Jackson town manager promises police training after scandal

JACKSON — Jackson’s town manager responded publicly Thursday after a Facebook post by a member of the police department enraged some members of the community who are now making demands for change.

“The content mentioned sex with a minor in a humorous tone, irreverently joking about it,” town manager Larry Pardee wrote in a letter to “Jackson constituents.”

“Being flippant about any crime, but especially assault of a minor, does not align with the Town of Jackson’s values,” he said.

Late last week, Lt. Roger Schultz, second in command at the Jackson Police Department, posted on the agency’s Facebook page about an investigation of a report of an adult having sex with a minor.

“You would think having sex with an underage juvenile would always be a crime,” Schultz wrote. “Not necessarily. There are a number of factors involved in deciding whether to file charges to include the age of those involved. Fortunately, determining the age difference of those involved doesn’t involve complex math, so we should be able to figure it out without too much trouble. Just as long as we have coffee and donuts (the ones with the little sprinkles on top) to get us through.”

In a now-deleted apology, Schultz wrote that the humor was self-deprecating but offensive.

“Like everyone we sometimes make mistakes,” Schultz wrote.

His apology was criticized by some for being tone deaf.

“Neither the original post making light of an alleged rape of an underage girl, nor their statement that followed were appropriate actions,” Town Council candidate Jessica Sell Chambers said in a press release. “The JPD did not demonstrate full accountability or set the record straight that sexual assault is never funny. Their comments are harmful to victims of past and future abuse.”

Town Council candidate Devon Viehman added her comments to the same press release.

“The language used is a reflection of a more systemic problem,” she said. “How will the police ensure us that they understand the gravity of the negative impact their post had on victims and survivors of sexual violence?”

However, in a Monday email to the Town Council, Viehman also said she supports police and that “Jackson Hole is not Minneapolis or Chicago or LA.”

“Our police department holds itself to a higher standard than what we are witnessing in other cities,” she said in the Monday email.

Pardee said in his letter that town staff members want to be a part of the solution.

“We are starting to see how systemic these issues are,” Pardee said, “and even before this incident, the town was in discussion with the Jackson Hole Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Collective about leading dialogues and trainings.”

Pardee said they’ll make good on the promise to work with the group to better understand bias and privilege and the “cultural constructs that perpetuate them.”

He said the town’s entire staff will participate, including the Jackson Police Department.

Calls about whether Pardee is considering personnel changes at the department because of the Facebook post were not returned Thursday.

The Community Safety Network on Thursday afternoon urged survivors of sexual violence to reach out for help at 733-7233 if this series of events has triggered painful memories.