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Hudson officer’s resignation followed misconduct

A former Hudson police officer resigned this year after he admitted to using police resources for nearly 100 sexual encounters and spending about half his work-time making personal phone calls, according to data released by police.

Eight-year department veteran John Worden signed a resignation agreement May 3 — about two weeks after he admitted to violating numerous policies, according to documents released last month by the Hudson Police Department. Worden’s last day was May 13.

In an internal investigation summary, Hudson Police Lt. Geoff Willems concluded that Worden spent an estimated four to six hours of every 10-hour shift using his department-issued phone for personal use.

Worden also falsified daily work logs 146 times; exhibited conduct unbecoming an officer by having sex an estimated 98 times while on duty; failed to meet department performance expectations; and lied to a supervisor about how he spent his time at work, according to Willems’ summary of violations.

Worden, reached last week by phone, said he stands accountable for the misconduct and that he is paying the price for his mistakes. He said he no longer works in law enforcement and likely won’t again.

“I screwed up,” Worden said in an interview. “I’m sorry, and I’m not that person anymore — and I lost my job for it.

“It was a mistake. I hurt a lot of people and it’s ruined my life.”

He added that he was troubled that information about the misconduct was brought to the attention of the media.

“I don’t think it’s fair,” he said, “and I don’t get to know who did that to me.”

Hudson Police Chief Marty Jensen issued the following statement in response to questions from the Star-Observer.

“On April 15, 2016 the Hudson Police Department received a citizen’s complaint alleging officer misconduct against Hudson Police Officer John Worden. Because of the seriousness of the complaint an internal investigation was initiated and Officer Worden was placed on administrative leave that same day. Based on the findings of the internal investigation Officer Worden was asked to resign from the Hudson Police Department.”

Jensen said he was forced to resign — rather than be fired — to spare the city the potentially protracted process of going through the Hudson Police and Fire Commission while Worden stayed on the payroll.

“It saves the taxpayers a lot of money,” Jensen said.

A May 4 letter from Jensen to the original complainant thanked her for coming forward.

“I take these allegations very seriously and I want to assure you that this type of behavior will not be tolerated,” states the letter obtained through a Star-Observer public records request.

Worden’s resignation brought an end to a Hudson police career that began in 2008. Until the misconduct report surfaced, Worden’s tenure with the force was marked with accolades; his file included nine memos of appreciation from the department and two letters of commendation. Worden was also the 2009 recipient of the department’s Life Saving Award.

His annual salary was $63,000 at the time of his resignation, according to the resignation agreement.

Misconduct reports

According to the internal investigation:

Worden had told Willems March 10 that he was being stalked by a woman “thinking the two of them could be involved in a romantic relationship,” the investigative summary states. Worden claimed at the time that he needed to take a week off work to sort out “family issues” that resulted from the incident.

The report goes on to state that Willems became critical of Worden’s story due to his personal relationship history. Willems and Worden met the next day, when he reiterated the stalking allegation and said the woman was making fictitious claims about a romantic relationship over Facebook. He denied being in a relationship with the woman.

Willems was contacted March 23 by St. Croix County’s victim-witness coordinator, who said a woman — whose name was redacted from reports released to the Star Observer — was seeking information about obtaining a restraining order against an unnamed officer. That was followed by an April 8 email sent to Jensen by a woman who alleged officer misconduct; that name was also redacted.

“The accusations set forth in the email explain that one of the HPD officers had used his position in a very unorthodox manner, using HPD resources to bait women,” according to the investigative summary.

Worden’s story contrasted with details gleaned from a woman who filed a citizen’s complaint with the department April 15 saying she was involved in sexual activity with Worden while he was on duty.

She said in the complaint that the relationship lasted from June 2015 to February 2016.

In an interview with Hudson police, the woman said she would talk and text Worden several times each night he worked over his police-issued phone. She estimated that “thousands” of texts were exchanged during the time period.

The relationship “did not take long” to turn sexual, the woman said, telling police she and Worden would meet at Kings Landing on Second Street in Hudson. She said sexual activity occurred inside and outside of the Hudson police SUV Worden drove.

That activity continued at the woman’s Hudson house by October 2015. In every single instance, the encounters occurred while Worden was on duty between 12:30 a.m. and 3:30 a.m.

“(The woman) stated she estimates the two of them met for sex 80-100 times during this time frame and about half of those times, was at Kings Landing in, on or around a squad car,” the investigative summary states.

‘Only … while I was on duty’

The woman admitted that part of her reason for coming forward was because she was hurt by the relationship coming to an end. However, she said she was also fearful that Worden could use his position as an officer to “really make her life miserable,” the report states.

Worden was placed on administrative leave April 15 pending the investigation.

Willems reviewed Worden’s daily work logs from June 2015 to February 2016 and had data pulled from the department-issued phone he used. Several thousand text messages and phone calls were found each month that were placed to four numbers. Willems noted that “there was minimal activity” on the squad cellphone during days Worden wasn’t working.

“Thinking back to my conversations in early March with Officer Worden regarding (the woman), these phone records did not support his claims that she was stalking him,” Willems wrote in the report.

Worden, accompanied by the Hudson Police Union president and the Wisconsin Professional Police Association business agent, was interviewed April 20.

In the interview with Willems, Worden admitted to having a sexual relationship with the complainant — and made clear the activity did not occur on his personal time.

“I only saw her or spoke to her while I was on duty,” Worden said to Willems, the report states, noting that he exclusively used police equipment “to avoid getting caught” by his significant other.

Worden’s statement to Willems largely corroborated the allegations laid out by the woman about sex on duty. He said he did not enter his time with the woman on his work log, but considered the interludes part of his break time.

Willems later concluded that led to 146 falsified daily logs.

Worden told Willems that he made efforts during the encounters to be ready if an emergency was called out. That included keeping his police radio on, he said.

“Worden stated the safety of his coworkers was paramount, so he didn’t want to let his coworkers down by missing a call or not being able to get to them if they needed help,” the report states.

Worden admitted to contacting two other women regularly on his department-issued phone, but said those relationships were platonic.

Willems added up the time spent talking and texting all three women on any given work night and concluded it represents four to six hours each shift.

“That’s 40-60 percent of his work shift,” Willems wrote.

The investigation also concluded that Worden underperformed his duties during the time frame of the misconduct. During 2015, Worden issued 25 traffic tickets and made 27 criminal arrests. He denied Willems’ notion that his work performance was impacted by the amount of personal time spent during his shifts. Rather, it was more about him feeling “poorly about what he was doing that caused the numbers to be so low,” the report states.

Worden admitted to Willems that he “screwed up” and vowed that he had changed himself through his faith.

“Worden stated he understands he put his job and family in jeopardy with his past activity, and this will never happen again,” Willems wrote.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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