Jackson Police Lieutenant Roger Schultz has resigned following public outcry over a post he wrote for the Jackson Police blotter that made light of what some perceived as a potential case of sexual assault.
The blotter post read: “We responded to a report of an underage female having sex with adult [sic]. We will be investigating the case to determine if a crime has been committed and if we can prove that crime. You would think having sex with an underage juvenile would always be a crime. Not necessarily. There are a number of factors involved in deciding whether to file charges to include the ages of those involved. Fortunately, determining the age difference of those involved doesn’t involve complex math, so we should be able to figure it out without too much trouble. Just as long as we have coffee and donuts (the ones with the little sprinkles on top) to get us through.”
In a statement, Schultz elaborated about the call and said it was not investigated past the initial response. “It was determined that no crime had been committed and no one was a victim,” he wrote. “My intent was to educate people on the law regarding what makes consensual juvenile sex a crime, not to make light of the event. I would never intentionally harm a victim. I have dedicated my life to helping those in need and have investigated many crimes against children, sexual assaults, and domestic violence cases in my career, always with an eye towards justice for the victim.”
Acting police chief Michelle Weber confirmed that she received Schultz’s resignation but declined to comment further. She did discuss the post’s problematic, “inappropriate” nature.
“One of the things we know from our training is that you never, never make humor in any post or any paragraph or message about domestic violence, child abuse or domestic assault. Humor of any kind should not have been included in that and I am genuinely sorry,” Weber said.
Weber said it was five days before she learned about the post at which time it was deleted. Schultz has written the daily blotter for the last three of his 23 years on the police force, often with a tongue-in-cheek tenor. He issued an apology saying the post included “self-deprecating humor that was offensive.”
Many in the community did not see the humor, especially given the vast majority of sexual assaults go unreported. Local advocates say such messaging from the police department could discourage victims from coming forward and have a chilling effect in Jackson.
“This blotter post communicates to this specific individual, and all past and future survivors, that law enforcement will not take their experience seriously. It discourages reporting, and therefore limits accountability for perpetrators of sexual violence and judicial resolution for survivors,” reads a statement issued by the Community Safety Network.
Activist group Act Now JH, which has led the charge on placing Jackson policing under the microscope in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, said the post was flippant and disrespectful. “While the offensive ‘jokes’ have been removed, the entry still places the responsibility for the incident on [the victim’s] shoulders and remains online. JPD’s apology fails to acknowledge the depth to which the original post is harmful to both the victim and community survivors of sexual assault,” reads a statement issued by the group.
They also took issue with the blotter itself saying it serves as a way for law enforcement “to ridicule citizens who find themselves in trouble, and to make light of serious and dangerous situations.”
This particular entry, the group argued “showcases the misogyny and disregard of alleged sexual abuse within JPD.”
Mayor Pete Muldoon was quick to denounce the post, calling it “outrageous.” That the post remained unnoticed by members of the police department for days is emblematic of a troubling policing culture, he said. “It’s trivializing and making light of a child who was allegedly raped. That has no place in our organization or in a department whose mission it is to serve the public and to be able to provide justice for victims of these crimes. I don’t view it as a mistake—a mistake is when you drop a hammer on your foot.”
Muldoon echoed advocates saying the post sent a deleterious message to victims. “I have heard from at least one constituent who was assaulted as a child who has said that under no circumstances would she call the police if she was assaulted again,” he said. “This is unacceptable; it’s not about saving face or making apologies. If we are serious about our commitment to public safety, we have to be absolutely certain that victims of sexual assaults and other crimes feel as though they are able to get help from our police department.”
The mayor told KHOL he has not spoken with Schultz nor did he encourage him to resign.
Jackson town manager Larry Pardee, who oversees personnel issues with the Jackson Police Department and answers to Muldoon, issued a statement Thursday condemning the post. “Assault is not something to joke about,” he said. “The Town of Jackson knows that. The statement might not have been intended to offend, but intent, in this case, is not as important as impact. We know that words matter, and that victims of assault deal with outsized impacts every day. I have learned that someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds, that every single day more than 570 people experience sexual violence in this country.”
Pardee said the town has been in discussions with the Jackson Hole Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Collective about trainings for town employees. “We intend to work with this local group and professional diversity and inclusion consultants, to help our entire town team understand systemic issues of bias and privilege and the cultural constructs that perpetuate them,” Pardee said.
Weber, for her part, rejects the notion that one incident reflects problems at her department but she said it has provoked reflection among the force. While she does not believe Schultz acted with malice, she says this one misstep “had a huge ripple effect” on the police force, the community, and victims. For now, Jackson police will not be publishing a daily blotter and if they do resume the posts, there will be two sets of eyes on such communications before they are published.
[This story has been updated with a statement from Roger Schultz. -Ed]