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Alleged sexual, drug crime misconduct: What we know about the FBI investigation of Caldwell Police Department

"He traded sex for me not to go to jail, and then he took the drugs," one woman said.

CALDWELL, Idaho — This story is the result of a partnership between KTVB and the Idaho Press. Tune in to the News at Ten Thursday for more on this investigation.

Editors note: This story has been updated to specify and clarify titles and attribution of our sources. It's also been edited to include that what we're reporting is part of the investigation, not necessarily the entirety of the investigation.

The misconduct of current and former officers working for the Caldwell Police Department’s Street Crimes Unit has been one of the subjects of an FBI investigation, according to six sources familiar with the matter.

Some of the police misconduct being investigated appears to center on alleged sexual relations that one officer had while on duty, according to a high-ranking law enforcement official and an alleged victim.

A retired law enforcement officer also says the investigation involves the treatment of suspects in drug crimes. It involves criminal and civil components, two of our sources say. The investigation may also be looking at employees who were knowledgeable about those alleged incidents, the retired law enforcement officer said.

Four of our sources said the investigation has been going on for over a year.

Most sources that have spoken with the Idaho Press and KTVB have asked for anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the investigation.

An anonymous alleged victim, who says she's been talking to the FBI for more than a year, said she had sexual relations with one of the officers allegedly under investigation. She said they had sex while he was on duty, and she was on drugs.

"He traded sex for me not to go to jail, and then he took the drugs," the 32-year-old woman said. "When someone is on drugs and vulnerable, like, he used a lot of that and his badge to get what he wanted and it's put me in a lot of danger, actually."

OFFICIALS RESPOND

Following news reports about the investigation last week, Caldwell officials released a statement confirming the investigation, describing it as “ongoing,” as previously reported by the Idaho Press and KTVB. In response to social media speculation about the standing of Caldwell’s Chief of Police, Frank Wyant, the statement said that the chief is not the subject of the FBI’s investigation and that he remains “an employee in good standing.”

City officials have confirmed that one currently employed officer is a subject in the investigation. And at least one officer who left the department last fall was a subject, four sources said. Law enforcement officials with knowledge of the investigation say a number of current and former officers have been interviewed as part of the investigation.

The FBI declined to confirm the existence of the investigation, as previously reported.

Former Caldwell Mayor Garret Nancolas, who retired from the position in January after more than two decades in office, did not immediately return requests for comment.

Representatives at the police department repeatedly told KTVB over the past week that Wyant was not in the office. When KTVB visited the police department Tuesday, they were again told he was not there.

Lieutenant Dave Wright confirmed that he is serving in a chief-like role, including taking on some of the chief’s responsibilities, such as answering questions from the media and public.

It is unclear whether the officers involved in the FBI investigation were or are placed on paid administrative leave.

Caldwell Mayor Jarom Wagoner told KTVB in an email Monday that he has not asked any staff to “step down, resign, quit, or take a leave of absence at this time.” That includes Chief Wyant, he added.

Much remains unknown about the scope and stage of the investigation. While the city and three sources have said the FBI investigation is ongoing, other sources have said that parts of the investigation have been sent to other law enforcement entities for review.

AN ALLEGED PATTERN OF WRONGDOING

Following a Caldwell Police Department raid on her home in 2009, Caldwell resident Anna Banda sued the department. The city and its insurance company settled out of court, and paid her.

Banda claimed she was a victim of targeting by the department due to her work as a bail bond agent, bonding individuals out of jail who the police had arrested.

Banda recalls feeling surprised when FBI investigators reached out to her in the winter of 2021, asking if she knew any specifics about wrongdoings within the police department. But she did not find the investigation itself surprising.

“I’ve seen a lot of … what I feel was police misconduct,” Banda said, such as, “a lot of officers being excessive with traffic stops, asking to search people’s vehicles who were not being arrested.”

Caldwell-based attorney Scott Larsen is representing Banda in another case going on right now.

Larsen has also represented a number of clients who have attempted to challenge alleged wrongful behavior within the Caldwell Police Department. One of his current clients has been involved with the FBI investigation, he said. Historically, the names of a few officers are mentioned in connection to a case, and sometimes, all of them at once, he said.

Yet complaints about wrongdoing at the department often fall “on deaf ears,” he said. However, he does not think the behavior reflects on all law enforcement professionals.

“This is such a small minority … it’s a small group of an inner circle who do things their way,” Larsen said. “They’re thuggish things.”

“You could easily say to me … ‘well, every profession has bad apples,” Larsen said. “But not every profession has the right to take away your life, your liberty, your property …”

Larsen hopes the investigation “leads to an entire cultural shift” at the department, adding that he thinks some individuals should be prosecuted.

Two Caldwell Police Department officers, Baltazar Garza and Casey McGrew, were decertified in 2020 for “inappropriate sexual conduct while on duty,” according to a database compiled by the Idaho Statesman. The database spans 2002 to 2020, and was built by requesting records from the Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST), which certifies and can decertify officers from a variety of law enforcement entities, including city departments, the Statesman reported.

Decertified officers are ineligible for recertification for at least 10 years, according to the Statesman.

In addition to Garza and McGrew, seven other officers were decertified from the Caldwell Police Department between 2002 and 2020. Klayton Duin was decertified in 2018 for “criminal conduct,” while Santino Yago was decertified for “violation of fundamental duty” and “criminal conduct.” The initial or alleged violation for decertification is not listed for the other five officers.

   

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