SWAT Team Takes Children after Parents Disagree with Doctor.

DIANNA M. NÁÑEZ | ARIZONA REPUBLIC

Updated 1:12 p.m. EDT Mar. 25, 2019
Police breaking down door to check on child
A Chandler father provided home-security video of Chandler police breaking down the door of a family’s home for a DCS-requested welfare check of a child with a spiking fever, after parents refused to give police permission to enter their home, saying their toddler son was fine.
COURTESY OF CHANDLER FATHER

After police officers busted down the door of a Chandler home to take a toddler with a spiking fever from his parents, advocates and a state legislator are questioning if a new law intended to protect families’ rights is failing.

Officers pointing guns forced their way into the family’s home in the middle of the night last month after the Arizona Department of Child Safety called police for a welfare check on a child with a 100 degree-plus fever and no vaccinations.

The parents had ignored a doctor’s recommendation to take their 2-year-old to the hospital, saying their son’s fever had decreased.

Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, who helped craft legislation requiring DCS to obtain a warrant before removing a child from their parents or guardians in non-emergency circumstances, said she was outraged by the response of police and DCS officials in the case.

“It was not the intent (of the law) that the level of force after obtaining a warrant was to bring in a SWAT team,” Townsend said. “The imagery is horrifying. What has our country become that we can tear down the doorway of a family who has a child with a high fever that disagrees with their doctor?”

DCS officials did not respond to The Arizona Republic’s questions about their policies for child-welfare checks and warrants, or whether their handling of this family’s case was in line with those policies.

Townsend said she wants lawmakers to review warrant procedures that led to police using force, left a family traumatized and placed three children in state custody. The fact that DCS obtained a court-approved warrant shows this wasn’t an emergency that threatened the child’s life or safety so there wasn’t time to file with the court, she said.

Child-welfare workers used to be able to remove children without warrants. But under a law that took effect in July Arizona lawmakers designated limited circumstances for removing a child from their parent without a warrant: DCS must have probable cause to believe a child is at imminent risk of harm and there’s no less-intrusive alternative to removal, or DCS must have probable cause to believe a child is a victim of sexual or physical abuse that can only be evaluated by trained medical personnel.

“What about parents’ rights to decide what’s best for their child?” Townsend said. “Parents felt the child was fine. Next thing we know, the Gestapo is at their door.”

The case has made its way to a juvenile court room and sparked conversation over the balance between parental rights to care for their children versus the power of DCS and doctors.

It could take months of hearings and DCS-mandated instructions before the parents regain custody of their children. Or maybe they never will.

Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, attended a juvenile hearing to see if the Department of Child Safety violated the rights of a Mesa mother and father when taking custody of their child.

Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, attended a juvenile hearing to see if the Department of Child Safety violated the rights of a Mesa mother and father … Show more 

DIANNA M. NÁÑEZ

Child-welfare warrants were supposed to protect parental rights

Lawmakers and family-rights’ advocates hoped the new law would reduce the number of children being removed by DCS. Child-welfare lawsuits in Arizona and across the nation, citing the First and Fourteenth amendment, argued for due process and protections against illegal search and seizure.

In 2016, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that removing a child without court approval violates parents’ constitutional rights.

You get your day in court for most crimes, advocates said, why wouldn’t the same apply when removing a child because of accusations of neglect or abuse?

By the time Arizona lawmakers approved a child-welfare warrant law in 2017, critics said it had too many loopholes and wouldn’t reduce unjust removals.

In fact, the total number of child removals has declined since the law took effect, but only slightly, and it’s unclear what role the new law played in the decline.

Despite lawmakers approving the warrant law to require greater transparency and address constitutional rights, DCS says it doesn’t track data for when children have been removed due to emergency situations without a warrant. And total removals include a variety of situations, including when parents voluntarily surrender their child, where the court — not DCS — orders the removal request and when a child is in the juvenile-justice system.

DCS placed 4,649 children into the foster-care system in the six-month period that ended December 2018, according to DCS data. In the six-month period prior to the July law, DCS removed 4,887 children.

That’s down from a high mark of 6,815 in fall 2015, when nearly 19,000 children were in the foster-care system and families and child-welfare advocates began pushing for a warrant law.

Concern over DCS abusing loopholes in the system prompted a second round of legislation in 2018. The restrictions designated “exigent circumstances” when DCS may remove children without a warrant. Removing the child must be so dire that there’s no time to use the electronic system to gain authorization from a judge who’s on call 24/7.

Family advocates calling themselves the Arizona DCS Oversight Group argue what happened to a Chandler family on the night of Feb. 25 is evidence the state is abusing its power and the rights of parents.

“If they can do this to one family they can do it to anyone,” said Lori Ford, a member of the self-appointed public watchdog group. “DCS took their kids and treated these parents like they were criminals.”

A fever, a doctor’s order, a parent’s right to choose medical care for their child

It started with a visit to the doctor for a fever.

On February 25, the mother took her 2-year-old boy to the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine clinic in Tempe, according to Chandler police records.

It was dinner time. But the toddler’s fever had spiked to over 100 degrees.

The doctor asked if the child had his vaccinations.

The mother said no.

Concerned that a lethargic child with a fever and lacking vaccinations could have meningitis, the doctor instructed the mother to take the child to the emergency department at Banner Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa, according to attorneys at a March 7 court hearing following the removal of the children.

The Republic knows the names of the parents and child but it does not typically identify children in the child-welfare system.

The doctor contacted Banner physicians who recommended the child be “taken to the emergency room as soon as possible,” according to police records. The doctor told the mother that meningitis can be life-threatening and said the hospital would contact her when the mother arrived.

After they left the doctor’s office, the child was laughing and playing with his siblings. The mother took the child’s temperature again. It was near normal.

Shortly after 6:30 p.m., the mother called the doctor and told her that her toddler no longer had a fever so she wasn’t taking him to the emergency room.

The mother also said she was worried about getting in trouble with DCS because her child did not have vaccinations.

The doctor said the mother would not get in trouble. The mother again agreed to take her child to the hospital, according to police records.

In Arizona, a parent may decline vaccinations for their child based on personal, religious or medical exemptions.

About three hours later, the hospital contacted the doctor to advise her that the child had not shown up and the mother wasn’t answering her phone, according to police records. The doctor contacted DCS.

A DCS caseworker called Chandler Police and “requested officers to check the welfare of a two year old infant,” according to police records. A caseworker said he was on his way to the house.

Officers with ‘lethal coverage’ kick down door, enter home with DCS worker

Chandler police forced their way into a family's home for a DCS welfare check on a child with a spiking fever

Chandler police forced their way into a family’s home for a DCS welfare check on a child with a spiking fever
COURTESY OF FAMILY

It was about 10:30 p.m. when two police officers knocked on the family’s door. The officers heard someone coughing.

Officer Tyler Cascio wrote in a police report that he knocked on the door several times but no one answered.

A neighbor approached the officers and police explained the situation. The woman said she knew her neighbor and that “she was a good mother.” At the request of officers, the neighbor called the mother and said police wanted to speak with her.

The DCS caseworker arrived and updated police on the toddler’s fever and the mother choosing not to take her child to the hospital. The officer called the family’s doctor, who repeated her recommendation that the mother take the child to the hospital.

Police dispatch told the officers that a man at the home had called requesting that they call him. They called, and the man identified himself as the sick boy’s father.

The officer said they told the father they needed to enter the home for DCS to check on the child. The father refused, explaining that his son’s “fever broke and he was fine,” according to police records.

Officers tried to call the parents again, but no one answered. They told the caseworker the parents refused to open their door.

At about 11:30 p.m., the caseworker informed officers that DCS planned to obtain a “temporary custody notice” from a judge to remove the child for emergency medical aid.

The caseworker “advised they obtained a court order for temporary custody in order to take (redacted) to the hospital.” The order was signed at 12:04 a.m. by Judge Tracy Nadzieja, according to police records.

Cascio wrote that officers consulted with the police criminal investigations bureau and SWAT.

“Based upon the court order, the intent of DCS to serve the order, and exigency to ensure the health and welfare of the child, the decision was made to force entry to the home if the parents refused to respond to verbal requests,” according to police records. Police knocked, saying they had a court order and would force entry if needed, according to police records.

The Republic has requested the police-worn body-camera footage.

It was after 1 a.m. when officers kicked down the family’s door. One officer carried a shield, while another was described as having “lethal coverage.” Officers pointing guns yelled, “Chandler Police Department,” and entered the house.

The father came to the door. Officers placed him in handcuffs and took him and the mother outside. Inside, they found a juvenile who said she was sick and had thrown up in her bed.

Officers said the home was “messy” with clothing piles and concrete floors. In the parent’s room, a shotgun lay next to the bed, according to police records.

The caseworker spoke with two of the children without their parents present. He told officers it was “necessary to obtain a temporary custody order” for the parents’ two other children, according to police records.

Since there was no “criminal incident” and because the mother refused, no photos were taken inside the home, according to the police records.

Neither of the parents was arrested.

Officials took the parents’ three children to Banner Cardon Medical Center.

Inside a Mesa courtroom, the parents fight for their children to be returned

Families attend child-welfare hearings at Maricopa County Juvenile Court in Mesa.

Families attend child-welfare hearings at Maricopa County Juvenile Court in Mesa.
DIANNA M. NÁÑEZ/THE REPUBLIC

At a Mesa juvenile court hearing 10 days later, the parents got their first chance before a judge to fight for their children to be returned.

Each parent had an attorney. The parents had raised a family together but weren’t legally married.

The father’s parents sat on a bench next to a friend of the mother. Ford and Christina Lawler, with Arizona DCS Oversight Group, sat quietly listening and taking notes. Townsend, the state lawmaker, sat near the grandparents. She wanted to see whether the family’s rights had been violated.

A lawyer for the state Attorney General’s Office, representing DCS, asked the judge to close the hearing to the public.

In Arizona, we like our courts to be open, Judge Jennifer Green said. After listening to the lawyer’s reasoning — the attorney said members of the news media were in the courtroom and the family had spoken with the news media about the case, which he said wasn’t in the best interest of the children.

Attorneys for the parents said they hadn’t known of any restrictions on them speaking with media.

Green denied the request to close the hearing, but warned everyone that they could be held in contempt of court if they revealed personally-identifiable information about the children or any others mentioned in the hearing.

Attorneys for the parents said the children hadn’t seen each other since being taken from their parents’ home. The parents had only had one visit with their older children. DCS officials told the parents the toddler couldn’t make that visit because he was at a medical appointment.

The state’s attorney argued that the children shouldn’t be returned to their parents yet because they’d been hostile to DCS workers and weren’t cooperating. He said the parents had attended a DCS visit with members of Arizona DCS Oversight Group who were combative toward DCS workers. He said the grandfather had tried to videotape a meeting with DCS, and recording is not allowed to protect the privacy of the children.

DCS wanted the parents to undergo psychological evaluations.

Attorneys for the parents argued such evaluations were for people who had a history of mental-health issues, which neither parent had. They said the parents weren’t hostile, but they were living a nightmare that started with a child’s fever. They were woken up in the middle of the night, police busted down their door, brandishing guns and their three children were taken from them, attorneys said. The grandfather did what most people would think they had the right to do — record government officials.

The father had agreed to drug testing and the grandparents had agreed to background checks in hopes of becoming temporary caretakers for their grandchildren. Everyone was cooperating, the father’s attorney said.

A court-appointed guardian ad litem, who’s assigned to look after the best interests of the children, said he had one primary concern: Each child was still in a separate foster-care placement. Not only were the children separated from their parents, but this was also the first time they’d been separated from each other.

The judge asked the parties to attend an expedited hearing that afternoon.

After the hearing, in the courthouse hallway, the father held the mother in his arms. She cried and rested her hand on her pregnant belly.

Townsend spoke with the father about the road to getting his kids back.

“Why do they make it so hard?” he said with tears in his eyes. She tried to comfort him.

A lawmaker discusses parental rights

Outside the courthouse, Townsend said she didn’t know the parents personally but was disturbed by the case.

“It was brought to my attention that these parents may have been targeted by the medical community because they hadn’t vaccinated their children,” she said.

Townsend said parents who don’t vaccinate their children because of medical concerns aren’t criminals and shouldn’t be treated as such. She worried physicians were using it as a reason to refer parents to DCS.

“I think if DCS decides to use this as a factor they would be violating a parent’s right to have a personal exemption, a religious exemption and perhaps a medical exemption,” she said.

Townsend said the hearing opened her eyes to issues she will raise with fellow lawmakers. She questioned why the state’s attorney and DCS used the parent’s frustration with DCS to label the family as hostile and argue they weren’t cooperating with DCS.

“It doesn’t say anywhere that after your kids are taken, after police bust down your door, that you have to be nice to DCS to get your kids back,” she said.

A judge decides a family’s future

It was just before 2 p.m. when the parents walked back into the courtroom.

A DCS investigator, a former police officer, took the stand. She said upon visiting the hospital, doctors found the toddler had RSV, a respiratory virus that can cause serious illness in young children. She said the parents weren’t complying with DCS’ request to provide medical records for the children. She said they also weren’t following steps to regain custody of their children.

One of the parent’s attorneys asked the DCS investigator to outline specific steps the parents must follow to get their children back. The caseworker said she couldn’t remember any of them.

Attorneys for the parents claimed DCS was angry at the parents for speaking with the media and as retribution DCS officials were making it more difficult for the family to regain custody of their children. They said the child’s fever had gone down, as evidenced in medical reports.

The judge asked what was delaying placing three children with their grandparents. The state’s attorney said the grandparents still needed a home-safety check.

Green asked if that check could be expedited. The state’s attorney said DCS contracts with a company to conduct safety reviews and has no control over timelines but that it could take up to 30 days.

The guardian ad litem, representing the best interest of the children, told the judge he didn’t see why the children couldn’t be cared for by their grandparents while their parents worked with DCS to regain custody.

The judge said the removal was warranted, citing the mother’s refusal to follow the doctor’s orders. She said records showed the family had a history of domestic violence, noting an incident in which the father punched a wall.

She approved psychological evaluations for both parents, saying it would help identify the best services for the parents. She ordered DCS to complete a safety check of the grandparents’ home within four days. And she ordered the father to continue drug and alcohol testing.

She reminded the grandparents and parents that they were no longer in control of the children’s medical and health decisions. If a doctor orders treatment, the family must follow those directions, she said.

Then, she told the parents to remember that the state had them on a family-reunification plan and wants them to regain custody of their children.

After they left the courtroom, father and mother, both in tears, embraced.

The parents declined an interview with The Republic. They said they were afraid saying anything might upset DCS officials and hurt their efforts to regain custody of their children.

From left to right: Steven Isham, Karla Johnson, Lori Ford, Malinda Sherwyn, and David Watson are members of a group called Arizona DCS Oversight.

From left to right: Steven Isham, Karla Johnson, Lori Ford, Malinda Sherwyn, and David Watson are members of a group called Arizona DCS Oversight.
NICK OZA/THE REPUBLIC

Ford, with the DCS watchdog group, said this is how it goes.

“They (DCS) had no right to bust into this family’s home and take their kids,” she said in the courthouse parking lot. “But now, they (DCS) have control of this family. These children are traumatized, and all over a fever that wasn’t even a fever anymore when they went the hospital—just like the parents had said.”

She was upset with Townsend and other Arizona lawmakers who talk about holding DCS accountable but never do. Meanwhile, children and their families suffer, she said.

“They hold the purse strings, if they wanted to force DCS to make changes that would protect family’s rights they’d stop funding them,” she said.

Townsend hopes this case is an outlier, but the only way to know for sure is to review DCS child-welfare check policies, medical providers’ power over families and the DCS warrant process for removing children.

This case is more than enough reason to be concerned, she said.

“The fact that they got the warrant shows it wasn’t a matter of exigency by definition — it wasn’t something that they were rescuing this child from imminent death,” she said. “The expectation of child welfare is we’re thinking about the children in the family. We’re not talking cartels holding someone who’s been kidnapped, we’re not talking about a drug bust, we’re not talking about a flight risk. We’re not talking about any of that. This was a family with a child who has a fever. … We used a SWAT team on a family with a child with a high fever.”

The parents say they wonder if they’ll be a family again: ‘We love our children’

On March 15, the father told The Republic that DCS had placed their three children with his parents.

“We get to see them again,” he said. “Thank God.”

He still can’t shake the night police kicked down their door and entered his home with guns drawn. He still can’t believe they took all three of their children.

He said he has asked DCS why the caseworker never presented himself and showed a warrant for removal, but he hasn’t received a clear answer.

“I know people have the right not to let the police into their home,” he said. “But if the caseworker had called me or knocked, and shown me their warrant, I would’ve let them in.”

He said home security video showed police had stated they had a DCS warrant for removal, but the family didn’t hear them because they were sleeping in the back bedrooms with their sick children.

The judge’s approval of DCS’ request for psychological evaluations has created another barrier to regaining custody of their children, he said. The wait for an evaluation is months, he said.

The father sent The Republic a statement. His family is scared, he said, but they feel compelled to warn other families:

We have been through a very traumatic experience with our encounter with DCS. We would like other parents out there to know and realize the amount of power DCS has over the welfare of your children. Even though we remain confident in our innocence through our case, it is immediately an uphill struggle of what to do or not to do. Even if you do not agree with them or the process in which they follow. We thought they did not have the right to check on our children because they were getting better, from what they last heard about from us. We were in our home tending to our sick kids and did not want to be bothered in this tough time of illness.  With multiple children it is difficult to keep up their needs while they are ill, and to be bothered in the middle of the night by DCS was not something we were ready to tackle. No matter what we though was right, it turned tragic with the removal of all of our children. The process of removal in our opinion was uncalled for and we would like to see the laws/process change when dealing with expedited removal of children. Our children have sure been through a traumatizing experience and hope they have not been harmed psychologically or emotionally as we are a very happy family who love each other and would do anything for each other. We hope to see a positive outcome for our trial, but worry about what the kids have been though. We would like to see some sort of public service announcement by DCS to inform other parents out there that this could happen to them, because nobody, especially children should have to go through what we are going through. We love our children and are doing everything possible to get them back to us.

Reporter Mary Jo Pitzl contributed to this story.

 

DIANNA M. NÁÑEZ | ARIZONA REPUBLIC, Updated 1:12 p.m. EDT Mar. 25, 2019, “A couple decided not to take their feverish child to the hospital. Hours later police kicked down their door”, https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-child-welfare/2019/03/25/questions-due-process-rise-after-police-break-down-door-check-feverish-toddler/3223829002/

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Tucson police officer arrested on suspicion of sexual misconduct with female suspect

 

A Tucson police officer accused of committing sexual misconduct with a woman he was investigating was arrested Sunday evening.

The Tucson Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards Unit was told on Thursday that Officer Richard Daniel committed “unlawful sexual conduct” with the woman on Jan. 13.

Daniel, a three-year veteran with the department, was arrested after detectives were able to establish probable cause, police say.

Pete Dugan, a spokesman with the Tucson Police Department, said Daniel was booked into Pima County Jail with one count of unlawful sexual conduct as a peace officer and one count of tampering with physical evidence with additional charges pending as the investigation continues.

Dugan said Daniel has been placed on administrative leave without pay and was served a notice that he would be terminated.

Police didn’t elaborate on the investigation Daniel was conducting when the incident allegedly occurred.

Dugan said the allegations against Daniel don’t reflect the rest of the department.

Perry Vandell, Arizona Republic, Jan. 21, 2019, “Tucson police officer arrested on suspicion of sexual misconduct with female suspect”, https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona/2019/01/21/tucson-officer-accused-sexual-misconduct/2636481002/

How Phoenix Explains a Rise in Police Violence: It’s the Civilians’ Fault

 
 
Poder in Action, a nonprofit group in Phoenix, marks shootings by the city’s police officers on a wall map in its office. Since the photo was taken, the tally for 2018 has risen to 41.CreditCreditConor E. Ralph for The New York Times

By Richard A. Oppel Jr.,

 

PHOENIX — All Marco Zepeda, a 44-year-old blind man, wanted to do when he went inside a convenience store last June was use the bathroom.

But as he tried to find his way, the police report said, Mr. Zepeda had the misfortune of walking near a police officer using a urinal. Thinking Mr. Zepeda had come too close, the officer pushed him, according to his account. They scuffled. Mr. Zepeda was tackled after he threw a punch, the officer said.

“You just turned around and started pushing me like crazy,” Mr. Zepeda, a father of four who sells brooms from a pushcart, says on a video that captured the aftermath. “I didn’t know you were a cop.”

But rather than chalk up the scuffle to an unfortunate misunderstanding, the police upped the ante, taking Mr. Zepeda to jail.

There, he was treated like a serious criminal, charged with aggravated assault on an officer, a felony. He denies punching the officer.

Mr. Zepeda’s story illustrates what community activists say is a serious issue: The Phoenix police are unusually quick to use force, slow to back down, and make a habit of releasing selective or misleading information about what happened. That is why, the activists say, the police here have shot more civilians this year than officers in any other city of its size, by far.

Despite the Police Department’s vows to improve transparency, the city has not provided reports on officer-involved shootings and disciplinary cases that were requested by The New York Times almost four months ago.

Critics say the department has avoided confronting the issue, despite having 41 shootings so far this year, almost twice as many as last year and 11 more than the combined total for the three cities closest in size — Philadelphia, San Antonio and San Diego.

While many departments have reacted to police violence with soul-searching and an emphasis on de-escalating tense situations, some Phoenix officials blame people who they say are just too aggressive toward the police.

“I don’t think there’s a sense that there’s something wrong in the department,” said Ed Zuercher, the city manager. “The issue is, ‘What’s going on in our community in total that assaults on police officers are up, the use of weapons against police officers is up, and that police officer-involved shootings are up?’”

Critics say the Police Department cannot — or will not — substantiate such assertions. The department “makes these really biased claims against the community, and when we push back asking for the stats, they refuse to release the cases they say they’re citing,” said Viridiana Hernandez, executive director of Poder in Action, a Phoenix-based community group.

Since the early 1990s, Phoenix’s violent crime rate has declined along with the rest of the nation’s, despite ticking up in the past few years, and is on a par with that of other large cities.

Chief Jeri Williams has commissioned a study of the rise in shootings and increased officer training — though a spokeswoman did not respond to questions about what kind of training. Chief Williams said the shootings this year have had little in common with one another. “If you look at other cities across the country, they might be able to point to one geographical area, one group of people, one criminal element,” but not so in Phoenix, she said.

In Mr. Zepeda’s case, he says he was the victim. The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute him, citing “no reasonable likelihood of conviction.”

Alex Andrich, in a photo provided by his family, was shot and killed by a police officer in Phoenix.
 
Alex Andrich, in a photo provided by his family, was shot and killed by a police officer in Phoenix.

After the police shot and killed Alex Andrich, on June 12, a police spokesman offered this explanation: Mr. Andrich had advanced on an officer while holding an “object” that the officer “believed was a threat.” It turned out to be the handcuffs that officers had just affixed to one of his wrists.

After an officer shot Edward Brown, leaving him a paraplegic, the police said it was self-defense: Mr. Brown had charged at an officer and tried to get his gun, even touching the barrel. But none of Mr. Brown’s D.N.A. was found on the weapon, and he had been shot in the back.

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After Mohammed Muyhamin, a schizophrenic 43-year-old, died during an arrest, the police told local news outlets that he had “assaulted” an employee at a community center where he had sought to use the bathroom. But the 128-page police report obtained by The Times described an argument over whether Mr. Muyhamin could bring his small service dog inside without a leash.

The assault described in the report was an allegation that he had “pushed past” the employee because he needed to get to the restroom.

David Chami, a lawyer for Mr. Muhaymin’s estate and eldest son, said at least one officer on the scene had previously interacted with his client and knew he had mental health problems. Officers decided to take him in on an existing warrant for drug paraphernalia, he said, forcing him to the ground as he resisted and struggled.

Mohammed Muhaymin died during an arrest.
Mohammed Muhaymin died during an arrest.

“I can’t breathe!” Mr. Muhaymin, whose post-mortem showed he was on methamphetamines, screamed. A witness cited in the medical examiner report said that one of the officers replied: “Then stop resisting.”

The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide.

In each of these cases, the police offered selective or misleading accounts of what happened.

In the Andrich case, they say they were called for trespassing and then had a “knock-down, drag-out fight,” getting one handcuff on Mr. Andrich before he broke free, injuring an officer’s knee. They tried and failed to subdue him with a Taser, they said. Minutes later, they shot him as he advanced on an officer, according to the police account.

But in a bystander’s video, Mr. Andrich can be seen walking away, briefly turning to face the officer, then seeming to turn back away when he was shot. And while the police said the officer had stepped back before he fired, the video shows him following Mr. Andrich down the sidewalk.

Louise Andrich, Mr. Andrich’s sister, said that the police were aware he had schizophrenia and that her brother had not been violent in previous interactions with officers.

“I know exactly what my brother was saying — he was saying ‘leave me alone,’” Ms. Andrich said. The police version, she added, “did not fit the narrative of who he was as a human being, but it fit the narrative they needed to tell to make it seem legitimate.”

Officers breaking up a protest in 2016 against fatal shootings of black men.CreditRoss D. Franklin/Associated Press
Officers breaking up a protest in 2016 against fatal shootings of black men.CreditRoss D. Franklin/Associated Press

As controversy over the shootings heated up this summer with protests at City Hall, the police said they were the ones under attack. Assaults against officers had jumped 45 percent during the first five months of the year, they said, and they were the largest contributing factor in officer-involved shootings.

Community groups say, though, that the police use aggravated assault charges to deflect attention from their own conduct. Under the law, any assault on an officer is automatically considered aggravated. An assault charge does not require physical contact — intentionally giving someone “reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury” is enough.

“All the officer has to say is, ‘I thought you were going to hurt me,’” said Heather Hamel, a civil rights lawyer representing Mr. Zepeda, the blind man. “That is how you twist the narrative. Every time there is a case of police brutality and the person lives, they’re going to get hit with an aggravated assault charge.”

Mr. Brown, the man the police shot in the back, was also charged with aggravated assault on an officer.

Some politicians have taken up the Police Department’s argument. “When people get stopped, they think it is O.K. to approach the officer in a threatening way,” City Councilman Sal DiCiccio said at a hearing in June. “Of course they’re going to get shot at that point.”

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In an interview, Mr. DiCiccio faulted the city for not hiring enough police. “We have a more violent population,” he said.

By the numbers, Phoenix is about as dangerous as a typical large American city. At 7.6 violent crimes per thousand residents, Phoenix’s violent crime rate was the same as the aggregate for cities with populations over 250,000, and slightly higher than that for cities with over a million, according to F.B.I. data for 2017.

A police spokeswoman said the department did not intentionally withhold public information, but that processing requests could take time. The city does not post data on civilian complaints.

One Phoenix police officer has been shot this year. He was wounded during a traffic stop in August.

At the behest of Chief Williams, city officials have hired the National Police Foundation, a nonprofit research firm, to study the problem. The move displeased police union officials, who said it amounted to placating activists by second-guessing officers who have done nothing wrong.

The number of officer-involved shootings in Phoenix this year far surpasses the number in other cities of similar size.CreditConor E. Ralph for The New York Times
The number of officer-involved shootings in Phoenix this year far surpasses the number in other cities of similar size.CreditConor E. Ralph for The New York Times

When the Phoenix police chief Daniel Garcia was fired in 2014, he blamed two police unions that had each called for a vote of “no confidence” in him.

“Our city management needs to decide whether the Police Department is to be run by the unions, or by the police chief,” Mr. Garcia said at a news conference that led to his firing.

Mr. Garcia complained that the city’s review board, whose members are appointed by the City Council, sometimes sided with officers who committed crimes or used excessive force.

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Out of 41 cases appealed since 2014, discipline imposed by the Police Department was reduced or overturned in 27 cases, either by the review board or through settlements with the city’s own lawyers.

In 2015, the board reinstated Officer Kevin McGowan, who had been fired for stomping on the neck of an 18-year-old as he was lowering himself to the ground to surrender. The attack, which was caught on a surveillance video, knocked out three of the man’s teeth.

Last year, Officer McGowan was one of 10 officers at the fatal arrest of Mr. Muhaymin. Sgt. Mercedes Fortune, the police spokeswoman, said that Officer McGowan “was not involved in the initial contact or takedown” of Mr. Muhaymin, but that he “assisted by applying the leg restraint after the suspect was on the ground and in handcuffs.”

She did not respond to other questions about Mr. Muhaymin’s arrest and death.

Ken Crane, the president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, the main police union, said that officers were not the problem in Phoenix. People should submit to police commands, he said: “We all go home safe if everybody remembers this one little word: compliance.”

Asked why there were so many more police shootings than in other large cities, Mr. Crane said Phoenix has “a lot more people that want to pull guns and knives on the cops.”

The evidence? The number of times, he said, that officers have had to shoot at someone.

Richard A. Oppel Jr., , The New York Times, “How Phoenix Explains a Rise in Police Violence: It’s the Civilians’ Fault

Phoenix man paralyzed by police shooting makes claim of brutality

Attorney Tom Horne speaks during a Sept. 24, 2018, press conference with client Edward Brown, who was was left paralyzed after being shot by a Phoenix Police officer Aug. 5, 2018. (KTAR Photo/Ali Vetnar)

https://omny.fm/shows/ktar-reporter-audio/edward-brown-shooting/embed?style=cover

PHOENIX — On Aug. 5, 36-year-old Edward Brown was shot in the back by a Phoenix Police officer, leaving him paralyzed.

At a press conference Monday, Brown, who is black, claimed he was a victim of police brutality and excessive force because of his race.

Brown was joined by his attorney, former Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, and Phoenix civil rights activist Rev. Jarrett Maupin.

The police report on the incident indicated that Brown was shot after attempting to grab an officer’s gun near Glenrosa and 22nd avenues after police attempted to stop him when they received a call for suspicious activity involving drugs.

Brown and his representatives said there are errors and inconsistencies in the police description of the shooting.

The report said Brown ran through the yards of several homes before reaching a fence he couldn’t hop over. When the officer drew his gun from about 20 feet away, the report said, Brown ran at the officer.

The report said as Brown approached the officer he “swiped” at the gun, and the officer indicated he felt the tip of his gun get hit. That is when he stepped back and fired, striking Brown one time.

Brown admitted to running from police because he has a felony warrant, according to the report. However, the report said, Brown denied running toward the officer or attempting to grab his gun. He also indicated the marijuana was planted by the officer.

“If Edward had been trying to take a gun from the police officer as has been alleged in the publicity that has come from the police department, he would have been shot in the front, not in the back,” Horne said during the press conference.

He was charged with aggravated assault on an officer and possession of marijuana.

Maupin displayed a medical marijuana card that he said belonged to Brown and was in effect at the time of the shooting.

Brown’s family plans to hold a protest outside City Hall on Friday night. Brown wants all charges dropped and is planning a lawsuit.

When reached, the Phoenix Police Department said it does not comment on cases pending litigation.

ALI VETNAR, SEPTEMBER 24, 2018, “Phoenix man paralyzed by police shooting makes claim of brutality”, http://ktar.com/story/2232585/phoenix-man-paralyzed-by-police-shooting-makes-claim-of-brutality/

FBI reviewing arrest in Arizona, where officers beat man

The evaluation in Mesa, Arizona, includes a possible civil rights violation by police for punching a man after he refused to sit down.
 / Updated 
By Phil Helsel

Editor’s Note (Aug. 30, 2018, 6 p.m.): The name of a 15-year-old who was arrested on suspicion of armed robbery was removed from this article. It is the policy of NBC News not to identify minors who are charged with crimes.

The FBI will investigate the use of force by police in two arrests in Mesa, Arizona, including one in which a man was punched by officers who were responding to a complaint about another man, for possible civil rights violations, police said Wednesday.

The federal agency informed the Mesa Police Department on Tuesday about the review, which included the arrest of Robert Johnson, who was seen in surveillance video being punched by police in a May 23 encounter.

The other case centers on the arrest of a 15-year-old boy who the Mesa Police Department said was arrested on suspicion of armed robbery on May 16. Body camera video appears to show an officer threaten to “f— you up” and place a foot near the back of his neck when the boy was on the ground and handcuffed.

The development comes days after the Scottsdale Police Department, which was called in to conduct the initial investigation, determined that the use of force by officers in Johnson’s arrest was justified and recommended no criminal charges.

Johnson, 35, was punched and arrested after police responded to a report of a domestic disturbance involving another man who had allegedly tried to force his way into an ex-girlfriend’s apartment. An officer wrote in a report that Johnson refused a request to sit down, and that the officer believed he was preparing for a fight.

Charges against Johnson were later dismissed by a judge at the request of prosecutors.

Johnson’s attorney, Benjamin Taylor, said in a statement Wednesday that he was pleased the FBI was looking into the use of force in the incident, which he called a case of police brutality.

“We hope that the FBI will do a fair investigation and help clean up the Mesa Police Department’s culture of hurting citizens and give justice to Mr. Robert Johnson,” Taylor said in a statement.

A Mesa police public information officer said in an email that an internal investigation into Johnson’s arrest is continuing, and the officers involved have been placed on administrative leave.

Scottsdale police said in a statement Monday that in addition to surveillance video, officers’ body camera videos “provided additional angles and audio that clarified what actually occurred.”

“Based on the totality of the circumstances and all of the evidence in this case, our final determination is that no criminal charges are warranted against the involved officers as the use of force was legally authorized and justified under Arizona State Law,” Scottsdale police said.

They added that the case was presented to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, which agreed with the conclusion.

Taylor said he intends to file a civil lawsuit.

Prosecutors on Aug, 17 determined that no charges would be filed against the officers in the 15-year-old’s arrest, saying state law permits use of reasonable force to effect an arrest.

The probe looked at possible aggravated assault because when a “mandibular,” or jawline, pressure point was used the suspect was in handcuffs, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said. The 15-year-old is being prosecuted as an adult, the Arizona Republic reported.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said it made no determination whether the force used in that arrest complied with department policies.

Phil Helsel, NBCNews, “FBI reviewing arrest in Arizona, where officers beat man”, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/fbi-reviewing-arrest-arizona-where-officers-beat-man-n904986

‘They Laughed’: Man Details Alleged Police Brutality in Mesa

 

Jose Conde says cops beat him, then mocked him during his January arrest
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 15, 2018 8:44 AM CDT

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Jose Luis Conde speaks to the media at his attorney’s office in Phoenix on Thursday.   (AP Photo/Terry Tang)

(Newser) – “This is no laughing matter.” So said a 23-year-old Arizona man at a Thursday presser in which he detailed his January arrest by the Mesa Police Department, the Arizona Republic reports. Per CNN, Jose Conde says on Jan. 28 he was searched, then hurled to the ground, “heaved into a wall,” stun-gunned, and “punched over and over by multiple cops. I was gouged in the eye and I was hit in the head with a massive police flashlight.” And then, “they laughed at me while I lay in a pool of my own blood barely conscious.” A police bodycam video has now emerged from the night Conde was arrested, after the car he was a passenger in was pulled over for not having its headlights on. Conde is seen stepping out of the car in the video, which is when the confrontation with the cops began.

As Conde screams, an officer is seen punching him. In a later video taken at the hospital, an officer can be heard saying to a bloodied Conde, “Bless his little heart. Aww. Man up.” Conde’s videos come on the heels of two others involving Mesa officers apparently using force: one in the case of a 15-year-old boy, and one in the case of Robert Johnson, who was arrested in May. Charges against Johnson have since been dropped. In Conde’s case, the police report says he resisted arrest and threw swings at an officer who found cocaine in his sock. Police Chief Ramon Batista says his department is reviewing the case and has called for independent investigations, but that “simply put, the tape released … by media outlets does not tell the full story concerning this arrest.” Conde, who was charged with narcotics possession, escape, resisting arrest, and aggravated assault on police, goes on trial in July.

 

Jenn Gidman, Jun 15, 2018, Newser.com, “They Laughed’: Man Details Alleged Police Brutality in Mesa”, http://www.newser.com/story/260668/mesa-cops-under-fire-again-for-alleged-police-brutality.html

‘At first glance this looks like a mistake’: Video shows Arizona officers beating unarmed man

June 6

The Mesa Police Department released surveillance video on June 6 that shows three officers beating an unarmed man in the hallway of an apartment building.

Four police officers from a Phoenix suburb have been put on paid administrative leave after video showed them beating an unarmed man last month, the Mesa Police Department said.

On Tuesday, the department released a 15-minute video of the incident, which took place May 23, in an effort to be transparent after recent high-profile cases where its officers’ use of force was questioned.

The footage shows four men in uniform frisking a man in a gray shirt as he stands near a railing on the upper floor of an apartment complex, holding a phone to his ear. The officers appear to give direction to the man — later identified as 33-year-old Robert Johnson — at which point he walks toward a wall.

Moments later, the officers have Johnson backed up into a corner near an elevator, then take him down. Johnson does not appear to resist. In the video, at least two officers are shown punching Johnson several times in the head; one officer pummels him on the left side of his face five times in rapid succession, before landing a final right hook that causes Johnson to slump down to the ground.

While this is happening, the elevator door opens and two more officers emerge and surround Johnson.

Mesa Police Chief Ramon Batista told several local news outlets Tuesday night that he first became aware of the video after a civilian reported it to him about a week after the incident, and that four of the officers involved were placed on leave immediately pending an investigation. He did not identify the officers placed on leave or specify whether the others in the video were also under investigation.

The officers had been responding to a call about a woman in distress and found Johnson and 20-year-old Erick Reyes, Batista told the Arizona Republic. While police were questioning Reyes, they asked Johnson to stay behind; the incident escalated after Johnson didn’t sit down when he was told, he added.

“When the person didn’t sit down, our officers then engaged in use of force to make him sit down,” Batista told the newspaper. “I don’t feel that our officers were at their best. I don’t feel that this situation needed to go in the way that it went.”

Johnson was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct and hindering, and Reyes was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct and possessing drug paraphernalia, the Republic reported.

The video released Tuesday was recorded by a surveillance camera in the apartment complex and does not contain audio. Mesa police have not released any body-camera video that might also have been recorded.

Advocates for Johnson blasted the officers’ actions, as well as what they called “the culture of violence at the Mesa Police Department,” in a statement released Tuesday night by pastor Andre Miller and attorneys Benjamin Taylor and Joel Robbins. They said Johnson had been cooperative and following police instructions when officers began assaulting him — and that the incident would have gone unnoticed if surveillance cameras had not recorded video.

“We hope and pray that the Mesa Police Department will accept responsibility for the misconduct of these officers,” the statement read. “Mesa must take concrete steps to ensure that culpable officers are disciplined, retrained, or dismissed. The Mesa Police Department must develop a law enforcement culture that meets community and constitutional norms and ensures that police and citizens go home safely after police interactions.”

Mesa City Council member Jeremy Whittaker said the video was “appalling” at first glance.

“It would be irresponsible of me to convict these officers in the court of public opinion before they are guaranteed their constitutional right to a fair trial as I understand there is a criminal investigation,” Whittaker wrote. “I am eager for due process to take place. We hired Chief Batista last year to focus on making sure our police department is fairly serving the public. Leadership change takes time and I have full faith he is focusing on the issues that plague our community.”

The Mesa Police Department was thrust into the national spotlight recently after a high-profile incident involving questionable use of force. In December, former Mesa police officer Philip Brailsford was acquitted of second-degree murder charges in the January 2016 shooting of Daniel Shaver. After the ruling, a judge released graphic video from Brailsford’s body camera that showed Shaver sobbing, crawling on his hands and knees and begging for his life in the moments before Brailsford shot him multiple times.

In February, the department was also criticized after body-camera footage showed Mesa police violently taking down an 84-year-old grandmother, causing bruises and a black eye.

On Tuesday, Batista said he had instituted new policy that would prohibit officers from striking a person’s face or head unless that person is fighting them.

“This is no way represents the whole work that is done every day,” Batista told 12 News, of the newly released video. “They’re human beings. Certainly, at first glance this looks like a mistake. And it doesn’t look right and it’s my job — it’s our job — to collectively investigate and find the answers to this.”

June 6, The Washington Post, “‘At first glance this looks like a mistake’: Video shows Arizona officers beating unarmed man”

No, a cop’s ‘fears’ don’t justify every shooting

The jurors who acquitted Philip Brailsford of second-degree murder last week were told to judge him based on “how a reasonable officer would act, versus a regular person with no police training,” as The Arizona Republic put it.

That distinction was crucial, because a “regular person” would never get away with shooting an unarmed man who was crawling on the floor, sobbing and begging for his life.

Like other recent cases in which jurors failed to hold police officers accountable for the unnecessary use of deadly force, Brailsford’s acquittal shows that cops benefit from a double standard. Unlike ordinary citizens, they can kill with impunity as long as they say they were afraid, whether or not their fear was justified.

Daniel Shaver got drunk and did something stupid. But he did not deserve or need to die for it.

On Jan. 18, 2016, Shaver, who was 26 and lived in Granbury, Texas, was staying at a La Quinta Inn in Mesa, a Phoenix suburb, while working on a job for his father-in-law’s pest-control company.

After inviting two other hotel guests to his room for a drink, he showed them an air rifle he used for work, at one point sticking it out a window to demonstrate the scope’s range.

Alarmed by the rifle’s silhouette, a couple who had been using the hotel’s hot tub informed the staff.

That’s how Brailsford and five other Mesa officers ended up confronting Shaver in a fifth-floor hallway.

The body-cam video of the encounter, which was not publicly released until after the verdict, shows that Shaver, who according to the autopsy had a blood alcohol concentration more than three times the legal threshold for driving under the influence, was confused by the strange and contradictory orders that Sgt. Charles Langley barked at him.

Instead of simply handcuffing Shaver as he lay face down with his hands behind his head, under the guns of three officers, Langley inexplicably told the terrified and intoxicated man to crawl toward him.

While crawling, eyes on the floor, Shaver paused and reached toward his waistband, apparently to pull up the athletic shorts that had slipped down as he moved. That is when Brailsford fired five rounds from his AR-15 rifle.

“He could have easily and quickly drawn a weapon down on us and fired without aiming,” Brailsford said later. Yet neither of the other two officers who had guns drawn on Shaver perceived the threat that Brailsford did.

One of those officers testified that he would not fire based purely on the “draw stroke” Brailsford thought he saw. He would also consider the context, such as whether a suspect is belligerent and threatening or, like Shaver, compliant, apologetic and tearful.

Brailsford said he was trained to ignore context.

“We’re not trained necessarily to pay attention to what a suspect is saying,” he testified. “We’re supposed to watch their actions and what they do with their hands.”

The jury apparently accepted the counterintuitive argument that police, because of their special training, are apt to be less careful with guns than the average citizen would be.

A similar dispensation seemed to be at work last June, when Minnesota jurors acquitted former St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez of manslaughter after he panicked during a traffic stop and shot a driver who was reaching for his license.

Even more astonishing was the failure of South Carolina jurors to reach a verdict in the trial of former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager, who shot an unarmed motorist in the back as he ran away. Last May, five months after that mistrial, Slager signed a federal plea agreement in which he admitted the shooting was not justified.

All three of these officers said they were afraid, but that is not enough to justify the use of deadly force.

When juries fail to ask whether police have good reason to fear the people they kill, regular people have good reason to fear police.

 

Jacob Sullum, December 15, 2017, NY Post, “No, a cop’s ‘fears’ don’t justify every shooting”, https://nypost.com/2017/12/15/no-a-cops-fears-dont-justify-every-shooting/

Sycamore police broke off DUI investigation of Elgin officer

Sycamore officials looking into why Elgin cop was arrested but not charged

May 13, 2017

Sycamore Police Chief Glenn Theriault addresses concerned parents at a meeting in March 2015. Theriault has been on leave since April 11 as city officials investigate why an Elgin police officer was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence but later released without charges.

SYCAMORE – Police Chief Glenn Theriault has been on administrative leave since April 10 as the city investigates why an Elgin police officer arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence was released without charges.

Records obtained by the Daily Chronicle through the Freedom of Information Act show a Sycamore officer was building a driving under the influence case against Elgin Police Sgt. Mark Whaley after an early morning traffic stop Saturday, April 8. Whaley, who has been a police officer for almost 23 years, was handcuffed and driven to the police station, where he was processed. Theriault, who worked with Whaley on the Elgin police force, also went to the police station that night.

Whaley later was released without even a traffic ticket because of lack of evidence, according to the police report.

The report shows Whaley, 46, declined field sobriety tests and declined to provide a breath sample at the Sycamore police station. It does not say whether Whaley was issued a DUI ticket or read the “warning to motorist” that could have triggered a suspension of his license for a year for refusing chemical testing under Illinois law.

Cellphone records show Theriault had three early morning phone conversations with an Elgin police commander and later helped to ensure that a $500 administrative towing fee was waived for Whaley, bypassing a hearing process prescribed by city code.

“Tough position for you and all last night,” read a text sent by Theriault hours later to the arresting officer, Luke Kampmeier. “I’m thinking of the rock-and-glass houses story.”

“A valuable experience for me, albeit unpleasant,” Kampmeier replied. “Tonight we will stick to parking tickets.”

City officials and Theriault have not commented, although in an email to his boss, the city manager, Theriault said he is confident “the outcome will be exonerated” in the case.

Elgin Police Chief Jeff Swoboda said his department had no role in the decision to release Whaley early that morning.

“We were notified he was arrested for the DUI, but now we are told he’s not, he wasn’t arrested and no ticket,” Swoboda said. “So now we’re still looking and seeing what that means as well.”

Early morning stop

The episode began around 1:40 a.m. Saturday, April 8. In his report, Kampmeier – who joined the force out of college in 2014 – wrote that he stopped a silver 2005 Ford F-150 pickup on Somonauk Street near High Street after he saw the driver almost cause a traffic crash at the intersection of State and California streets. Reasons given for the stop were noted as “fail to signal, overtake on right, no front license plate.”

In his report, Kampmeier wrote that the driver, Whaley, smelled strongly of alcohol. His speech was “thick-tongued,” his eyes glassy and bloodshot, his movements “slow and deliberate.”

Whaley told Kampmeier he had recently dropped off his wife and child downtown, then changed his story to say he was in the area for training and had one beer in Sycamore before driving, according to Kampmeier’s report. A story by the Daily Herald about Whaley saving a boy’s life with CPR in 2011 said he lived near DeKalb at the time.

After Whaley refused field sobriety tests, Kampmeier arrested him on suspicion of DUI, records show.

A second officer, Blake Powers, a 2016 police academy graduate, searched Whaley’s vehicle and found an unopened bottle of Miller Lite near the passenger seat, according to police reports. Powers stayed on the scene as Whaley’s truck was towed, records show.

“During the investigation, I learned Whaley was employed by the City of Elgin,” Kampmeier wrote. “I also learned the truck was registered to the City of Elgin.”

Swoboda confirmed the truck is an Elgin police vehicle.

No sergeant was on duty in Sycamore early that morning. Kampmeier contacted the officer in charge, who notified Cmdr. Mike Anderson, who contacted Theriault, phone records show.

In a text message exchange that apparently was with Anderson, Theriault asked the commander to go to the station. Anderson said he would update the chief if something went wrong.

“I’ll go in as well, just don’t want them feeling unduly pressured by the former EPD guy/chief,” Theriault told him by text. Theriault worked for Elgin police for 20 years, rising to the rank of commander, before joining the Sycamore force as chief in January 2015.

Swoboda said Whaley has been on the Elgin force about 15 years, and that he and Theriault would have worked closely together during the time they were both in Elgin. He did not know if Theriault had ever been Whaley’s direct supervisor.

Anderson and Theriault had a four-minute phone call at 2:19 a.m., according to phone records. At 3:24 a.m., Theriault called Elgin Police Cmdr. Colin Fleury, who supervises investigations. They talked for 10 minutes, then had two minute-long conversations not long after.

The report shows the investigation changed course after Kampmeier brought Whaley to the police station and processed him.

“Whaley refused to provide a breath sample,” Kampmeier wrote in the report. “ … Based on my observations and lack of evidence, I released Whaley without charges. City of Elgin administrators were notified regarding the incident.

“Case closed.”

In a memo from Deputy Chief Jim Winters on April 12, police were asked to preserve any dashcam video of the incident, as well as video from inside the police station and other records. Sycamore officials did not release any video to the Daily Chronicle, citing their internal investigation.

No arrest, no fee

Around noon April 8, Theriault received a text message, again apparently from Anderson, telling him Whaley had come to the police station to pay the administrative towing fee for his vehicle.

“Are we waiving?” the text asked. “And how do we document that?”

“No arrest so no admin fee,” Theriault replied. “Just pays Accurate for tow. [Kampmeier] said he was calling Accurate to advise. Not sure if he did.”

The towing company was called and made sure they knew to waive the fee, according to a follow-up message.

The city’s ordinance regarding administrative towing, which was passed with Theriault’s backing in April 2016, says that in order to have an administrative fee waived, the vehicle’s owner must request a hearing “within 12 hours of the seizure.”

If a hearing is requested, the city is required to schedule one “within 24 hours, excluding Sundays and holidays.”

Sycamore police routinely have people’s vehicles towed and held based merely on the standard of “probable cause” to believe they were used in a crime including DUI. Vehicles are not released unless the $500 fee is paid, plus towing costs. The code does not address situations in which a vehicle is towed and a person is later released without charges.

Text messages show an Elgin police lieutenant was to go to the Sycamore station April 11 to pick up the police reports about the incident. Elgin police could not immediately be reached for comment on whether they are doing their own investigation into the incident or what role the department had in the events of that night.

Fallout

Word about the decision to release Whaley spread through the Sycamore police ranks quickly.

“Heads up, apparently dayshift got the rumor mill fired up,” Kampmeier texted Theriault on the afternoon of April 8. “I have already gotten a phone call and a few messages about last night. I made it clear that it was my decision.”

City officials denied a request for any records showing complaints by members of the public, Sycamore police officers or their union about Theriault, citing their ongoing internal investigation. But it is clear City Manager Brian Gregory soon became involved.

Early on Tuesday, April 11, Theriault sent a message to Gregory.

“Still in dismay,” Theriault wrote before 8 a.m. “… Just want to offer a few thoughts, particularly as it relates to what happens after this given I am extremely confident the outcome will be exonerated.”

Gregory’s response came later that day: a letter notifying Theriault he had been placed on paid administrative leave. Theriault has been temporarily stripped of police powers and was required to turn in department-issued equipment; he is barred from city property or having contact with any city employees, according to the notice from Gregory.

Gregory has declined to comment on the matter because it is a personnel issue.

The city has hired Lansing-based REM Management Services to investigate the incident, records show. The management consulting firm includes two veteran law enforcement officers who are former police chiefs.

After the first story about Theriault’s leave was published in the Daily Chronicle, Anderson sent a note to several officers.

“Continue to dot the I’s, cross the T’s while lining up the X’s versus O’s as we march ahead,” Anderson wrote on April 26. “This matter will soon pass and as the old guy in the division I have been through matters like this in the past.”

Theriault’s future with the department is yet to be determined. City officials have said the investigation is ongoing; a city council meeting scheduled for Monday does include a closed session on personnel matters, but the city has not said if Theriault will be a topic of discussion.

http://www.nwherald.com/2017/05/12/sycamore-police-broke-off-dui-investigation-of-elgin-officer/ar85kc3/?platform=hootsuite

Federal Court Issues Order in Lawsuit Against the Twin Cities of Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah, Finding Widespread Police Misconduct and Religious Discrimination

Last month, U.S. District Judge H. Russell Holland issued an order based on findings made by a jury that the Colorado City Marshals Office “engaged in a long-standing pattern of abuses that included false arrests, unreasonable seizures of property, discriminatory policing on the basis of religion, and violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”

According to the Department of Justice, police officials engaged in a decades-long pattern or practice of police misconduct and housing discrimination.  Judge Holland concluded that officers turned a blind eye to criminal activity involving FLDS Church leaders or members, including supporting a fugitive and ignoring underage marriages, unauthorized distribution of prescription drugs, and food-stamp fraud.

The findings of this investigation reflect poorly not only on the towns, but also state attorneys general’s office, which should have take action much sooner so that federal intervention would not have been necessary.

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Federal Court Issues Order in Lawsuit Against the Twin Cities of Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah, Finding Widespread Police Misconduct and Religious Discrimination

A federal judge yesterday found that the Town of Colorado City and the City of Hildale engaged in a decades-long pattern or practice of police misconduct and housing discrimination, and ordered expansive relief to remedy the violations and prevent further violations in the future, announced the Department of Justice.

U.S. District Judge H. Russell Holland’s order, issued yesterday, adopts findings made by a jury last year that the Colorado City Marshals Office engaged in a long-standing pattern of abuses that included false arrests, unreasonable seizures of property, discriminatory policing on the basis of religion, and violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.  “The constitutional right to free exercise of religion, on the one hand, and the statutory right to housing and constitutional policing, on the other hand, are vitally important to a viable, peaceful community,” U.S. District Judge Holland wrote.

“Religious discrimination threatens the Founders’ vision of a society based firmly on principles of liberty and freedom of conscience,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  “No individual in the United States should be treated differently by a town or its police officers because of his or her religion.  No religious leaders should be permitted to use the power of sworn law enforcement officers to hide their misdeeds and enforce their decrees.

The adjoining towns of Colorado City and Hildale are located on the border of Arizona and Utah and are populated primarily by members of a faction of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) that remains loyal to its imprisoned prophet, Warren Jeffs.  Jeffs is currently serving a prison term in Texas of life plus 20 years for aggravated sexual assault of a minor.

The advisory verdict made permanent by U.S. District Judge Holland’s order came after a seven-week trial during which the United States presented evidence from over thirty witnesses that the governments of Colorado City and Hildale are controlled the FLDS Church and Warren Jeffs.  Among other things, Judge Holland concluded that Marshals “officers turned a blind eye to criminal activity involving FLDS Church leaders or members,” including supporting a fugitive and ignoring underage marriages, unauthorized distribution of prescription drugs, and food-stamp fraud.

In addition to its verdict on the police-misconduct claim, the jury found that the defendants engaged in a pattern or practice of housing discrimination against persons who were not members of Warren Jeffs’ faction of the FLDS.  The jury found that the defendants had used their municipal authority to coerce, intimidate, or interfere with individuals seeking housing, discriminated in the provision of municipal services, and denied housing to non-FLDS members.  The United States settled the damages portion of the case shortly before the verdict for $1.6 million.

The Court’s findings are accompanied by a comprehensive order designed to remedy the police misconduct and housing discrimination.  Under the terms of the order, which lasts for ten years, the defendants must revise the policies of the Marshal’s Office, adopt new internal affairs and hiring practices, hire two new officers, and hire both a police-practices consultant and a mentor for the Chief of Police.  The defendants must submit to training and revise numerous municipal policies and procedures, including their water policies and water impact fees.  The order also requires the defendants work to subdivide the land in Colorado City, an issue that has long been a point of contention between the defendants and the religiously neutral land trust that took over control of the property in the area from the FLDS Church over a decade ago.  Judge Holland will appoint a monitor to track the defendants’ compliance with the order and report to the Justice Department and the court.

The opinion marks the end of five years of Justice Department litigation to address widespread discrimination in Colorado City and Hildale.

The Marshal’s Office currently has seven sworn officers.  Arizona’s Police Officer Standards and Training Board (POST) recently voted to revoke the peace officer certifications of six of those officers, including the certification of the current Chief Marshal Jerry Darger.  POST officials recently refused to approve the certification of the seventh officer on the grounds that he had been engaged in a pattern of criminal activity, including felony conduct.  Since 2003, six other members of the Marshal’s Office have been decertified by Arizona state officials, including three officers who refused to cooperate with state law-enforcement efforts.

This matter was litigated by attorneys from the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section and the Special Litigation Section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.  More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.usdoj.gov/crt.  If you have any information regarding this matter, please contact the Department at 1-800-896-7743 or e-mail the Justice Department at coloradocitydiscrimination@usdoj.gov (link sends e-mail).

https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/federal-court-issues-order-lawsuit-against-twin-cities-colorado-city-arizona-and-hildale-utah