By Ali Freeman
RUTLAND - A Rutland City Police officer faced criminal charges for watching porn on the job in 2010. But a recent internal investigation revealed that two other officers did as well.
After a three-year battle between the Rutland Herald and the city, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled Friday that the internal investigation must be turned over. WCAX News has also obtained those documents and a current sergeant was listed for downloading thousands of pornographic images at work.
"Looking at pornography on duty as a Rutland City Police officer is a very, very serious matter," Rutland City Police Chief James Baker said.
Baker says this type of misconduct is not tolerated at the Rutland City Police Department. But recently released internal investigations show that before Baker's time in the PD's top spot, three officers were caught watching porn on the job.
In 2010, an officer was caught with porn on duty and criminal charges forced David Schauwecker out of the department, and brought the details to the public. But that was just one of three Rutland police officers since 2004 who have been caught with porn at work.
"The situation was investigated, a punishment was assigned, a punishment was served and the case was closed," Rutland Police Commissioner Larry Jensen said.
Although the three investigations happened under former Chief Anthony Bossi's watch, two of the names have just been released for the first time. In a lengthy investigation, current sergeant-- Det. James Tarbell-- was front and center in the first investigation in 2004. The investigation reveals that a computer tech was trying to fix a glitch on Tarbell's computer in 2004 and stumbled upon pornographic images. It goes on to say that Tarbell downloaded 25,000 graphic images, 94 explicit videos and several images of possible child pornography. But that couldn't be proven because the ages of the females are unknown. So, no criminal charges were filed.
During questioning, Tarbell said he was only looking at the images for research and he doesn't get "…any pleasure from that, and certainly nothing that I did for my own gain."
He explained: "Look at the setting... If I was going to be doing this I think I would be doing it in my home, in my own computer with nobody else around... I did it here because it is a controlled environment and I had a goal in mind. Not my own personal pleasure."
"He accepted his punishment, he moved on, and since 2004, I know of nothing that Sergeant Tarbell has done that would rise to a level of discipline within a department. He has had a spotless record for nine years," Baker said.
Tarbell was suspended for 10 days without pay. A separate investigation in 2010 revealed that animal control officer Craig Petrie was also caught emailing and downloading porn at work. He, too, was suspended without pay and retired earlier this year.
Chief Baker says this misconduct isn't excusable, but these officers cannot be punished twice. What is important now, he says, is to look to the future.
"This is very trying times. This police department has been through a lot in the last 10-15 years. I feel bad that it is coming out on my watch. I feel bad that the members of the department have to go through it. But as I said to the sergeants today, it's time to lead," Baker said.
Baker also says that contrary to other media reports, Tarbell was not promoted. Last year, he was transferred to the BCI unit, but it was a reassignment, not a promotion.