in 2013. LETB is now in the process of revoking their law enforcement certifications after CBS4 reported their cases to the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy.

Ten years ago, Bisard crashed his patrol car into a group of motorcyclists, killing a man and critically injuring two others. His blood alcohol level came back at twice the level to drive legally in Indiana. Bisard was later convicted of nine counts, including reckless homicide and drunk driving. 

“Yeah, the process of decertifying him did not happen,” said Lafayette Police Chief Patrick Flannelly, a member of the LETB. “Maybe because they felt they did not need to, that it was an automatic disqualifier or because the process itself is not designed well enough to ensure we get that done.”

“I don’t think David Bisard was going to wind up as a police officer anywhere,” said David Wantz, a long-time member of the LETB. “Bisard’s case is in the process now.”

Butler was found guilty of two felony counts of robbery and two felony counts of official misconduct. According to the original probable cause affidavit, Butler was accused of targeting Hispanic men. Investigators said Butler pulled drivers over and asked them to step out of the car while he searched their vehicle. After the searches, the men said thousands of dollars of cash was missing from their wallets.

Bisard and Butler would have had to repeat basic training in order to be police officers again in Indiana because they have been out of law enforcement for more than six years, according to Charles Braun, a former attorney for the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy. Even so, the training board still needs to go through its formal process to revoke their law enforcement certification.

Because of CBS4’s story, the board is also in the process of revoking the certification of a former Crawfordsville police officer. That process is occurring three years after his felony conviction.

According to court documents, investigators discovered Jeremy Wuestefeld hit a woman’s ornamental brick sidewalk while responding to a reported domestic violence incident and did not stop. Police said he then volunteered to meet with the property owner when she called in to the police about the incident.

The crime was caught on Wuestefeld’s body camera.

At the time, Assistant Chief of Police Jim Sessions reported to Indiana State Police that Wuestefeld had falsified the report on the incident to show that it was unknown who had caused the damage. Wuestefeld resigned immediately after the incident, according to Chief Mike Norman.

In October 2017, a court found Wuestefeld guilty of official misconduct, a Level 6 felony. Several other charges were dismissed.

If someone does not serve as an active police officer between two and six years, that officer would need to complete a refresher course to get a new law enforcement job in Indiana. The Crawfordsville Police Department does not believe Wuestefeld was rehired by another law enforcement agency after his conviction.

“We should make sure we have good systems in place so if someone has done something that would violate the statute and would require decertification, that we get that done so they don’t get hired somewhere else,” said LETB member Chief Flannelly.

When an officer resigns, that person no longer becomes a problem for that police department. Yet that police officer still maintains his or her law enforcement certificate.

“The harm of that is, let’s just say the officer goes to a smaller department that does not have the wherewithal to do the investigations that says, ‘Hey, I have been a police officer for a number of years. Here is my certificate. Why don’t you put me on the street?’ They may do that,” said Wantz.

“The difficulty is getting the information into the system”

Like Chief Flannelly, Wantz believes some of these loopholes should be firmed up. He explains the system of notifying other law enforcement agencies exists, but it is only as good as the information that is put into that system.

“I would contend the Law Enforcement Training Board has done its job very well when it is told there is a case that needs to be reviewed. The process works great,” said Wantz. “The difficulty is getting the information into the system.”

Here is the problem. The LETB is not presently given clear legal authority or budgetary funding to independently monitor or conduct their own investigations of these cases. The board must rely upon police departments or someone from the public to report a convicted police officer.

“I think there is some misunderstanding out there where people might believe bad cops are moving from agency to agency and I do not think that is the case,” said Chief Flannelly. “I think what we are really striving for is to ensure that nobody does squeak through the cracks.”

Charles Braun was an attorney for the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy for decades. He even helped create the current state law that allows the LETB to revoke a police officer’s certificate

“If this individual tried to get a police job with another Indiana police department after being convicted in court, well then they would lose their basic training certificate and they could not cross over to another department,” said Charles Braun. “It was an initial attempt to do something about that problem.”

He believes the current law works for most cases, but he also agrees it should be fine-tuned and fixed to catch more convictions.

According to Braun, police departments are required to report police officer convictions but if they refuse to investigate or report to the training board, the current law does not have a penalty for refusing to do so. Prosecuting attorneys are also not required under the law to report to the LETB whenever an officer has been convicted or plea bargained to a felony or two misdemeanors.

“When there is no requirement, the individuals can become fraudulent and engage in deception and potentially get on a temporary or permanent basis another police job,” said Braun.

Braun believes there must be a mandatory reporting process if the interest is in making sure no one goes under the radar. He thinks the Indiana Supreme Court could create administrative rule on their own to require all courts to report any misdemeanor or felony conviction of a police officer to the LETB.

“With that being mandatorily reported to the training board through that Indiana Supreme Court administrative rule, all of that information goes to the Law Enforcement Academy,” said Braun. “The academy does not have to send investigators to check court records and police chiefs and the like.”

Wantz believes some of these reporting issues will have to be fixed legislatively.

“I am all for making sure we tighten this thing up, but I would hate to portray it as we have a bunch of police officers running around who are not fit for duty and that somebody has been lax in their duty,” said Wantz.

In his 15 years on the board, Wantz said he is not aware of any instance where the LETB was notified of a case where a police officer was rehired by a department after a conviction of a felony or two misdemeanors.

That brings us to IMPD officer Jeremy Fuesler. CBS4 discovered his case after our interviews with members of LETB.

“That would be a classic example of revoking a basic training certificate”

In August 2018, police in Kentucky were called to a Burger King after hearing two men were fighting, with one man pulling a gun out. According to a police narrative, off-duty IMPD officer Jeremy Fuesler said he had been following his dad in hopes of catching him with another woman other than his mom. Investigators said Fuesler advised he wanted to take photos and video of his father so he could show his mom proof.

According to that narrative, Fuesler said his father began yelling at him and charging at him. Fuesler told police he thought his father was attempting to steal his car and his father fell to the ground when Fuesler pulled him out of the car. Fuesler claimed he pulled out his firearm and pointed it at his father when he charged at him again. Fuesler told police he feared for his life.

“Jeremy advised he only pulled the weapon out due to his prior training, but quickly holstered it back up,” the narrative said.

According to the girlfriend, Fuesler told his dad “I’ll shoot you”.

The narrative says police advised Fuesler he could have left the scene on his own at any point. Jeremy stated, “I know, I made a mistake.”

Police said the firearm was fully loaded with one round in the chamber with a total of nine bullets. 

Fuesler was charged with wanton endangerment, a felony, and assault, a misdemeanor. According to Fuesler’s personnel file, he was placed on a 39-day suspension without pay.

A few months later, Fuesler pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct. He also spent six days in a Kentucky jail.

We shared this case with Charles Braun since he knows the current state law on law enforcement certificate revocations so well.

“That would be a classic example of revoking a basic training certificate,” Braun said.

Former IMPD Chief Bryan Roach tried to fire Fuesler and sent the recommendation to the Civilian Police Merit Board in March 2019. Roach concluded the conduct of Fuesler violated the Rules and Regulations of IMPD. Following its considerations of the charges, the Merit Board unanimously rejected the recommendation.

Records show a majority of the members of the Merit Board concluded the chief proved Fuesler violated two subsections of IMPD’s rules but discipline did not rise to the level of discharge.

IMPD officer Fuesler was assigned to the Southwest District in October 2019 and he’s still working there.

Charles Braun was surprised to hear Fuesler was still working as a police officer in Indianapolis. He explained the chief’s hands are tied when the Civilian Police Merit Board does not go along with the termination.

The current IMPD police chief, Randal Taylor, sits on the LETB that could revoke Fuesler’s certification.

“With two misdemeanor convictions, violent oriented, I would highly encourage the chief to have his staff to submit it to the Law Enforcement Training Board for review in terms of revoking the basic training certificate,” said Braun. “That makes a lot of sense to me.”

Here is what happens now

After CBS4 notified the board about the cases of David Bisard, David Butler and Jeremy Wuestefeld, LETB is now in the process of revoking their certifications. 

The revocation process usually takes three to four months.

The Executive Director of the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, Tim Horty, said they are also working with lawmakers to draft new legislation. Legislation is still in progress, according to Horty.

“We think the language is a bit ambiguous,” he wrote to CBS4. “The new language will firm up the reporting obligations. That way no convictions will escape the Training Board.”

These ideas were brought up before CBS4 began working on this story, said Horty.

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