Three Billings Police Department officers were ordered suspended without pay for having sex on city property, Billings Police Chief Rich St. John said.
While investigating a theft of drugs from the department's evidence storage facility by a former employee, information surfaced about sexual relationships between officers and the former employee, St. John said.
The three confirmed incidents occurred from mid-2016 to early 2017, St. John said.
St. John released the name of the former employee involved, but did not release the name of the three officers who were involved, pending a review from the city attorney's office. The Gazette has chosen not to identify the former employee.
One of the incidents occurred in a police car in a private lot and involved an on-duty police officer. That officer was ordered to take a two-week suspension without pay.
The other two incidents occurred in the area of the BPD records storage in the City Hall basement. The on-duty officer involved in one of those was given a two-week suspension without pay. The off-duty officer was given a one-week suspension without pay.
The disciplinary actions were first reported Wednesday by online news outlet Last Best News.
"It basically totally has nothing to do with the theft, the incident at the evidence facility," St. John said, describing the incidents as "separate" and "ancillary."
He said he believed the employee involved with the officers had a clerical job at the time of the incidents and did not begin working for evidence until sometime in 2017.
"This information about the relationships came up during our interviews in investigation," St. John said. "Once that information came to our attention, we followed up and talked to people who had been named."
Six different officers were investigated, and complaints against three of those officers were unfounded, St. John said.
"We're basically talking about no criminal offenses," St. John said. "We're talking about policy violations that fall into moral turpitude. What I disciplined them for is basically rules of conduct, that officers and the general public would not think that this behavior and location specifically would be appropriate."
St. John generally described the officers as patrolmen with between eight and 10 years of experience. Some of the officers have been disciplined previously, but St. John declined to discuss those incidents. He described those involved as "good officers who made very, very poor decisions," and said that they took responsibility and accepted their discipline.
Because of staffing shortages, St. John said he left it up to respective shift commanders to schedule the suspensions.
One of the officers was on light desk duty at the time of the incident, St. John said. He said an investigation into the incidents showed there were no missed calls by the other on-duty officer.
Explaining his thought process behind the ordered suspensions, St. John said he considered disciplinary guidelines and work history, among other factors.
"I look at their work that they have done, whether they're salvageable, the time that's elapsed with this thing," he said. "We have a lot of money invested in these people, and if they're salvageable, we want to do that. I also want them to learn that this isn't acceptable behavior and send a message to the rest of the department that this is unacceptable.
"If people think that 80 hours without pay is too light, you're talking about an entire paycheck for these officers for this transgression," St. John said. "They were all of them remorseful, accepted accountability and responsibility."