The case of extremely inebriated Mesa Police lieutenant Rick Van Galder has been filled with spectacular twists and turns.
What started as Van Galder trying to get out of an arrest, turned to him spending a weekend “in jail” – serving a sentence that was more like a staycation.
New to this ongoing reporting: details from the completed internal affairs investigation, which has prompted two separate independent reviews; an attempt by Gilbert City Prosecutor Cathy Bohland to revoke Van Galder’s probation for not serving his sentence; and an internal investigation into Van Galder’s wife has begun.
Scottsdale’s internal investigation, which started as soon as Chief Alan Rodbell learned about possible violations from 12 News, uncovered that Van Galder’s relaxed jail sentence was actually planned out in advance.
And the two independent reviews will look at the Scottsdale Jail policies and procedures, and whether certain City of Scottsdale employees misconduct was criminal in nature.
Duane Wolfe, a retired police officer and current law enforcement instructor at Alexandria Technical and Community College in Minnesota, reviewed the investigation and said the findings indicated that “professional courtesy” had “reached an epidemic proportion with the jail staff.”
Professional courtesy is the idea of police looking out for their own, giving a fellow officer a get out of jail free pass, and letting the badge trump the law.
“It would seem there is a complete breakdown in ethics and procedure when it comes to dealing with another officer,” Wolfe said in an email.
Van Galder avoids stay in Arpaio’s jail
Records show Van Galder was hell bent on "not" doing his time at Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's infamous Tent City. He repeatedly mentioned wanting to avoid the tents in the Scottsdale internal affairs investigation, as well as his interviews with Mesa police before he stepped down.
After Van Galder pleaded guilty, Gilbert Presiding Judge John Hudson ordered Van Galder to serve his time at Arpaio's Lower Buckeye jail.
So Van Galder asked his friend Scottsdale Police Commander Bruce Ciolli for help getting approval from his department so Van Galder could instead serve his sentence at the Scottsdale City Jail. Ciolli went to Assistant Chief of Police for the Uniformed Services Bureau, Jeff Walther who ran it past Chief Rodbell, who ultimately signed off on it.
Van Galder acted as his own legal counsel despite the fact that he has a defense attorney – Jeff Van Norman. Van Galder petitioned the court to change the location of his sentence to the Scottsdale City Jail. Judge Hudson granted his request.
Neither Hudson nor Rodbell knew what was about to take place.
Van Galder spent the night in a jail cell before he was allowed out by jail staff and given free rein of the facility.
Results of the internal affairs investigation
The detailed truth about Van Galder’s supposed incarceration came out during the Scottsdale Police Department's internal affairs investigation. More than a dozen employees were questioned.
The investigation, led by Sergeant Melissa Palopoli, assisted by Sgt. Chris Blumling and overseen by Assistant Chief of Police Scott Popp found Van Galder’s relaxed stay was planned in advance because he was a cop. Van Galder knew he wouldn't be behind bars for long.
Van Galder received special treatment throughout his time at the Scottsdale jail facility, the investigation found.
According to the investigative report, when Van Galder surrendered, Detention Sergeant Kris Keilich met him in the parking lot, led him to Landrum's office to drop off his personal belongings including his cell phone, and brought him through the police station to a side door of the jail - not the normal entrance for prisoners.
No medical screening was done, according to the report. Detention Officer Gambill was instructed only to “wand” Van Galder and not to do a full search.
Van Galder was also allowed to keep his shoes, according to the investigation, which detainees are not permitted to do.
Records show that Detention Manager Jeff Landrum told his detention supervisors if the jail filled up, they should put Van Galder in his office until a cell opened up again. His office is located outside the jail, not in a secured area. He later told investigators that he wouldn’t just take anybody and move them into his office. “I felt more comfortable in doing that because he was a police officer,” Landrum said.
Landrum made Ciolli aware of the possibility of moving Van Galder, according to the investigation. Ciolli told the investigator that he never told Landrum not to move Van Galder, but he did tell Landrum “make sure we’re not treating him any different than anybody else and that he does his time.”
Van Galder told the investigator he was apprised of the plan ahead of time and went along with it, but asserted he told jail employees he didn’t want anyone to get in trouble.
Van Galder was moved out of his cell within hours of his arrival, when the jail wasn’t even at full capacity, according to Scottsdale Police Public Information Officer Kevin Watts.
Later that day, Keilich brought Van Galder lunch, and they ate in the control room together, the investigator found.
On Friday August 5, Detention Sergeant David Simpson reported to work a few hours after their lunch in the control room. Simpson told investigators, Keilich told him that Van Galder was in Landrum’s office and that he would be responsible for taking him to the restroom if he needed to go. Simpson said he felt the directive was coming from Landrum but was led to believe that Van Galder had “some friends in the department.”
Simpson said he escorted Van Galder to the restroom but that Van Galder told him he knew his way back to Landrum’s office. Simpson admitted he left him in the restroom and went back to the control office.
When asked what the biggest issues with this were, Simpson bluntly said, “That he could walk right out the back door.” Another issue he said was that Van Galder was not on camera, so he was not being monitored and if he had a medical issue, no one would know.
“On one of the evenings, Simpson saw on the monitor Van Galder walking out of Landrum’s office,” the investigators wrote.
Simpson told investigators Van Galder exited into the courtyard, but was only there a minute or two before he returned inside.
Van Galder’s wife also stopped by Landrum’s office twice while Van Galder was there, according to the investigation, when visitors are not allowed at the jail.
Van Galder claims he didn't leave the property. Audio from the investigation captures Van Galder saying he stayed the full three days.
“If I’d gone to County, I would have been out in 31 hours because that’s the way the system works,” he told the investigator.
Records show he was released from the premises two hours early, before he had served his full sentence.
However, Sergeant Don Vogel faxed a document to the Gilbert Municipal Court showing Van Galder fulfilled his sentence.
“To me they treated me very professional and I appreciated it,” Van Galder told the investigator.
Monetary gifts for Van Galder’s stay in Scottsdale
As a token of his appreciation, Van Galder wrote each of the jail employees a thank you note with a gift card enclosed, according to the internal affairs report. A week later, he hand delivered the notes to Keilich in the jail parking lot.
Landrum's card read, "Thanks for coordinating everything last week and letting me use your office," and included a $50 gift card.
Vogel's card said, "Thank you for all the hospitality you showed me during my ‘visit.’”
Keilich threw his card away, but kept the $25 gift certificate to De Falco's Italian Deli.
Vogel and Keilich used most of one of the gift cards to buy lunch before the story came to light.
All three turned over the gift cards during the investigation.
Ciolli said he didn't receive any gifts but told the investigators Van Galder said he'd “take him out for a drink or something like that.”
The Scottsdale jail employees became nervous after 12 News demanded video to determine whether Van Galder fulfilled his jail sentence.
The smoking gun: text messages.
In a series of messages revealed in the investigation, Keilich warned Vogel the situation was about to blow up in their faces.
Vogel: “Jeff just called me and was asking questions bout [sic] our confinement from a few wks ago.”
Keilich: “They want video so he is stressed out."
Vogel: “Can u call me?"
Keilich then told Vogel not to use his gift card if he hadn’t already.
Vogel: “Wasn't planning on it now…”
Employees pay for their actions
Rodbell said the employees will be held accountable for their actions.
“We're gonna make sure we take decisive action and correct this so it doesn't happen again in the future,” he said.
In the end, discipline was meted out.
Ciolli was suspended for 40 hours without pay for using poor judgment by not giving direction to Detention Manager Landrum, by informing him that “we absolutely cannot do that” referring to putting Van Galder in his office and for failing to inform Commander Aaron Minor of the issues related to Van Galder’s confinement.
Landrum was demoted to detention sergeant but never returned to work after the initiation of the investigation and officially retired on Nov. 4.
Vogel and Keilich were demoted from sergeants to detention officers.
Sergeant David Simpson was formally disciplined with a written reprimand in his personnel file, records show. Investigators found that he exercised poor judgment and failed to maintain the safety and security of not only Van Galder, and not maintaining 24-hour supervision of all detainees.
Ongoing impact of 12 News investigation
The findings from the internal affairs investigation are being reviewed by the Phoenix City Attorney's Office to determine if the misconduct by certain City of Scottsdale employees warrants a criminal investigation.
The Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir and Tempe City Manager Andrew Ching have agreed to do a separate review of Scottsdale’s detention facility policies, procedures and practices. Rodbell met with Tempe officials on Nov. 29. The review is expected to be done by the end of the year.
Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane and the City Council asked the city manager and city attorney for these reviews.
“The fact that it wasn't uncovered by our staff here by our own police department or other mechanisms we have in the city that might uncover these kinds of things we are now working with a little different environment,” Lane said.
Lane praised the 12 News investigation that uncovered this situation.
“Your investigation and what you've done has done a service really for the community as far as making sure that in this day and age when there is greater concern for any inequities of people holding themselves over the law and or inequities in the enforcement of that law is a prime issue of concern,” said Lane.
Wolfe pointed out that the Gilbert police officers who arrested Van Galder understood that police shouldn’t be treated differently than anyone else in trouble with the law, but that wasn’t true of the Scottsdale employees.
“Each department has its own culture and expectations. In this case, that culture and those expectations have proven to be less than professional and damaging to the image of the department and officers,” Wolfe wrote.
Van Galder might not see the 12 News investigation as justified or a service to the community. He said 12 News had an ax to grind.
“That reporter has basically made my life hell. She showed up at my house. She showed up at my work. She showed up at court,” he said.
In addition, Van Galder’s wife, who is a Mesa police homicide detective, is under an internal affairs investigation.
Teresa Van Galder is accused of bringing disrepute to her department after being in our investigative reports, according to the Mesa Police Department’s notice of investigation. She is also accused of visiting her husband in Landrum’s office without permission from jail staff. On one of those visits, she was on duty, supposed to attend an autopsy, and traveling in a city vehicle – allegedly all for personal benefit.
According to Mesa Police Sergeant Diana Williams, the investigation is complete but is waiting for command to review it, which usually takes three to six weeks.
Ciolli is adjunct faculty at Northern Arizona University currently teaching an online course in justice studies. Upon reviewing the matter, a spokesperson for NAU issued the following statement:
"Upon examination of his credentials, his teaching performance and the fact that he is still a commander with the Scottsdale Police Department Bruce Ciolli is teaching an online course for Northern Arizona University."
Van Galder’s court saga continues
Last week, Van Galder was supposed to return to face Gilbert Municipal Court Presiding Judge John Hudson.
Hudson is the judge who sentenced him to three consecutive days in jail.
The appearance was scheduled after Bohland moved to revoke Van Galder’s probation due to the fact he spent his time outside of confinement in Scottsdale.
But Van Galder didn’t appear in the courtroom. His defense attorney Jeff Van Norman told the judge Van Galder was in a side room.
Van Norman immediately took issue with our presence in the courtroom.
“The media is in the courtroom. I was never notified of that. So I think I have the right to object to that before,” he said in court.
“You can certainly object but it's a public courtroom so they have a right to be here,” said Hudson.
While Van Galder sat in a side room, his attorney questioned whether we were allowed to be present.
“Did they already get prior permission from the court?” Van Norman asked.
In fact, Judge Hudson had previously given 12 News permission to be there.
With our camera in the courtroom, Van Galder ducked the camera to keep his face from being shown. The judge did not force Van Galder to appear; they continued the probation violation hearing to January 12.
Hudson still has to decide whether Van Galder will have to go back to jail or if he has served his time the way Hudson intended.
We reached out to Van Galder and Van Norman, but they declined to comment.
Williams from Mesa PD said the department couldn’t comment on the ongoing investigation into Teresa Van Galder.