A former police chief was able to move between postings at U.S. Army bases despite allegations that he sexually harassed women at one base and that his poor behavior may have played a role in a coworker’s suicide, according to Army documents obtained by the Wisconsin State Journal.
The newspaper reported that Ryan Cunningham became police chief at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin in 2016, months after an investigation at Fort Wainwright in Alaska found he sexually harassed a female Army sergeant and made unwanted advances toward her and other women while he was that base’s acting police chief. Cunningham resigned while the investigation was ongoing.
An investigation at Fort McCoy, about 110 miles northwest of Madison, found that Cunningham often used slurs to refer to his officers and the hostile working environment may have contributed to the suicide of James Hamilton, the base’s former director of emergency services, who died in 2020. The investigation noted that it wasn’t conclusive that Cunningham’s behavior was a factor in Hamilton’s death.
Hamilton and Cunningham worked together for about six months at Fort McCoy before Cunningham left the base in January 2020 to become temporary police chief at another base, the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. He eventually became that base’s strategic planner, according to his LinkedIn page, although a base spokesperson said he no longer works there.
Cunningham declined comment.
Cunningham’s movement between bases raises questions about the Army’s ability to track sexual misconduct by civilian employees. Fort Wainwright spokesperson Eve Baker said that base’s investigation was a “local-level” probe and no central repository for investigative documents exists. But she said commanders would have told future employers that Cunningham left the base while under investigation if asked.
Fort McCoy spokesperson Tonya Townsell referred questions about Cunningham to the Civilian Resources Agency, which oversees civilian hiring at the base. Amy Stevens, a division chief with the resources agency, declined comment.