Steamboat officer faces punishment following internal investigation |

Steamboat officer faces punishment following internal investigation

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A Steamboat Springs Police Department officer faces punitive measures following the conclusion of an internal investigation into his off-duty conduct.

Robert Sadowski, who has been with the Police Department since 2017, pleaded “nolo contendre” to a misdemeanor animal cruelty charge in December 2019, resulting in a fine.

The charge came after Sadowski shot and killed a Routt County resident’s dog while hunting for beavers on private property, according to a report from the Routt County Sheriff’s Office, which conducted the initial, criminal investigation in October.

A judge ordered Sadowski to pay $126 in fines, according to documents from the Routt Combined Court. 

Immediately following the court’s decision, the Police Department initiated a separate, internal investigation into Sadowski’s conduct. The process included interviews with witnesses and the dog’s owner, Eaton Nilsson, as well as a review of the case file and evidence collected by the Sheriff’s Office. 

The results from that investigation were announced in a city news release Monday. Investigators determined Sadowski violated two of the Police Department’s policies, according to Police Chief Cory Christensen. They include a violation of standards of conduct, which refers to Sadowski’s committing the crime of animal cruelty, and a policy that punishes officers who act in a way, whether on or off duty, that has a negative impact on the good order, efficiency or morale of the Police Department, according to Christensen. 

A “nolo contendre” plea refers to when a defendant accepts conviction as though he had entered a guilty plea but does not include an admission of guilt. 

“We see that as a violation of our local law,” Christensen said, referring to county ordinances that make it illegal to “needlessly shoot at, wound, capture, poison, trap or in any other manner needlessly molest, injure or kill any animal.”

Sadowski’s punishment will consist of “corrective action and discipline,” Christensen said, though he added he is legally prohibited from going into details about the extent of those measures. Sadowski will remain an officer with the Police Department.

Christensen spoke highly of Sadowski’s standing and does not believe the results of the investigation are evidence Sadowski is unfit to be a police officer. 

“He has been a model employee,” Christensen said.

He added Sadowski did everything he was supposed to do after he fatally shot Nilsson’s dog, such as immediately reporting the incident and being truthful during the internal investigation. 

“He was devastated and remorseful,” Christensen said of Sadowski.

Nilsson was disappointed by the results of the investigation. In an email to Christensen, the dog’s owner said he wanted to know more details about Sadowski’s punishment and ultimately called for the officer’s termination.

“Terminating Sodowski (sic) could’ve restored some faith and trust in a department that frankly has some work to do on how it relates to the general public,” Nilsson said in the email.

Nilsson added that he does not think Sadowski is evil.

On the contrary, “my experience with him prior to this awful incident had always been friendly and polite,” Nilsson continued in the email. “I know that he too, will probably never forget that day, but the fact remains that someone we hold to the highest standard broke his promise and needs to move on from law enforcement.”

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.

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