Updated: Tuesday, 29 Sep 2009, 5:18 PM CDT
Published : Tuesday, 29 Sep 2009, 10:38 AM CDT
CHILTON - The Calumet County sheriff is apologizing for what he calls the inappropriate actions and language of two of his deputies.
"This was an unfortunate incident that caused disgrace to our department, to the county and to all of law enforcement," said Sheriff Jerry Pagel.
At issue is a video and accompanying pictures, showing a stuffed Calumet County Sheriff's uniform being burned in effigy. One off-duty sheriff's deputy can be heard, among others, making racial remarks.
"Now it kind of has the KKK aspect to it (laughter) we're just burning a cross," one of the deputy's can be heard in the video.
The burning took place in a backyard fire pit at the Darboy home of Jennifer Bass, a four-year member of the sheriff's department. Bass resigned her position two weeks ago following an internal investigation.
Pagel says it was Bass who shot the video and made the racial comment. And it was Bass who posted it all on her internet Facebook page.
"Someone found this offensive, and brought it to our attention," explained Pagel.
Seen in photographs also posted on that Facebook page is Wendy Schmitz, another Sheriff's investigator who has been with the department in different capacities since 1997. She was offered and accepted a reduction in rank and salary as punishment for her participation.
"We felt their actions and these comments were a detriment or proved to be a negative impact upon our department," said Pagel.
Pagel says both Bass and Schmitz indicated they burned the uniform, adorned with sticky note tags identifying fellow officers including the sheriff, as a stress reliever.
"They indicated it was out of frustration and a stress reliever to place them on the uniform and burn them in effigy," he said.
In the video as the fire dies down, it's believed to be Schmitz commenting on her stress.
"For some reason I feel like 100 pounds just got lifted," said Schmitz off camera.
Both Schmitz and Bass were offered an opportunity to comment by FOX 11-- neither responded.
Sheriff Pagel says despite the two deputies who used bad judgment there are 54 other deputies who have remained professional and respect the uniform they wear. The department met as a whole this week to review what had happened to insure it doesn't happen again.
"We informed them you have to be aware of what you put out there," Pagel said.
Sheriff's officials say they regularly use Facebook and other web sharing sites to help in their everyday investigations and the deputies should have known better.
"This is the last thing I'd want to make public. This is an embarrassment to our department and to me," said the sheriff.
Pagel says let this revealing internet posting be a lesson to
others, not to make the same costly mistake in judgment.