Four Centralia Officers Fired for Allegedly Ignoring 911 Calls While Having Lunch

Feb. 23—Four Centralia police officers were fired last month following a lengthy internal investigation into their alleged failure to provide a timely response to a domestic violence call in June.

The officers — Sgt. John Dorff and officers Michael Smerer, Jocelynn Giammalva and Phil Reynolds — are accused of ignoring the call for aid even after learning that the case involved a domestic violence protection order violation.

All four recent terminations are currently in arbitration, a process for officers to appeal disciplinary decisions through a private arbitrator.

KELA first reported on the officers' firing on Tuesday after obtaining the internal investigation documents from the Centralia Police Department.

"In this particular case, the officers were not doing the right thing and these officers did not deserve to be police officers anymore. I believe that public trust is the most important thing we have with the community," Centralia Police Chief Stacy Denham told KELA.

The original call reporting the domestic dispute in progress came from an anonymous neighbor at 11:51 a.m. on June 26, 2021, while Dorff, Smerer, Giammalva and Reynolds were at the Centralia Police station for what Dorff reportedly called "a crew lunch and a discussion on police reform laws," according to KELA.

One of the other officers used Giammalva's call sign to acknowledge receiving the 911 call "as a joke," according to Denham, but did not apparently tell Giammalva or the others about the call.

"That's very troubling for me," Denham said.

The alleged victim's mother then called 911 about the same domestic dispute in progress.

Shortly after — about 30 minutes after the initial call came in — video evidence shows Giammalva leaving the police station in her marked patrol car. While in her vehicle, Giammalva allegedly acknowledged receiving both 911 calls about the dispute and saw the active domestic violence protection order against the suspect.

Video shows Giammalva driving her patrol car away from the station and returning with drink holders containing what the officers later told investigators were "milkshakes for the lunch they were having," according to KELA.

"They had the information and chose not to respond. I don't know why," Denham said.

With no response yet from police, the alleged victim's mother called 911 again. The anonymous neighbor who made the initial call also called again and, unsure why Centralia police weren't responding, dispatchers reportedly radioed the Chehalis Police Department for information, according to Denham.

That call went out at 1:35 p.m. and didn't go out to the Centralia Police Department, but officers left the police station to respond to the domestic dispute a few minutes later.

"There was no catalyst for why they responded at that time," Denham said.

The officers responded an hour and 46 minutes after the initial call came in.

When they got to the scene, two of the officers arrested the alleged victim "for obstruction of justice for not allowing the officers into her apartment when she feared the suspect would be further agitated," according to KELA.

Denham learned about the alleged delayed response via a Facebook post and launched an investigation.

Reasons the officers gave for their delayed response ranged from not hearing the initial call to having lunch to one officer saying there was "no blood, no screaming, no asking for help ..." according to KELA.

"Officers are paid to respond to calls (for service), they are paid to ensure our community is taken care of. When a call comes in and you're having lunch or whatever it might be, especially something like a dispute in progress, a call where we could have a victim or something of that nature, you drop everything. It is expected industry wide that when those 911 calls come in that officers are going to respond," Denham told KELA.

The Centralia Police Department gave reasons outside of the delayed response for terminating each of officers: Dorff for his alleged lack of supervision, Smerer and Giammalva for arresting the alleged victim, and Reynolds for reportedly providing inaccurate information on both the June incident and an unrelated incident involving a woman who was run over by a car and trailer on Cooks Hill Road in September 2021.

Reynolds was previously terminated by the Centralia Police Department in March 2012 for a long list of alleged policy violations — including allegations of excessive use of force — but was rehired with backpay in May 2014 following an arbitration process.

Prior to his March 2012 termination, Reynolds had already faced serious reprimands, including a two-week, unpaid suspension the previous July after an internal investigation found he excessively Tased multiple people under questionable circumstances and later lied about it, according to previous Chronicle reporting.