Update: Deputy demoted after arrestA St. Croix County deputy has been demoted and suspended without pay following an OWI arrest last week.
By: Jon Echternacht, Hudson Star-Observer
A St. Croix County deputy has been demoted and suspended without pay following an OWI arrest last week.
Sheriff Dennis Hillstead said Monday that Mike Winberg, 36, was demoted from patrol captain to lieutenant and suspended for 30 days without pay after Hillstead reviewed the incident Friday.
Hillstead said it was a tough decision and the penalties are harsh but he added, “Law enforcement is and should be held to a higher standard.”
Winberg was arrested for OWI in Grand Chute in the northeast part of the state about 10:30 p.m. May 4. He was driving a county-owned car to a week-long management seminar in Appleton, the sheriff said.
“He was held in the Outagamie County Jail for about 10 hours,” said Hillstead. St. Croix County sheriff’s personnel traveled to Grand Chute Monday to bring back Winberg and the car.
Winberg was immediately placed on paid administrative leave pending a review of the incident according to state statute, the sheriff said. He said Grand Chute authorities notified him about 1 a.m. May 5.
“You live in a glass house when you become a law enforcement officer and a lot of people want to throw rocks at it,” said Hillstead.
Winberg was promoted to patrol captain last July and was the youngest deputy to take over the position. The town of Forest native started with the sheriff’s department as a full-time employee in 1993.
“It was a tough call to make. Mike has done very well as a deputy. You have to weigh a moment of stupidity against a number of years of good service. In the end, I made the decision that was best for the department,” he said.
The sheriff said the result is costly for Winberg, in terms of the demotion to a lower salary and 30 days without pay, and he will have to prove himself to his fellow officers.
The incident was a much discussed topic on a Rivertowns Newspaper Web site blog that prompted a response from Winberg this week.
The deputy took responsibility for his actions and tried to set the record straight in response to bloggers who suggested he got special treatment.
“I spent 12 hours in the Outagamie County jail as an inmate. I was treated like any other individual who would have committed the same violation,” he wrote.
“I do not believe that anyone in law enforcement should be given any more consideration for infractions than any other member of the community. I have not been given any,” Winberg said.
“I have served the department and the community since 1990. I plan to go forward admitting what I did was wrong and accepting the penalties set forth because of my conduct. I am very apologetic for my behavior and for the position I placed the Sheriff’s Department in. I apologize to the community as a whole and look forward to rebuilding the trust I once had with everyone,” Winberg concluded.