DIGGING DEEPER: Report adds context to Jerry Mitchell investigat - WEEK.com: Peoria-area News, Weather, Sports

DIGGING DEEPER: Report adds context to Jerry Mitchell investigation

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Photo obtained through a public records request by 25 News shows Jerry Mitchell outside of Backes' home. This was sent in an anonymous complaint about Mitchell's alleged relationship with Backes. Photo obtained through a public records request by 25 News shows Jerry Mitchell outside of Backes' home. This was sent in an anonymous complaint about Mitchell's alleged relationship with Backes.
Photo of Denise Backes from Oct. 2017 explaining PPD pilot program for body cams. Photo of Denise Backes from Oct. 2017 explaining PPD pilot program for body cams.

After nearly a three decade career with the Peoria Police Department, former chief, Jerry Mitchell, abruptly retired Feb. 9 amidst reports of an alleged inappropriate relationship with a female subordinate. 

You can read more about what happened that day by clicking here

Now a new investigation by the Peoria Journal Star dives into what lead to Mitchell's retirement, and the complaints made against him and the female named in the investigation. 

Denise Backes is the woman named in reports detailed by the Star and public records obtained by 25 News. She is the project manager for the police department, and the coordinator of the body camera pilot program. 

The Star reports both Mitchell and Backes have denied allegations of romantic involvement, and special treatment due to romantic involvement. 

The report says the first complaint made about the two was verbal from an unknown person, while another was sent by mail by an unknown person including pictures taken outside of Backes' home showing Mitchell outside. Complaints say the photo of Mitchell attached, shows him assisting Backes in moving furniture. 

Finally, Officer James Feehan filed an official complaint about the alleged relationship; confirmed by 25 News via public records requests. 

25 News has public records from Backes' attorney explaining Backes' qualifications in her job, denying any preferential treatment. The letter we obtained says, "Ms. Backes finds the Reports (sic) to be intrusive, vindictive, and sexist. They have caused her severe emotional distress." 

It's signed by attorney Patrick Walsh. 

Walsh's office concludes: 

- the City has found no evidence that Ms. Backes violated any policies with respect to the use of sick time, compensatory time and/or personal time;

- the City has not concluded that there was any improper relationship between Ms. Backes and Chief Mitchell;

- Ms. Backes has not been disciplined and is not the subject of any disciplinary investigation. 

In the complaint filed by Officer Feehan obtained by 25 News, it explains Feehan and his wife witnessing, "Jerry and Denise flirting," at a PPD Christmas party. He goes on to say he saw the two leave together in Mitchell's personal truck. 

Feehan reports Backes was hired as project manager in 2017, without a job being posted. 

Feehan also details what he calls "odd" behaviors at social events between the two. Feehan also claims the two had arranged adjacent hotel room requests for a body-camera conference in San Diego February of 2017. 

In the report, Feehan says he arrived at the California hotel at the same time Mitchell and Backes were checking in. Feehan claims the two told him of how they went "sightseeing" together, had dinner together.

Feehan writes he was previously told Backes would be flying in early to spend time with her sister. He writes, "it became apparent that they had spent most of the day together and not with her sister as she had portrayed." 

Feehan's account details numerous claims offering proof of an alleged affair which 25 News has not been able to cross reference at this point in time. 

The Star details multiple pay raises for Backes between Jan. 2017 and Jan. 2018, one schedule, and one due to a promotion. 

We will continue to update you with new information on these reports as we're able to fact-check, and ask for responses from city officials, and those involved in the allegations. 

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