Future of Richland Center in question after police chief charged with sexual assault, theft

The future of the Richland Center Police Department is still in question after charges of sexual assault and theft were brought against the chief of police.

Lucas Clements, 40, was charged in Richland County on Tuesday with three counts of fourth-degree sexual assault and one count of theft of movable property worth less than $2,500 in connection with an incident on June 16, according to court records. Clements has been on paid administrative leave with the department since late June.

#BREAKING After 4 months on paid leave, charges have been filed against Richland Center Police Chief Lucas Clements- Three 4th-degree sexual assault (misd.) and 1 charge of theft of movable property (also misd.). Working on finding the story behind these charges now… #News3Now

— Amy Reid (@amyreidreports) October 29, 2019

Richland Center Mayor Mike Kaufman said the police department in the city does a good job and reading the complaint was surprising.

“It’s very unfortunate that somebody slipped out of the respectful position and had this incident occur,” Kaufman said.

According to the criminal complaint, Clements assaulted a worker at a restaurant and bar on the night of June 16. The complaint doesn’t identify the business, but said Clements came into the bar, ordered and drink and spoke to the bartender. The bartender later told police she believed Clements was drunk when he arrived at the bar, but Clements told investigators that he had one beer before he arrived.

There were only three people inside the restaurant at the time of the incidents, which included Clements, the cook and the bartender, police said.

The complaint said video surveillance in the business shows Clements assaulting the worker in the restaurant’s office and a bathroom. The worker told the cook she needed help and left the restaurant, hiding outside by a vehicle for about 20 minutes until Clements left.

Clements denied some of the alleged physical contact with the bartender, but admitted to some of the other alleged contact saying it was mutual, according to the complaint.

The complaint also alleges Clements took $340 in tip money from the bartender.

The state Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation took over the day after the incident and got security footage from the bar.

A few days later the Richland Center Police Commission put Clements on paid leave, where he has stayed, being paid about $27,360 to date before taxes.

The Police Commission is expected to meet Monday to decide what action to take from here. Acting commission chairman, Pete Walsh, said the members are not allowed to comment on the ongoing matter, but he did release a statement from the city’s attorney.

“The city is conferring with Chief Clements and city legal counsel to discuss Chief Clements’ status,” the statement said.

Kaufman said he is waiting to hear from Clements to know what he wants to do regarding his future, but if Clements is interested in keeping his job, he said it might not be a good fit.

“I would probably say with the public opinion that we have in the community, I would probably say, I would recommend to him that it would probably not fit well in the community,” Kaufman said.

After Clements was put on leave, the Police Commission appointed Lt. Billy Jones as acting chief, though state statute prevents the commission from giving him the job permanently, as Jones does not have the required four-year degree.

Before Clements was chief, back in 2013, he was cited with suspicion of a hit-and-run, driving left of center, inattentive driving and failure to notify police after a crash. Officers then said they found a vehicle that belonged to Clements on a guardrail and said the driver had been at a local bar. Court records show he made a deal with the prosecutor to plead guilty to these charges, and they would be dismissed.

News 3 Now requested personnel records from the police department, which show Clements served a week unpaid suspension after the charges, and then was voluntarily demoted from lieutenant to patrol officer. He then agreed to undergo an alcohol assessment and engage in any recommended treatment.

Two years later Clements was promoted to chief, but record of that is not in the personnel file released to News 3 Now, nor is any other record since 2013.

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