The shooting death led to a firestorm from the City's black community. An internal investigation cleared Haslar of wrongdoing as did a federal criminal grand jury that investigated the shooting. A federal civil rights lawsuit brought against the police department and Haslar ended with a jury verdict in the police officer's favor. Chief Paul Ciesielski was questioned by WTHR about Haslar's promotion today in light of the 1990 shooting death that sparked so much controversy. Here's that report:
IMPD Chief Paul Ciesielski said Haslar's exemplary record makes him a natural fit for the promotion. WTHR asked the chief if Haslar's 1990 incident weighed into his decision at all. Ciesielski said no.Haslar will replace Officer Chad Knecht, who has been promoted to fill a deputy chief position which opened up following the demotions of several high ranking police officers last weekend because of their handling of the DUI fatal accident involving Officer David Bisard.
Officer Haslar was accused of shooting an unarmed man, Leonard Barnett, in July 1990. Officer Haslar claimed Barnett had a gun but no gun was found at the scene. Haslar was exonerated by several investigations including a Federal Grand Jury which refused to indict him.
Haslar was even awarded a medal of valor for his handling of the incident.
Haslar told Eyewitness News, "You can never get over that. It is something that will always be in the back of my mind. I moved on. I was exonerated by several courts back then, civil trials, FBI investigations and I have gone on to a fairly successful career and that is what I am focusing on now, where I'm going in the future and not the past."
IMPD credits Haslar in part for the substantial drop in crime in the East District compared to one year ago.
The 1990 shooting death is not the only incident of controversy in Haslar's past. In 1991, a former police colleague accused Haslar of using excessive force against a woman during an arrest. The Star reported at the time, "A former Indianapolis policewoman who is blowing the whistle on alleged police misconduct has accused 1991 Medal of Valor winner Scott L. Haslar of using excessive force to make an arrest." The Star report continued, "In pretrial testimony for her U.S. District Court lawsuit against the city, Carol Harriman said she saw the policeman ram a woman's head into a wall." In 1993, several black ministers protested the promotion of Haslar to the rank of Sergeant. "Two and half years after the July 9, 1990, shooting, Haslar's name remains a festering reminder of police abuse for some city residents," the Star reported.
Today's announcement came after Mayor Ballard met with a racial mixture of ministers this morning to discuss the tension between police and the community. Haslar's promotion will likely further inflame already tense relations between the city's African-American community and IMPD.