Holcomb Police Chief Charged w/ Interference; Chooses Diversion Program

Holcomb Police Chief Tony Forsen, 41, has opted for the diversion program in connection to the charge that he gave false information while off duty to sheriff’s deputies after being involved as a passenger in a “possible DUI” accident back on June 16th. The Finney County Sheriff’s Office provided the attorney’s office with the arrest affidavity detailing the circumstances surrounding the police chief.

According to the affidavit, Forsen was off duty when he was involved in the accident on June 16th. Forsen was riding passenger in a 2008 Honda Accord driven by 25-year-old Sarah Dawn Claar of Scott City. On June 16 around 11:30 at night, Claar was driving westbound on River Road when she inexplicably veered off into a ditch and hit a utility pole causing her vehicle to roll over. According to the sheriff’s report the vehicle was totaled and Claar was transported to St. Catherine Hospital for treatment. No other injuries were reported. The report also indicated that there were no other passengers.

Finney County Sheriff’s Office is now alleging that the police chief, Forsen, purposely and intentionally gave deputies false information as to how he arrived on the scene. He gave “several false statements and told [the] driver of the vehicle not to tell deputies he was a passenger in the vehicle at the time of the accident.”

Why did he not want the other officers to know that he was in the vehicle at the time of the accident and what was he doing with Claar at 11:30 at night?

The Garden City Telegram reports:

The Finney County Attorney’s Office filed a misdemeanor charge of interference with a law enforcement officer against Forsen, who has since reached a diversion agreement with specially appointed prosecutor Scott County Attorney Rebecca Faurot that effectively acts as a conviction in the eyes of commissioners for the Kansas Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, an agency with the power to revoke Forsen’s license.

Under the diversion agreement, Forsen can’t violate any federal, state or local laws for 12 months, including traffic violations resulting in tickets, according to court documents. He also is required to remain in Kansas over the course of the next year, complete 24 hours of community service and pay $808 in fines. If he can complete each of those things within the 12-month diversion period, the charge will be dismissed.

Forsen’s integrity, not only as an officer but moreso as the police chief, has been called into question. What purpose did it serve Forsen to hide his presence unless of course he was doing something that called into question his ability to be truthful and honest? Was Forsen married and having an affair? Was there alcohol in his system at the time of the accident? What was Forsen hiding and in choosing the diversion program over the trial what public humiliation or scrutiny is he avoiding?

According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, all law enforcement officers are required to recite an oath of integrity before they can assume their duties. The oath reads:

“On my honor, I will never betray my badge, my integrity, my character or the public trust. I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions. I will always uphold the constitution, my community, and the agency I serve.”

Forsen’s actions have apparently transgressed the oath he took when he was first sworn in as an officer. He’s been given a slap on the wrist in regards to giving fraudulent testimony to an officer of the law and further details are provided as to what Forsen was doing with Claar in the first place. His false statements and testimony has compromised Forsen’s credibility as well as police in general in the public’s eye.

Finney County Attorney Susan Richmeier said, “Any time an officer is involved in an incident where their integrity and credibility become an issue, it can result in problems for the prosecution. As prosecutors, whether the officer is on-duty or off-duty is not the issue. The issue is, and will always be, the officer’s integrity and whether or not that officer continues to be believed and trusted by the general public they are employed to serve.”

The city, Mayor Gary Newman, and the city council has declined to serve up any justice in regards to the police chief’s case. All the officials are conveniently brushing off the matter as a personal one and state that no personnel changes need to be made “because it happened off duty.” When pressed about officers’ accountability for their actions while off duty Newman clarified, “It does matter what the officers do off duty. To date, no agency has provided the City of Holcomb with any official information, so for us to take any kind of personnel action without having any facts, we can’t. So the direction and the discretion of the city is that it’s a personal matter.

“Officially we know nothing,” he added. “Unofficially, we have information that was provided to us by Tony. But officially, no agency has provided the city with any information, so for us to take any type of personnel action would be wrong without us having the facts.”

The city reportedly received a copy of the diversion agreement according to city attorney Bill Heydman but he couldn’t recall if the mayor was ever given a copy. The agreement signed by Forsen is in essence his admission of guilt to the charge against him and waives all rights to a speedy arraignment, preliminary examination, speedy trial and trial by jury through his signature — effectively convicting him of the charge against him.

The Kansas Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training executive director Gary Steed called Forsen’s case a “concern to the local agency.” Due to the nature of the crime, Forsen’s credibility is shot should he be called to the stand to testify on any cases.

“The case that he had was diversion,” Steed said. “Diversion counts as the same thing as a conviction under the [Kansas Law Enforcement Training Act], and… has the potential to be a violation of the training act, so it has the potential to have an action taken on a license.”

Forsen is still employed by the police department in his official capacity as police chief.

What do you think should happen to the police chief? What should happen to the local government for choosing to look the other way? What was the police chief doing with Sarah Claar and why did he want to hide how he ended up on the scene?

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