Updated: 01/14/2013 4:24 PM KSTP.com By: Cassie Hart
The Three Rivers Park District, which covers 22 parks in Hennepin and Carver counties, gets a ton of use.
Even in the winter we saw cross country skiers and people out sledding.
The area is a very popular place even more so in the summer with the beaches and campgrounds.
But some recent bad behavior by park police led to suspensions and even firings.
They have 22 parks, 80-miles of trails, beaches and campgrounds to watch over with tens of thousands of visitors every year. Taxpayers pay the salaries of every park patrol officer.
Chief Hugo McPhee of Three Rivers Park Police says, "It's a public trust issue."
KSTP found that trust was in jeopardy when seven of the sixteen Three Rivers Park Police were disciplined for bad performance or misconduct in the past five years.
Chief McPhee says they take this "very seriously."
Here are few examples why:
In 2008 and 2009 two park officers were suspended for riding park district horses off-duty while consuming alcohol.
Chief McPhee says, "I took a very dim view of that. That's not what I would expect of my staff and so they were disciplined because of it."
Just this year, an officer patrolling a five to six park area left his patrol without permission on two separate occasions and was harshly reprimanded.
Chief McPhee said, "If there would have been an emergency, another agency through our mutual aid agreements would have responded, but the fact is he left an area that he did not have permission to do so, and was disciplined because of it."
In 2008, an officer was suspended after getting intoxicated and engaging in inappropriate and unprofessional physical conduct.
And in 2011, another officer was suspended for unwelcome and offensive comments to female co-workers.
Chief McPhee tells KSTP the public can still trust in the officers despite these actions. Chief McPhee says that's because he's taken action and won't tolerate misconduct.
"And if you do that under my watch, it's not going to bode well, for you," said McPhee.
Two of the seven officers were fired. Another two left on their own and the remaining officers are still with the Three Rivers Park Police Department.