Ed Kemmick/Last Best News
Police Chief Rich St. John confirmed Wednesday that three patrol
officers have been punished for having sex with an evidence clerk on
Three Billings police officers who admitted having sex on city
property with a civilian employee of the department were given either
one- or two-week suspensions without pay, Police Chief Rich St. John
St. John did not release the names of the three patrol officers, all
of them males with roughly eight to 10 years on the force, but he said
the woman they had sexual relations with was Rawlyn Strizich, who was
fired in February after confessing that she stole oxycodone pills and
other prescription painkillers from the department’s evidence locker.
Strizich was working as a clerk in the department’s downtown City
Hall offices at the time of the incidents with the police officers, St.
John said. She started working in City Hall in 2013 and transferred to
the evidence locker, at 4845 Midland Road, in 2016.
After he was asked by Last Best News to confirm reports of the
suspensions, St. John said he spoke with Deputy City Attorney Thomas
Pardy, who is researching state law to determine whether the city is
obligated or has the discretion to identify the officers. There was no
clear, immediate answer, Pardy said, because the incidents for which
they were punished were policy violations, not criminal offenses.
“We’re talking really good officers who made a bad decision — a really, really bad decision,” St. John said.
Pardy said he hoped to make a determination on releasing the officer’s names no later than the end of the work day on Thursday.
St. John said two of the officers were suspended for two weeks
without pay because they had sex with Strizich while on duty and on city
property — in the basement of City Hall, which is used for records
The third officer was suspended without pay for one week because he
was off duty but on city property at the time. St. John said that
officer had sexual relations with Strizich in a police patrol car — “or
close to or around it.”
Each officer was accused of and admitted to having one sexual
encounter with Strizich, and no other officers were involved, St. John
the department is shorthanded, St. John said, he gave the commanders
who supervise the officers discretion on when to allow the suspensions
to be served, but the suspensions have to be served all at once, not one
or two days at a time. St. John said he ordered the suspensions three
weeks ago, adding, “I don’t know if they served their time yet.”
St. John said he decided on the discipline himself and it was
approved by Karla Stanton, the city’s human resources director. City
policy requires the HR director to sign off on any suspensions of more
than one day, St. John said.
City Administrator Bruce McCandless said he was told of the incidents
immediately after the officers were disciplined, but as of Wednesday
afternoon he hadn’t yet told the mayor and City Council about the
St. John said the one- and two-week suspensions were serious
punishment for serious violations. Some police departments would have
fired the officers, he said, “because it’s such an affront to integrity
St. John said the revelations about the officers’ activities arose
out of the investigation of thefts at the evidence locker. Strizich told
her supervisor on Jan. 20 — a few days before an audit of the evidence
locker was to begin — that she had been stealing oxycodone and other
Strizich was initially suspended and then fired on Feb. 6,
after the audit was completed. She has not yet been charged with a
crime, St. John said, but police investigators will probably submit
their evidence to the county attorney’s office soon, and attorneys there
will decide whether to pursue charges against her.
In the course of investigating the evidence locker thefts, St. John
said, “there were some rumors flying around” about officers having had
sexual relations with Strizich, and when asked, she identified the three
All three officers waived due-process hearings and admitted to the
policy violations, St. John said, and he met separately with all three
of them on the same day, telling them of their suspensions without pay.
“That took place several weeks ago and that matter is closed,” St.
John said, adding that what the officers did “was an ancillary policy
violation … that didn’t have anything to do with the theft of drugs.” He
later described the incidents as “purely policy violations — no
criminal action whatsoever.”
St. John said he handed down the suspensions for two reasons.
“The point for me is to correct behavior and to tell the rest of the
department that this sort of behavior is unacceptable,” he said.
St. John said he also warned the officers, when he told them of their
suspensions, that there was a chance that what they had done might be
made public, and it was possible that they would be publicly identified.
“It’s obviously a sensitive area for all involved,” he said.