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SPD officer under review for use of force returns to work

A Superior Police officer whose use of force during a January arrest remains under review has returned to work. Officer George Gothner, who has been on paid administrative leave since late January, returned to a duty status with the department last week, according to a release by Superior Police Chief Charles LaGesse.

“He will be working in an administrative duty assignment in our offices,” LaGesse wrote in the release. “He will not return to patrol duty, pending the decision of the assigned special prosecutor. The Department respects the ongoing process being utilized by the special prosecutor, Bayfield County District Attorney Frederick Bourg.”

An employee can’t be put on unpaid leave without formal discipline and either an agreed-upon resolution or, in the case of an officer, a Police and Fire Commission ruling to impose discipline, LaGesse said.

“It is a better use of our finances to have Officer Gothner performing a valuable function than remain in a paid leave status,” the chief said. “I am allowing the external review process to run its course prior to reviewing this issue internally.”

The Superior Police Department initially believed that a decision on Gothner’s use of force would be made relatively quickly. With a John Doe hearing now set for Oct. 3, LaGesse said, the department decided that Gothner’s extended administrative leave status wasn’t in the interest of the mission of the department. The officer’s absence from the patrol division has adversely affected overtime expenditures, the chief said.

LaGesse said Gothner will be working on response plans to critical incidents. His new duties won’t help the overtime situation, the chief said, “but it assists us in getting the project completed and freeing up others for other work.”