Unclear why Lawrence police detective is on paid leave after being accused of crashing vehicle in alleged DUI

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A Lawrence police detective was placed on paid leave following his arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence last week, though city policy suggests the suspension should be without pay.

Detective Adam Welch was driving his personal vehicle around 12:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 3 when he allegedly struck a parked car. When the responding officer recognized Welch as an off-duty detective, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office deputies were called in. They suspected Welch was operating his vehicle while impaired and booked him into the jail. 

No one was injured, but the owner of the parked car reported that it had “sustained obvious damage,” according to a news release from LPD.

The release also said that “Per protocol,” Welch had been placed on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation.

A policy in the city’s employee handbook says that if a city employee is arrested, including for driving under the influence, the city manager will decide — based on recommendations of the department director and human resources manager — whether or not that employee will be suspended without pay until the court renders judgment. 

But the policy says suspension without pay would occur for any arrest, on or off the job, that is “plainly related to job duties, qualifications or essential functions of the job,” according to the employee handbook.

Laura McCabe, a spokesperson for the Lawrence Police Department, did not answer questions about how the department determines whether leave is paid or unpaid; whether an alleged DUI falls under the city policy designation of “plainly related to job duties;” or the protocol cited in the press release to dictate the detective’s paid leave. 

“As you know, we’ve been very forthright in this incident, but this is now a personnel issue for us and can’t be discussed,” she said via email Thursday. “… We work with people and address all situations individually within legal boundaries and city/police department policy.”

LPD’s policies are more vague about employee arrests than the city’s handbook. They only say that any member whose criminal arrest prohibits that member from fully and properly performing their duties may be disciplined. This discipline “includes, but is not limited to, being placed on administrative leave, reassignment and/or termination.” It does not specify whether leave is paid.

Although the Lawrence police policies don’t explicitly outline protocols for current officers arrested on suspicion of DUI, they say that people seeking to apply for work as an officer would be automatically disqualified if they had “been convicted or received diversion for operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs within 3 years of application.”

Douglas County District Court records indicate Welch had not been formally charged as of Thursday afternoon. The jail’s booking log shows he is set for a court appearance on Sept. 16. 

Welch has been an employee of the Lawrence Police Department since 2007, city records indicate. He was promoted to detective in 2020, according to LPD’s annual report from that year. He was paid about $96,000 in 2021, according to city records.

All arrestees and defendants in criminal cases should be presumed not guilty unless and until they are convicted. 

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Cuyler Dunn (he/him), a contributor to The Lawrence Times, is a student at the University of Kansas School of Journalism. He is a graduate of Lawrence High School where he was the editor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper, The Budget, and was named the 2022 Kansas High School Journalist of the Year. Read more of his work for the Times here.

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