Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Riggs And Hite Head To White House For Meeting On Transparency

Public Safety Director Troy Riggs (left) and IMPD Chief Rick Hite (Indianapolis Star Photo)
Your favorite local newspaper boasts about our two top public safety officials, Public Safety Director Troy Riggs and IMPD Chief Rick Hite, heading to Washington for a meeting at the White House to discuss transparency in policing. The irony of that headline. These are the two men who covered up a citizen report made by Austin Joseph of an IMPD police captain driving his police car erratically at speeds in excess of 90 mph on the evening of December 20, 2014 while en route to roll call at the downtown district office. Police sources told Advance Indiana in January that IMPD officials waited many hours before administering a blood/alcohol test on Capt. Phil Burton in violation of department policy after learning of the complaint. The alcohol detected, according to the source, was blamed on cough syrup Burton said he had consumed during the day, a claim many found incredulous. When IMPD brass mistakenly believed the police officer involved was Capt. Joe Finch instead of Capt. Phil Burton, police sources told Advance Indiana that Chief Hite ordered him placed on immediate suspension and his badge, gun and police car taken away from him. Upon being advised it was Capt. Burton, sources told Advance Indiana Chief Hite inexplicably reversed his order.

When Advance Indiana sought to obtain a police incident report documenting the citizen's 911 call and the computer automated dispatch ("CAD") record, city legal denied the request, claiming that no police incident report existed for the incident and that the CAD record was an investigative report exempt from disclosure under Indiana's Access to Public Records Law. Advance Indiana appealed that denial to the Public Access Counselor, but in the meantime, a similar public records request was submitted to the Marion Co. Sheriff's Department. Almost at the same time the Public Access Counselor sided with city legal's decision to deny access to the records, the Sheriff's Department produced both the CAD record and the audio recordings of the 911 call and related dispatch communications to police to Advance Indiana. The audio recordings are quite troubling. Confusion seemed to set in as police dispatch and officers discussed the situation in repeated back and forth matters. The call initially got passed off to State Police, who passed it back to IMPD. Incredibly, the police were told to make a traffic stop of the citizen and not Capt. Burton. One police dispatcher was noticeably more concerned about protecting Capt. Burton than acting on Joseph's 911 call. The citizen was the bad guy, not the police officer reported by the citizen to be driving recklessly at high rates of speed on a non-emergency commute downtown.

When Advance Indiana contacted Lori White, director of the Citizens Police Complaint Board, about the Board pursuing an investigation of the matter, she at first seemed to take the matter very seriously. She confirmed CAD records substantiated at least part of the allegations made by the police sources who spoke to Advance Indiana on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation. She later told Advance Indiana the matter was being handled through an internal affairs investigation rather than as a citizen complaint. Nearly two months have passed and White will no longer discuss the matter, referring all questions to IMPD spokesman Lt. Rich Riddle, who has refused to respond to Advance Indiana's requests for information on the status of the internal affairs investigation. Meanwhile, confidence and morale within the department among many officers has reached new lows. Police sources don't believe a credible internal affairs investigation was conducted to determine whether laws or department rules and policies were broken.

It is absolutely stunning that the department would handle a matter this serious in such a cavalier manner after the fatal-alcohol collision involving former IMPD Officer David Bisard. That long and sad chapter for IMPD wound up costing city taxpayers close to $10 million in legal settlements paid out to the victims and their families and court costs associated with prosecuting Bisard. Officer Bisard was driving his police car at a high rate of speed while not responding to a police emergency when he crashed into a group of motorcycles, killing one and critically injuring two other motorcyclists. Bisard was not administered a portable breathalyzer test at the scene of the accident because police investigating the accident claimed he didn't appear to be intoxicated, and a subsequent blood/alcohol test administered hours later registering more than two times the legal limit was botched so badly the test result showing he was highly intoxicated were initially thrown out by a judge before later being admitted as evidence. It is equally disturbing that the same Indianapolis media, which covered the Bisard ordeal non-stop over a several year period, has completely ignored this story. Come to think of it, not a single member of the Indianapolis City-County Council has called for public accountability either. But, hey, we just hosted another Final Four and our city really shined. That's all that really matters, right?


Anonymous said...

Trust me when I say there are many many many more inequities being covered up that the DOJ needs to make public.

Anonymous said...

What sort of plans will they cook up in DC for Indy?

Anonymous said...

Jack Rinehart and Russ McQuaid used to be decent reporters, but they only write press releases for IMPD these days. Makes their jobs much easier. The Star lacks a city beat reporter who can find his or her way around the CCB these days.

Anonymous said...

Steve Jefferson and Capt. Burton are best buds so don't expect him to check it out.

Anonymous said...

And the beats go on!

Anonymous said...

Sec. 251-131. - Citizens' police complaint office established.
The citizens' police complaint office is established as part of the department of public safety. Any complaint of a citizen against an officer of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department alleging that the officer used profane and abusive language or intentionally destroyed or damaged real or personal property, exceeded his/her authority as a police officer, used unauthorized force, or acted in violation of the Department's rules and regulations or orders may be filed with the citizens' police complaint office. In addition, if a complainant alleges that intimidation tactics are being used to impede the filing of a complaint, the complainant shall report this to the complaint office and a separate complaint will be filed regarding the new information. Each complaint shall be filed within sixty (60) days of the action giving rise to the complaint, shall be in writing, and shall be signed by the person making the complaint, who shall affirm under the penalties of perjury that the representations contained therein are true. The complaint may be filed in person or by facsimile or through the mail. Additionally, complaints may be filed after the expiration of the sixty-day time period where the person making the complaint was under a legal disability during the sixty-day time period or where, upon a showing of good and sufficient cause and upon majority vote of the citizens' police complaint board, a person is permitted to belatedly file a complaint.

-It appears AI made a complaint. It must be submitted to the CPCB.