Tampering With Justice: Police Chief Interfered in Criminal Investigation, Stayed on Job for 15 Months
By Ryan Raiche & Joe Augustine, Channel 5 ABC Eye Witness News
A Minnesota police chief tampered with witnesses and interfered in a criminal investigation into one of his own officers but was allowed to keep leading his department for more than a year, according to city and court documents obtained by 5 INVESTIGATES.
Isanti Police Chief Gene Hill was eventually fired in March. However, records show city officials first became aware of his tarnished credibility back in the fall of 2017 after a judge ruled Hill had engaged in witness tampering and could not be trusted in court during a use of force case.
Yet, City Attorney Clark Joslin did not recommend that the city council take action against Hill because he disagreed with the judge's finding, according to an internal records.
As a result, Hill, who declined multiple interview requests, continued to be involved in criminal investigations until January when newly elected Mayor Jeff Johnson requested that an outside law firm review the chief's misconduct.
"He would still be the police chief if I didn't do something about it." Johnson said in an interview with 5 INVESTIGATES. He recalled his initial reaction to the chief's misconduct was "this could be a huge liability."
That's because Hill's credibility issues could impact any case he touched, according to Steve Schleicher, a former state and federal prosecutor in Minnesota.
"It's something that could be raised by every single criminal defendant that was affected, in any way, by anything he has signed (or) sworn to in his career," Schleicher said.
The records show Joslin was not fully aware of the severity of the issue, however, he did know that the Isanti County Attorney was concerned that Hill's tainted credibility could impact future cases.
Despite the potential legal ramifications, Joslin "did not seem concerned," according to an unnamed city official interviewed as part of the internal investigation.
Asked to comment before a recent city council meeting, Joslin said it was "not appropriate" to discuss the city's finding despite it being a public record.