- Associated Press - Saturday, July 12, 2014
Suspect in suitcase deaths had unethical side job

MILWAUKEE (AP) - The suspect in the deaths of two women whose bodies were found in suitcases dumped on a rural Wisconsin road stalked women while working as a police officer - and tried to sell them cellular service in a side job that ethics experts said abused his authority.

Steven Zelich, 52, held at least three side jobs while working for the West Allis Police Department, according to personnel files released this week. One of those enterprises was a partnership with another office in cell phone service sales. Women told officers during an internal investigation that Zelich would hand out business cards and promote his service while on duty. One said he had even asked to see her cell phone bill, saying it would tell him how much she could save by switching services.

Police said the case represents abuse of power and provides a warning about what can happen when departments fail to establish and enforce policies against conflicts of interest and misuse of authority. Several agencies said they didn’t track complaints tied to side jobs, and officials said they thought such instances were rare. But Greg Peterson, president of the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Accreditation Group, which sets standards for police agencies, said the lack of numbers also reflects a lack of awareness.

“I think it’s not on the radar,” said Peterson, the police chief in Grand Chute. “Now, that’s not to say there are problems that have gone undetected. But I think that the potential exists for problems to emerge.”

Agencies accredited by his group must have policies requiring officers to obtain permission in advance for any outside work and outlining acceptable employment, documentation and review procedures. Twenty Wisconsin agencies, including the West Allis Police Department, are currently accredited.

West Allis Police Chief Charles Padgett was a detective when Zelich was forced to resign following an internal investigation in 2001. He couldn’t recall the policy back then but said today he must approve any outside work.

“We look for any kind of potential conflict,” Padgett said. And, he added, “If it’s affecting their work here, we investigate it.”


West Allis police chief discusses suitcase deaths

MILWAUKEE (AP) - The police chief in West Allis says it seems like there were clear warning signs about a former police officer now suspected the deaths of two women whose bodies were found in suitcases dumped along a rural road about 50 miles away.

But Chief Charles Padgett says the signs of coming violence are only clear in hindsight.

Padgett was a detective when Steven Zelich was forced to resign following a 2001 internal investigation that determined Zelich has been stalking women while on duty.

Padgett says the violent end to Zelich’s “very unique” story has saddened his department.

He says he and other officers keep thinking about the families of the women who died. He says he feels for them and the loss they are trying to deal with.


Madison stadium to be site of bomb simulation

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Authorities plan to simulate a bomb attack in or around Camp Randall stadium next week as part of the largest emergency-response simulation the state has ever seen.

The exercise Thursday near downtown Madison will involve more than 400 people from 20 agencies. The goal is to test how well police, hospitals and first responders coordinate during a mass-casualty emergency.

“We’re going to make this as realistic as possible,” said Marc Lovicott, a spokesman for University of Wisconsin-Madison police. “People will be made up to look like real victims, there’ll be a real tactical response. We’re really trying to test everything - see what we’re doing well, what we need to improve.”

Law enforcement agencies, hospitals and others conduct exercises to make sure they’re ready to handle crisis situations. They discuss their plans verbally, set up staging areas to practice specific skills and assemble large-scale simulations like this.

Simulated emergencies are common at airports and other places where large numbers of people gather. Lovicott said he believed this is the first time a crisis simulation was being conducted at a Wisconsin sporting venue.

Neighbors are being warned about the event, which will start around 7 a.m. with the sound of an exploding bomb rumbling through the stadium. Authorities will try to apprehend at least one individual, Lovicott said, and fire officials may have to respond to imaginary fires.

Responders aren’t being told much more than that, and will have to figure things out on the fly, he said.


Tree harvest up but advocates want more changes

APPLETON, Wis. (AP) - The amount of timber harvested from the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest rose 6 percent last year, but some sawmill owners and others who want to maintain or even increase the harvest say the region’s struggling economy needs more help.

Some 63.2 million board feet of wood were cut last year, up from 59.7 million board feet the previous year, Post-Crescent Media reported (https://post.cr/1y9aSM7https://post.cr/1y9aSM7 ). The increase has given the regional economy a boost, but not everyone is pleased with the modest pace of progress.

Edward Piontek, who owns the Forest Sawmill in Wabeno, said the increase in harvesting has been enough to keep his four employees busy, but it’s not enough to justify hiring more workers. His sawmill once had more than 30 workers.

Forestry officials expect another modest increase in the volume of this year’s timber harvest. But Piontek said he’s given up hope that the industry will ever bounce back in a meaningful way.

“There’s no future in it anymore,” he said.

The 1.5 million-acre forest is under federal control. Two Republican congressmen have proposed bills that would allow the state to increase how much timber is harvested - measures opposed by environmental groups that don’t want to see the lands overharvested.

U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy of Wausau introduced one of the bills in May. It mandates that the U.S. Forest Service hit its annual allowable sale quantity or else forfeit management resources to state agencies.



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