UPDATE: EPD Determines Off-Duty Officer did Nothing Wrong

By JORDAN VANDENBERGE | jvandenberge@tristatehomepage.com

Published 05/28 2014 05:20PM

Updated 05/30 2014 12:25PM

UPDATE: After an internal investigation and after reviewing bank surveillance, the EPD  has determined the off-duty officer reacted appropriately in an incident inside Old National Bank earlier this week.

Original story--5/28/2014 5:20 PM-

As Eyewitness News first reported Tuesday, the Evansville Police Department is reviewing an off-duty officer's use of force on an allegedly incompliant 78-year-old man. Now, we've learned that department has 'broadened the scope' and the incident is now part of an internal investigation.

The use of force incident occurred around noon on Thursday of last week at the Old National Bank branch at Washington and Kentucky. At the time of the incident, the officer was in uniform but was off duty. At the time of the incident, the officer was working for Lawman Security and Consulting, which operates as a vendor for some security services at Old National Bank, bank officials said. Although it's very common for officers to work 'secondary jobs' on their time off, they are still under the same guidelines as if they were working on-duty for the department, Sgt. Jason Cullum said. The officer has not been suspended, Sgt. Cullum said. The other man involved in the incident, 78-year-old Arnold Wallace, tells Eyewitness News that he intends to file a formal complaint but has yet to do so. Immediately following the incident, the officer called a supervisor in accordance with department policy, Sgt. Cullum said.

According to the police report, the officer stated that Wallace was acting 'belligerently' and refused to leave the banking center despite the officer asking him to.

"When the officer attempted to escort the suspect out, [Wallace] forcefully pulled away from the officer," the report stated.

Wallace vehemently denied those allegations. According to court records, Wallace has been previously arrested three times for resisting law enforcement including a January 2013 incident in which Wallace was tased by officers, Sgt. Cullum said. However, Wallace said that has no bearing on what he believes happened that day in the bank lobby.

The cell phone video of the incident exclusively obtained by Eyewitness News doesn't show the initial contact. However, what the video does show is the officer asking the face-up Wallace to turn over onto his stomach. In the video, Wallace can be heard screaming that he cannot turn over onto his stomach. About 11 seconds into the video, the officer grabs the sleeve of Wallace's shirt to roll him over. Wallace continues to scream, according to the video. A little later into the video, you can hear a bank employee claiming Wallace had thrown his papers into the air.

Although the cell phone video only shows on angle of the incident, the internal investigation will encompass every possible angle, Sgt. Cullum said.

"We want to make sure that we can answer all the questions in a timely manner," Sgt. Cullum said. "[We want] to locate the witnesses, speak with [Wallace] as well as the officer for a bit more in-depth conversation. What we've done is went ahead and initiated an internal affairs investigation as part of it with the anticipation that this gentleman is going to file one. What this allows us to do is broaden the scope from a review to an actual investigation."

Because his contractual rights, the officer has a right to an attorney just like an average citizen, Sgt. Cullum said. As part of the investigation, internal affairs investigators have also obtained surveillance video from the bank lobby. Sgt. Cullum said the officer was not wearing a body camera at the time of the incident. As part of department policy, officers are required to download any and all videos after their fourth day of work. While the officer is off of work on his 'weekend' the videos are downloaded by department employees. That way, Sgt. Cullum said, the officer doesn't have to spend up to two hours downloading the video on an every day basis.

Through a records request, Eyewitness News obtained some statistics on use of force incidents in 2012 and 2013.

In 2012, EPD made a total of 6,632 arrests. Of those arrests, there were 369 incidents involving the use of force, according to records obtained by Eyewitness News. A total of 5.6% of the arrests EPD made in 2012 resulted in the use of force.

In 2013, EPD made a total of 6,172 arrests. Of those arrests, there were 368 incidents involving the use of force, according to records. A total of 6% of the arrests EPD made in 2013 resulted in the use of force. Despite fewer uses of force, the percentage-total was higher in 2013 because of fewer total arrests, Sgt. Cullum said.

The records obtained by Eyewitness News also break down what type of force was used in each incident.

In 2012, there were 214 incidents involving the use of force. In 2013, there were 232 incidents involving the use of force. Of those 232 incidents, there were 202 incidents involving a 'soft, empty hand.' Sgt. Cullum said that type of incident can be classified as an officer taking a suspect down to the ground. The remaining 30 use of force incidents in 2013 were 'hard, empty hand' cases. A 'hard, empty hand' can be described as a punch or strike, Sgt. Cullum said.

Although 2013 had 18 more of these incidents compared to the previous year, there were fewer incidents involving night sticks, K-9 dogs and tasers, according to records.

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