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MILWAUKEE, Wis. - The suspect in the deaths of
two women whose bodies were found in suitcases dumped on a rural Wisconsin road
stalked women while working as a police officer — and tried to sell them
cellular service in a side job that ethics experts said abused his authority.



Steven Zelich, 52,
held at least three side jobs while working for the West Allis Police
Department, according to personnel files released this week. One of those
enterprises was a partnership with another office in cell phone service sales.
Women told officers during an internal investigation that Zelich would hand out
business cards and promote his service while on duty. One said he had even
asked to see her cell phone bill, saying it would tell him how much she could
save by switching services.



Police said the case
represents abuse of power and provides a warning about what can happen when
departments fail to establish and enforce policies against conflicts of
interest and misuse of authority. Several agencies said they didn't track
complaints tied to side jobs, and officials said they thought such instances
were rare. But Greg Peterson, president of the Wisconsin Law Enforcement
Accreditation Group, which sets standards for police agencies, said the lack of
numbers also reflects a lack of awareness.



"I think it's not
on the radar," said Peterson, the police chief in Grand Chute. "Now,
that's not to say there are problems that have gone undetected. But I think
that the potential exists for problems to emerge."



Agencies accredited by
his group must have policies requiring officers to obtain permission in advance
for any outside work and outlining acceptable employment, documentation and
review procedures. Twenty Wisconsin agencies, including the West Allis Police
Department, are currently accredited.



West Allis Police
Chief Charles Padgett was a detective when Zelich was forced to resign
following an internal investigation in 2001. He couldn't recall the policy back
then but said today he must approve any outside work.



"We look for any
kind of potential conflict," Padgett said. And, he added, "If it's
affecting their work here, we investigate it."



Zelich came under
suspicion after a struggle with a prostitute at his apartment while he was off
duty. Officers determined he ran dozens of unauthorized license plate searches
to get personal information about women he was pestering for dates. Several
strip club dancers and managers also told officers Zelich had tried to sell
them cellular service. One woman said Zelich made a sales pitch after pulling
her over in a traffic stop. All said they never complained because he was an
officer.



"That is the
nightmare for police departments . . . you're abusing your authority for
pecuniary gain, financial gain," said Stan Stojkovic, a criminal justice
professor and dean of the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare at University of
Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He said the burden is on supervisors to monitor officers
and enforce ethics rules because citizens tend to defer to police.



The Madison Police
Department has a detailed policy governing outside employment, including a ban
on jobs at bars or companies with city licenses. All work must be reviewed
annually.



"We have to avoid
even the appearances of impropriety," said Chief Michael Koval, who long
oversaw the department's recruiting and training. Most officers do good work,
he said, "but when you get these outliers, as I call them, it has an
incredible abasement of public trust, and it has implications far beyond your
own jurisdiction."



Padgett said the
violent end to Zelich's "very unique" story has saddened his
department.



"Our thoughts are
with the families of the victims," he said. "We feel for them and the
loss that they are trying to deal with."



Copyright 2014 The
Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Suspect in suitcase deaths had unethical side job

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