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Former Mesa cop had free rein of Scottsdale jail while serving DUI sentence

A 12 News continuing investigation has triggered an internal affairs investigation at the Scottsdale Police Department and three of the top command staff at the city jail are on paid administrative leave.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - A 12 News continuing investigation has triggered an internal affairs investigation at the Scottsdale Police Department and three of the top command staff at the city jail have been suspended.

Former Mesa Police Lieutenant Rick Van Galder was pulled over in Gilbert back in February and later pleaded guilty to driving drunk. At the time of his arrest, his blood alcohol level was almost four times the legal limit.

RELATED: How one lieutenant acted like he was above the law

Van Galder resigned from the Mesa Police Department before he could be fired. As far as Judge John Hudson knows, who sentenced the officer to three days in jail, Van Galder did his time.

A Gilbert police officer's body camera captured Lt. Van Galder trying to use his position to get away with the crime. The Gilbert police refused to grant him special treatment, but some of the Scottsdale City Jail staff did.

Van Galder was supposed to serve a three-day sentence on a conviction of Super Extreme DUI, but it turned out to be more of a staycation. Jail surveillance videos obtained by 12 News show him hanging out, shooting the breeze with detention officers, they even went out and bought his lunch. The supposed prisoner even received a personal visitor.

All of this happened courtesy of some of the Scottsdale Jail staff, right underneath the nose of Scottsdale Police Chief Alan Rodbell, who says he had no idea his top jail officials gave Van Galder special treatment.

RELATED: Lieutenant retires in lieu of termination after DUI

"Our knee-jerk reaction was there was no way this could be true," Rodbell said.

Van Galder was supposed to spend three days in isolation in Scottsdale, segregated and protected against vengeful inmates because he was a cop.

"The impression we had when we agreed to this arrangement was that he was going to spend confinement for three days in our jail," said Rodbell.

But that's not entirely what happened.

On August 4, Van Galder surrendered to the Scottsdale City Jail. Detention Officer John Gambill used a hand-held metal detector to check him for weapons and contraband.

Detention Sergeant Don Vogel led him to the cell, which Van Galder entered at 5:45 p.m.

Video shows Vogel wake Van Galder up around 7:40 a.m. the next morning. Next in the footage, Van Galder is led through a door that says "No prisoners beyond this point."

"It's a very concerning video because it screams of all kinds of violations of policy and procedure," said Rodbell. "He was taken out of a secure area and taken into the detention managers office, which is outside the secure area."

Lieutenant Jeff Landrum is the detention manager in charge of the jail. There are surveillance cameras outside his office, but they're not recording.

According to Rodbell, Van Galder spent the remainder of his time "in jail" in the lieutenant's office, but he still had some freedom.

Around noon on Friday, Sergeant Kris Keilich brought Van Galder lunch -- fast food. Keep in mind, Van Galder is supposed to be eating jail food.

"I think he paid for it himself and they went out and bought lunch and brought him back into the detention area and shared lunch with him," said Rodbell.

Video showed that Van Galder exited through door number 10 later in the afternoon, and that's the last sighting of him on the video.

Not only did he seem to have free rein in the facility; he also had a visitor. His wife Teresa Van Galder, a Mesa Police homicide detective, was able to gain access into the detention manager's office where her husband was staying on at least two occasions.

"His wife got into Lieutenant Landrum's office and even brought lunch on two occasions," said Rodbell.

It's important to note, no visitors are allowed in the Scottsdale City Jail.

"I think she should know better, absolutely," Rodbell said.

Van Galder was also given a key card by one of the jail employees, so he could come and go as he pleased, with the ability to move around the building -- even exit it.

"Highly inappropriate, certainly not within our policies and practices and quite frankly, very disappointing," said Rodbell.

The Scottsdale Police Department cannot account for Van Galder's whereabouts the entire time he was supposed to be serving his sentence.

At this point in the investigation, they have been unable to determine his whereabouts from the afternoon of Friday, August 5 until Sunday, August 7. Internal affairs investigators are examining data from the key card to track his movements to find out if he left the property.

The investigation continues to find out who arranged the special accommodations for the jail guest, and Landrum, Vogel, Keilich are on paid administrative leave. So far, 13 employees have been interviewed.

Chief Rodbell said this incident is not reflective of his department.

"This does erode or kind of shake up that confidence, question of confidence and that does not make me happy," he said.

But questions remain. Who orchestrated this sham? Did the jail employees act on their own volition? Or was it Van Galder's friend Scottsdale Police Commander Bruce Ciolli. The two graduated from the same class of the police academy in 1994.

Chief Rodbell confirmed for 12 News that Van Galder asked Ciolli if he could get permission to do his time in the Scottsdale City Jail. Ciolli asked an assistant police chief who went to Rodbell. Chief Rodbell ultimately signed off on it.

Ciolli is part of the internal affairs investigation but Rodbell doesn’t believe he had anything to do with the preferential treatment Van Galder received in the city jail.

"There's no testimony from anybody at this point that I am aware of that says that Commander Ciolli gave any direction to anybody in the detention center on how this gentlemen should be treated once he came in," said Rodbell.

And the chief has a theory about the detention officers' actions.

"I just think they felt they had a law enforcement officer that was coming in to spend time and for whatever reason made decisions that weren't good decisions in terms of how he was going to be treated while he was here," Rodbell said.

The jail employees who gave Van Galder free rein are veterans. Detention Manager Jeff Landrum has been at the helm for nearly two decades. Sergeants Vogel and Keilich have worked at the jail for more than 20 years.

They also have stellar personnel files. Chief Rodbell signed off on pay raises for all three men on June 13 and has recognized their outstanding service in the past.

Our investigation reveals Van Galder should have never been at the Scottsdale City Jail to begin with. Based on policy and accreditation, the jail's maximum hold time is 48 hours and Van Galder was sentenced to 72 hours.

"I actually made that mistake," Rodbell admitted.

Gilbert Municipal Court's top magistrate, Presiding Judge John Hudson, who formally sentenced Van Galder to three consecutive days in jail has been apprised of the situation. But Court Administrator Adam Walterson tells 12 News Judge Hudson is unable speak about the case because Van Galder is on probation for five years and it's an ongoing case. This matter has also been brought to the attention of Gilbert Town Prosecutor Cathy Bohland, who prosecuted Van Galder's case and offered him a standard plea deal. Bohland confirmed to 12 News that this matter is currently under review with the Gilbert Prosecutor’s Office.

Ethical shenanigans or mistakes made? Accountability to come.

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