Wausau Police lieutenant forced out in 2019 after department investigation found he committed sexual harassment
The Badger Project had to sue the police department to get large parts of the investigation unredacted.
By Hina Suzuki, THE BADGER PROJECT
Grabbing a female officer’s breast during a bullet-proof vest fitting. Voicing public opinions about breastfeeding at work. Asking an officer about her sex life.
These accusations led to the resignation in 2019 of former Wausau Police Lt. Andrew Hartwig after an internal investigation found he violated department policy regarding sexual harassment.
Hartwig, a lieutenant who supervised others, denied groping the officer, and some of the other accusations, but admitted to using language and topics that violated department policy, according to the investigation. He did not respond to a message seeking comment.
The Badger Project obtained the investigation through an open records request with the police department, then had to sue the police department in June of 2022 to get much of the investigation unredacted. A judge ruled in The Badger Project’s favor in March.
Hartwig began working for the Wausau Police Department in 2007. He was promoted to patrol lieutenant in April 2016. The allegations were made after the promotion, Wausau Police Department Chief Benjamin Bliven wrote in an email to The Badger Project on Wednesday.
Due to the accusations, Hartwig was placed on administrative leave, and later “voluntarily” resigned from the police department, according to the resignation agreement. He agreed not to sue the city, and he received a final payout of nearly $12,000, most of which was unused vacation time and administrative paid leave, according to City of Wausau Human Resources Director James Henderson.
After Hartwig’s resignation, Bliven said he “advised all supervisors to train on the harassment policy” and met with employees to discuss the policy and ways an employee can make a complaint if there is harassment in the workplace. “The best way we can make sure employees feel safe at work is to take these types of complaints seriously and investigate them thoroughly,” Bliven said.
Hartwig repeatedly denied the sexual misconduct allegations during the investigation. “I did not sexually advance, request ‘any sexual favors or other verbal, visual or physical conduct of a sexual nature,’ ” he said. “I consider anybody [at the police department] like brothers and sisters.”
A female officer who is redacted in the investigation document said Hartwig “grabbed her right breast and briefly squeezed it” when assisting her with fastening the Velcro straps on her vest. He “kind of laughed about it” and did not discuss the incident, she said. For fear that Hartwig may lose his career, she said she did not report the incident to the police department.
However, his employment should have been terminated, she said, adding “if it was not me and happened to someone else, then bring the hammer, because it is totally unacceptable.”
Even if the name were unredacted, the Badger Project does not identify the victims of sexual assault.
Hartwig said he could not recall the time he assisted the female officer with her vest. But calling himself “the nicest guy in the world,” he said he would have helped anyone with their vest if asked. He denied the allegation and said he “would have immediately apologized and reported the accident to [his] supervisor” if he thought he had touched her breast.
During the investigation, a different female officer, who is also redacted in the investigation, said Hartwig sexually harassed her by making sexual comments toward her daily. According to the officer, the comments included telling her “how good [her] makeup looked,” discussing with her his frustration with his sex life, and making inappropriate comments about her personal life with her partner. In the investigation, she described those comments as “disgusting” and “creepy.”
The female officer also shared with the investigation that she felt she was treated “differently” and “more favorably” than male officers. She said the tone of his voice when speaking to her made her “uncomfortable.” One of the witnesses said during the investigation Hartwig spoke “the way an adult male would talk to a young girl, as in a fatherly way” when the female officer called in sick.
The female officer said she did not tell Hartwig to stop his behavior because “he was [her] supervisor.”
Stating that Hartwig and the female officer had “a working relationship,” he denied these accusations. “I take pride in treating everyone fair and equal,” he said.
In addition, other employees at the police department shared during the internal investigation that Hartwig often initiated and was part of sexual conversations. According to the witnesses, those conversations included topics of losing virginity, breastfeeding – in which he allegedly said women should not breastfeed in public because it is “very sexual” and “gets guys thinking” – and females in tight clothes. In regard to these conversations, he said “guys will be guys.” Hartwig acknowledged this behavior, saying, “I would consider [the conversations] unprofessional and in violation of [the Wausau Police Department’s] Standards of Conduct Policy.”
When The Badger Project requested the internal investigation records that described Hartwig’s sexual misconduct allegations, the Wausau Police Department redacted large swaths of the text. After The Badger Project won the open records lawsuit against the department. Marathon County Circuit Court Judge Suzanne O’Neill wrote in the decision, “law enforcement officers, like all public employees, should expect some level of public scrutiny.”
The redactions were necessary to protect the victims and Wausau’s “right and opportunity to retain competent law enforcement personnel” as well as “to avoid a loss of morale” within the police department, Wausau City Attorney Anne Jacobson said.
The judge agreed that the victim and witness identities could still be kept confidential while allowing more of the investigation’s details to be public.
In 2020, Hartwig went to work for the Cadott Police Department as a law enforcement officer, but left in 2021 to work full-time in construction, according to Cadott Police Chief Louis Eslinger. Hartwig now works as a tattoo artist in Wausau.
The Badger Project is a nonpartisan, citizen-supported journalism nonprofit in Wisconsin.
Wausau Police lieutenant forced out in 2019 after department investigation found he committed sexual harassment was first posted on June 15, 2023 at 8:39 am.