ASWSU: WSU PD addresses relationships, lack of community trust

Interim chief Gary Jenkins held discussion regarding recent investigation into sexual misconduct within WSU PD



WSU Police Department interim chief Gary Jenkins said he interviewed staff when he first joined the command staff.


The WSU Police Department attempted to rebuild its relationship with ASWSU during a Senate meeting Wednesday evening after an earlier investigation led to the department’s command staff resigning.

The investigation stemmed from several incidents of sexual misconduct carried out by Sgt. Matt Kuhrt. The department’s former command staff failed to notify the incidents to the office of Compliance and Civil Rights, contrary to university policy, said Gary Jenkins, WSU PD interim chief. 

The negligence and misconduct on behalf of WSU PD stained the department’s reputation with the university, which Jenkins said he intends to fix. He formerly served as Pullman PD chief and planned on retiring before taking on his new role with the university.

“I can tell you the remaining staff are people who are very dedicated to providing professional service at WSU,” Jenkins said. “They all want to do the right thing and not be defined by what happened.”

Kuhrt is accused of having engaged in several instances of sexual misconduct with multiple women while on duty around campus. The incidents took place at the WSU Observatory as well as the president’s suite at Martin Stadium, according to a Daily Evergreen article.

The former command staff which included Chief Bill Gardner, Assistant Chief Steve Hansen and Captain Mike Larsen, lead their own investigation at the time and disciplined Kuhrt as they saw fit, Jenkins said.

However, Kuhrt was not placed on paid administrative leave until March 2022 when other WSU PD staff members bypassed the command staff and filed complaints to WSU’s upper administration. Jenkins said the staff members felt Kuhrt was not held entirely responsible. 

The office of Compliance and Civil Rights held an investigation into Kuhrt’s misconduct and the former command staff’s mishandling of the incidents. Gardner, Hansen and Larsen were all placed on paid leave as well, he said. 

Kuhrt was charged with several Title IX violations while the command staff was also found negligent in handling the case, Jenkins said. WSU’s upper administration gave the command staff two options: face potential termination or retire. 

“Since I’ve been at the police department,” he said, “I’ve interviewed each member of the department individually and found everyone there all believes what was going on is completely unacceptable and embarrassing.”

Jenkins is now assessing the needs of the department. He said they hope to rebuild relationships and trust within the community; reiterating values of accountability, professionalism and transparency.

He said one of the first things he did was ensure that staff members have an avenue to bypass the chain of command to report incidents to WSU rather than a direct supervisor. Department policies are also being reviewed to ensure staff is held accountable for future events. 

“I commit to you and all WSU students, faculty and staff as well, that I will hold my staff accountable to professional conduct,” he said.