Sitka Police lieutenant fired

Posted: Sunday, January 20, 2002

Lt. John Baeza has been fired from the Sitka Police Department, Chief Bill McLendon announced Jan. 11.

The termination followed a police department disciplinary hearing that morning concerning Baeza's actions in a Nov. 19 confrontation with a private citizen. He has been on paid administrative leave since the incident.

At McLendon's request, the Alaska State Troopers launched an independent investigation into possible criminal charges against Baeza. On the basis of that investigation, the State Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals announced there was not enough evidence to pursue criminal charges.

The disciplinary hearing was part of the SPD's internal affairs inquiry into whether Baeza's actions violated department policy, procedures or regulations, or the department's code of conduct.

McLendon said six separate violations were sustained against Baeza as a result of the incident, which began as a telephone call during the course of a criminal investigation to which the complainant was allegedly a witness.

After the phone conversation grew heated, Baeza followed up by visiting the man's place of employment, accompanied by another Sitka police officer, McLendon said. Another employee at the complainant's place of business was a witness to the confrontation.

"There was an exchange of profanities, threats and gestures that fortunately never got out of hand," McLendon said. "All four parties that were either part of, or witness to, this altercation, there's no substantial disagreement or dispute about what occurred. From Lt. Baeza to ... the complainant, there is no dispute of fact."

Baeza, who was hired by the SPD June 4, 2001, was in uniform at the time of the incident, McLendon said.

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