73

Pursuit for Truth About Anderson Police Chief’s Paid Leave Plagued by Lack of Transparency

A News Café received multiple tips in recent weeks that Anderson Police Department’s Chief of Police Jon Poletski was placed on leave, and his peace officer powers were suspended.

In the search for answers regarding Chief Poletski, this reporter dug in, only to be stonewalled by the APD while in pursuit of the truth. Here’s a timeline and outcome of the investigation.

  • Contacted the Anderson Police Department by phone on Tuesday, Feb. 20. Asked if allegations about Chief Poletski’s absense were true. An APD employee working in the Records Division said that if Chief Poletski was put on leave with his peace officer powers suspended, it was not information available to the public. The APD Records Division employee volunteered that Chief Poletski was “not in the building.”

Anderson Police Chief Jon Poletski. Source: Facebook.

That APD Records Division employee recommended A News Cafe email APD Captain Nathan Ramirez to ask whether Chief Poletski had been placed on leave.

  • Still on Feb. 20, A News Cafe emailed Capt. Ramirez with the question about Poletski’s employment status at APD. About 20 minutes later Capt. Ramirez said that he had forwarded A News Cafe’s inquiry about Chief Poletski’s APD standing to Joey Forseth-Deshais, Anderson City Manager.

In the meantime, A News Cafe sent a second email to Capt. Ramirez to share that the City Manager’s office had not responded.

City Manager fails to respond
  • On Feb. 22, after two days of not receiving an email response from the Anderson City Manager’s Office, A News Cafe again contacted the City Manager’s office. This time, a staff person who answered the phone said Forseth-Deshais was available, and transferred the call to his office. However, Forseth-Deshais did not answer the phone, and the call went to his voicemail where A News Cafe left a voicemail message asking about Chief Poletski and his job with APD.

Anderson City Manager Joey Forseth-Deshais

  • The same day, A News Cafe emailed Capt. Ramirez and asked Capt. Ramirez why, as second-in-command at the APD, Ramirez needed to refer relatively simple questions about the police chief to the City Manager’s office.

Capt. Ramirez replied with the same sentence as before: “I have forwarded this email to the city manager’s office.”

Another call to APD
  • Friday Feb. 23, A News Cafe contacted the APD Records Division office again and asked if Chief Poletski was available to speak on the phone. Similar to what was said earlier that week, the APD employee said Chief Poletski was “not in the building.”

“I am not positive when he will be back,” added the APD employee. The APD employee also said Chief Poletski was not scheduled to work the weekend, and that she did not know if Chief Poletski would be available on Monday, Feb. 27 because the work schedule for that week had yet to be released.

After the APD Records Division employee was asked about Chief Poletski’s availability and work schedule, she asked, “What are you getting at?”

The APD employee was asked, as in the previous call to APD, if Chief Poletski had been placed on leave.

“I was told to refer everyone to Capt. Ramirez” she said.

Top Image: Then-Anderson Police Chief Michael Johnson (left) and Capt. Nathan Ramirez standing in front of the Anderson City Council (right); Bottom Left: Chief Jon Poletski and Capt. Ramirez; Bottom Right: Capt. Ramirez. Source: Facebook.

When asked why she was instructed to refer everyone to Capt. Ramirez, the APD employee said she was just doing her job.

Also on Feb. 23, called Forseth-Deshais for a second time. A message was left after the call went straight to Forseth-Deshais’s voicemail.

North State news station breaks the story

On Monday, Feb. 26, the Chico-based news outlet Action News Now first broke the story that Anderson City Manager Forseth-Deshais finally responded to multiple phone calls from Action News to tell the news agency that Chief Poletski was on leave, but still employed by the APD.

Action News also reported that a front office APD employee told Action News that Capt. Ramirez was working in the capacity of interim chief for the APD.

APD later disputed the Action News Now report that Capt. Ramirez was working in the capacity as interim chief, and clarified that Ramirez was working as the acting chief, not interim chief.

The difference between “interim chief” and “acting chief” is significant. An “interim chief” is an appointed law enforcement official who serves as chief on a temporary basis before being replaced by the next police chief, or until they are promoted into the full chief position.

An “acting chief,” on the other hand, is someone who was appointed to perform the chief’s duties in the Chief’s absence.

A News Café reached out to Capt. Ramirez to ask when he assumed the role of acting APD chief, but he did not respond.

A News Café is awaiting a response to a public records request sent to the APD seeking records regarding the appointment of Capt. Ramirez to acting chief.

Still in search of the truth
  • On the evening of Monday, Feb. 26, following the publication of the Action News story about Chief Poletski,A News Cafe sent emails regarding Chief Poletski’s APD work status to: Shasta County Sheriff Michael Johnson, Anderson Mayor and City Councilmember Stan Neutze, Anderson Vice Mayor and City Councilmember Melissa Hunt, and Anderson City councilmembers Susie Baugh, Dan Gallier, and Mike Gallagher.

The Anderson city officials and Shasta County Sheriff Michael Johnson did not respond.

Left to right: Former Anderson Mayor Baron Browning, City Councilmember Susie Baugh, APD Chief Jon Poletski, City Councilmember Melissa Hunt, and City Councilmember Mike Gallagher.

  • On Feb. 26, A News Cafe emailed Capt. Ramirez and asked for confirmation of Action News’s report that Ramirez was serving as the APD’s interim chief. Capt. Ramirez did not respond.
  • The following day A News Cafe left voicemails for Anderson Mayor Stan Neutze, and Anders City councilmember Susie Baugh. Neither responded.
APD refuses to identity its police chief
  • The same day –a week after the first call to the APD–  after leaving unanswered voicemail messages for the mayor and the city councilmembers, A News Cafe called APD Records Division for a third time seeking information about Chief Poletski’s whereabouts and APD work status.

The APD Records Division employee who answered the phone said they refused to answer any questions, including the question as to who was currently working as the APD chief.

The APD employee also declined to confirm whether Capt. Ramirez was working as the interim chief. The APD employee added that staff was told by a higher authority to not answer any questions about Chief Poletski.

Who’s calling the shots?

After the APD Records Division employee refused to identify APD’s acting chief, A News Cafe asked who directed staff to not answer any questions regarding the APD chief position, or details about Chief Poletski’s unexplained absence.

The APD Records Division employee declined to answer any further questions. Then, as had happened the previous week, the APD employee referred A News Café to the City Manager’s office.

When the APD Records Division employee was informed that the City Manager’s office had failed to reply to several emails and phone messages throughout the previous week, she replied, “I am sorry for any inconvenience,” and hung up.

City manager finally responds

Less than an hour after the Feb. 27 call to the APD Records Division — one week after he was first contacted by A News Cafe — Anderson City Manager Forseth-Deshais finally responded with a brief email that contained few details:

“The City wants to make it clear that Anderson Police Chief Jon Poletski remains an employee of the City and he is currently on leave,” wrote Forseth-Deshais. “Any reports to the contrary are unequivocally false. Captain Nathan Ramirez is the Acting Police Chief during the leave period.”

In a follow-up email, A News Cafe asked Forseth-Deshais if Chief Poletski’s powers as a peace officer were suspended. Forseth-Deshais did not reply.

Chief Poletski could be on paid leave for any number of things, including an investigation surrounding allegations of misconduct, medical leave, personal leave, family leave or training.

About Jon Poletski

Chief’s Poletski’s salary as recently as 2022 equaled $217,554, with total pay and benefits in 2022 equaling $314,792.

In 2020, Chief Poletski’s predecessor as the APD Chief — current Shasta County Sheriff Michael Johnson — took home a salary as the APD Chief that equaled $174,133.20. Sheriff Johnson’s total pay and benefits as the then-APD Chief in 2020 equaled $264,651.31.

The City of Anderson continues to pay Chief Poletski’s salary and benefits while he is on paid leave.

Poletski was named APD’s interim chief in August of 2021. He replaced Michael Johnson after the Shasta County Board of Supervisors appointed Johnson to serve as the Shasta County Sheriff. In September of 2021, with the support of Sheriff Michael Johnson, the Anderson City Council unanimously voted Poletski into the full position as APD chief.

Shasta County Sheriff Michael Johnson (left) and Jon Poletski at the August of 2021 event where the latter was named APD’s interim chief of police.

The swearing in of Chief Poletski as the full APD chief in September of 2021. Top: Chief Poletski with Shasta County Sheriff Michael Johnson; Bottom: Chief Poletski with APD officers.

Chief Poletski sworn in as the official APD chief in September of 2021.

Sheriff Michael Johnson and Chief Poletski are personal friends who have gone hunting together. Both men started their careers as police officers with the Eureka Police Department.

APD Chief Jon Poletski and Shasta County Sheriff Michael Johnson on a hunting excursion.

Sheriff Johnson worked for the EPD from 1996 to 2007. Chief Poletski worked for the EPD between roughly 2000 and 2005 after serving in the United States Air Force for four years.

Poletski in the United States Air Force. Source: Facebook

Poletski joins Redding Police Department

Like so many other law enforcement officials in Northern California, Poletski has worked in a variety of law enforcement positions in different areas. In 2005, Chief Poletski left his job with the EPD and accepted a position as a police officer with the Redding Police Department.

While with RPD, Chief Poletski eventually rose to the rank of captain.

Chief Poletski kills Redding resident during struggle

The APD’s placing of Chief Poletski on paid leave is the not the first time a law enforcement agency has placed Chief Poletski on leave.

In June of 2012, the RPD placed then-Capt. Poletski on paid administrative leave for firing fatal shots while on duty during a struggle with 19-year-old Scott Joseph Deen. Deen was suspected of siphoning gas from vehicles in the parking lot at the Win River Casino in Redding.

Deen allegedly resisted arrest and was brandishing a knife.

Poletski approached Deen in the Win River Casino parking lot with three other RPD officers.

Poletski was the only RDP officer to fire at Deen during the incident between Deen and the RPD officers. The autopsy performed on Deen reportedly said Deen died from a gunshot wound to the chest fired by Poletski.

Deen vs. the City of Redding

In 2014, in response to her son’s death, Kimberly Deen, Scott Joseph Deen’s mother, filed a wrongful death civil rights lawsuit against RPD Police Chief Rob Paoletti, the City of Redding, Poletski, and additional officers who’d been on the scene when Deen was killed by Poletski.

The lawsuit alleged Poletski and the other officers used excessive force against Deen that resulted in his death. The lawsuit also alleged that Deen was unnecessarily detained by the RPD officers.

Vicki Sarmiento, the Los Angeles attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Scott Joseph Deen Estate, offered a different set of detailed events that led to Deen’s death than that provided by the RPD.

A News Café reached out to Sarmiento’s law office to request information regarding the outcome of the lawsuit due to a lack of online records, but Sarmiento’s office has not yet responded.

Poletski, however, rejoined the RPD after he was placed on administrative leave for killing Deen. He worked for the RPD until he was appointed to work as  APD’s interim chief.

With the killing of Deen, Poletski joined Shasta County Sheriff Michael Johnson on the list of law enforcement officials in Northern California who have killed people while on duty.

As previously reported by Doni Chamberlain of A News Café, Johnson fired lethal shots at two people in 2006 while working as an EPD Sergeant. In one instance, then-Sgt. Johnson fired on Cheri Len Moore a Eureka resident suffering from a mental health episode on the anniversary of her daughter’s suicide. Fellow-EPD officer Rocky Harpham also fired his weapon at Moore. Harpham’s father was the EPD chief when Moore was killed.

Eight months after Moore’s death, then-Sgt. Johnson was involved in a second fatal shooting after a log standoff at a Eureka motel.

Then Sgt-Johnson left the EPD in 2007, accepting a position to work as the Ione, California, chief of police. In 2012, The Anderson City Council hired Johnson to work as the APD chief. Harpham, Johnson’s former fellow-EPD officer, stepped into Johnson’s position in Ione until 2013 when Johnson hired Harpham to work as a Lieutenant at the APD.

Harpham left his job at the APD in 2019 and moved to Arizona. Most recent information about Harpham reports that he currently works as a security guard at Lucid Motors in Phoenix.

APD Chief Jon Poletski and Sheriff Michael Johnson after work hours.

Poletski reviews high-profile RPD press release

While working as a Captain with the RPD, Poletski was tied to details questioned by the public yet again when the RPD shared that he reviewed the RPD press release issued on May 17, 2021 regarding the battery investigation on local activist Nathan Pinkney.

The incident leading to the RPD battery investigation occurred on May 5, 2021 when Pinkney was confronted at the Market Street Blade & Barrell restaurant and bar in downtown Redding where he worked.

Pinkney was confronted by Carlos Zapata, along with Zapata’s friends Christopher Meagher and Elizabeth Bailey.

Pinkney, who was targeted due to satirical political content he shared on social media that mocked the right-wing community in Shasta County, including Zapata, was assaulted by Meagher and Bailey during the encounter. Both Meagher and Bailey were later convicted of battery. Zapata was convicted of disturbing the peace while fighting.

Zapata is best known as a local alt-right podcaster and owner of the propaganda media company Red, White and Blueprint. Zapata is also recognized as the owner of the Palomino Room restaurant in Red Bluff.

As previously reported by A News Café, the RPD waited nearly two weeks to publish the press release for the public to view regarding the attack on Pinkney. It was written by RPD Sgt. Bob Garnero, and reviewed by then-RPD Capt. Poletski. It was later determined that the press release contained several false statements.

Poletski confirms inaccuracies

In a June of 2021 story, two journalists working for the Los Angeles Times reported that then-Capt. Poletski confirmed the RPD press release regarding the attack on Pinkney that he personally reviewed contained inaccuracies.

The quest for the truth regarding what happened to APD Police Chief Jon Poletski continues. It took one week to receive confirmation that APD Chief Jon Poletski was on leave, and still considered an Anderson city employee, and that Capt. Ramirez was serving as acting chief in Poletski’s place.

On the surface, it seems like it should be easy for the APD and the City of Anderson to answer questions about Chief Poletski’s status with the APD. However, obtaining detailed answers has proved to be timely, complicated and  unfruitful.

In the pursuit for the truth about Chief Poletski’s current status with the APD, A News Cafe and other media have run into a solid blue wall of silence that shielded the APD and the City of Anderson from being fully transparent to the public.

Stay tuned for more news to come regarding Chief Poletski’s ongoing status with the APD.

Editor’s note: The original version of this story incorrectly stated that Jon Poletski served in the U.S. Marine Corp. He was in the U.S. Air Force. We regret the error. 

If you appreciate Shawn Schwaller’s reporting, Please consider a contribution to A News Cafe. Thank you!

Shawn Schwaller

Opinion writer and reporter Shawn Schwaller grew up in Red Bluff, California. He is an assistant professor in the History Department at California State University, Chico and holds a Ph.D. in history and an M.A. in American studies. Schwaller specializes in North State stories about law-enforcement corruption and far-right politics. He can be reached at schwaller.anewscafe@yahoo.com and welcomes your story tips.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

73 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments