Sunday, June 13, 2010

Is Zero Tolerance The New Policy For IMPD?

The decision of Public Safety Director Frank Straub and IMPD Chief Paul Ciesielski to fire Officer Jerry Piland in the aftermath of the excessive force allegation made in the case of Brandon Johnson is troubling to rank and file IMPD officers from what I'm hearing. The new policy is one of zero tolerance compared to an old policy operated under for many years that gave really bad police officers too many extra chances. If that's the case, then Straub and Ciesielski have a lot of house-cleaning work at IMPD ahead of them.

Although Officer Jerry Piland had been a member of the police force for only three and a half years, he became a highly regarded officer during his short tenure, including earning the honor of being named the Rookie Officer of the Year. One of the other arresting officers involved in this incident, Jake Clouthier, had a long history of disciplinary problems and yet remains a member of the force. The investigation cleared Clouthier and two other officers of using excessive force in the arrest of Brandon Johnson.

The incident arose when police responded to a report of a home invasion involving the suspect, Brandon's younger brother, who was still at large in the neighborhood. Piland, a resident of that neighborhood, ran to the scene while off duty and not in uniform to assist the other three officers who responded to the reported home invasion and were successful in apprehending the suspect. Brandon interfered with his brother's arrest and initiated physical contact against the arresting officers according to the investigation. He continued to resist after the officers attempted to arrest him. Piland is alleged to have kneed and slapped Brandon with an open palm after two of the other arresting officers subdued him, causing a black eye and minor facial injuries. After a great public outcry in the black community over the facial injuries Brandon suffered, IMPD dropped all charges against him.

A concern among some police is a belief that Straub and Ciesielski interpreted all facts gathered in their investigation in the light least favorable to Piland to justify his termination in an effort to appease the black community, in particular the Concerned Clergy, a group of black ministers who spend a lot of time standing in front of TV cameras and chasing after crime prevention grant funds from the Ballard administration, and who do little with the grant money to help prevent crime within their communities. Police are extremely upset that they aren't given credit for the quick response that led to the apprehension of the suspect because home invasions have increased substantially recently and become a matter of great public concern. If Harrison had been so concerned about the well-being of his younger brother, he would have been looking out for him a little more closely to make sure he wasn't breaking into people's homes in the first instance and not been taking his anger out on police officers when they were simply trying to do their jobs in arresting his brother.

7 comments:

Marycatherine Barton said...

Great question, AI. and we all appreciate your giving your take re this sordid business.

Indy4U2C said...

Well said, Gary!

Advance Indiana said...

I think you have to be there to understand why police officers do what they do in a particular instance. There are plenty of examples of police in this country using excessive force. I'm not convinced that is what happened here, although I can't say for sure since I wasn't there. I never was a person to get into fights when I was in school, but I always remember one time in high school PE when we were playing flag football when I did something that surprised even me. A player from the opposing team put his arm up and shoved it into my throat to block me. I reflexively punched him in the nose and caused his nose to bleed. He was taken aback by my reaction, but I explained to him that his arm hitting my throat didn't feel so good either and I felt threatened. I think you have to give some latitude to police when they are fighting back someone who aggressively attacks them in the line of duty before we judge whether their action was reasonable. Their bosses decided the officer's force was excessive in this case. I'm just concerned they reached that judgment for the wrong reason.

Frank said...

Perfect post Gary. You hit the nail on the head on this one.

Frank said...

Not to mention that Jerry Piland was the heroic officer who saved Jason Fishburn's life. Jerry found Fishburn shot and immediately began working Jason to save his life. Jerry has dedicated his life to catching bad guys, and has gone against the worst society has to offer. East District is the buisest district in the entire state of Indiana, and Jerry wants to work there, and the public need more Jerrys out there. Hopefully the Police Merit Board will reverse the pandering of the Chief and Director quickly, no other case they will have heard has more importance to the morale of the patrol officers.

Downtown Indy said...

But Frank, he lost his head big time the last time around. Wht he may have done two years ago is irrelevant - commendable, but irrelevant.

Piland is now a person with what clearly is a severe anger management issue. Does he think being out of uniform gives him freedom to punch a handcuffed subject multiple times? Was he getting a few licks in on a resident of his neighborhood that, for whatever reason, he just didn't like?

Indy Student said...

Gary, looking over your story, that's how a normal person is supposed to react. Police officers, however, are trained not to make rash judgments.