Regular readers of this column will recall my recent encounter with a rude and unprofessional IMPD officer a couple months back.
The officer in question was dispatched to my home after I phoned 911 following the hit and run of my beloved dog. In addition to writing a couple of columns about my incident, I also followed the police department’s procedures to file an official complaint.
After an investigation, my case was called before the Citizens Police Complaint Board earlier this week. I attended the meeting and was highly impressed with the board members and the manner in which meetings are conducted.
However, the investigating sergeant’s report is now out, and I’m incredibly disappointed. The sergeant is responsible for reviewing details of the case, determining if the officer was in the wrong and if necessary, make the appropriate recommendations for disciplinary action or other steps regarding the situation.
Initially, of the five points or charges, the Professional Standards Division (PSD) found three to be not sustained and two to be sustained. Not sustained means they didn’t believe there was evidence to support my claims. For example, rudeness was a claim I made, but the PSD found that to be untrue so they ruled it as not sustained.
The review board however voted for two of the three not sustained charges be sustained. A positive affirmation of four of five claims isn’t bad, so I’m pleased with the board’s decisions and I encourage the public to report wrongdoings in an effort to hold public servants accountable.
However, the larger issue for me is that aspects of the report were not only inaccurate, but some “findings” were actual lies. My words were misconstrued completely and a false stage was set in an attempt to dispute my complaint or substantiate the inappropriate behavior of the officer.
I could go through the long list of untruths, ways in which my words were taken out of context, or the bizarre attempts to defend the officer’s rude behavior and condescending tone, but instead I will just mention a few:
- To rationalize the officer’s curt behavior, he claimed he thought I was a victim of domestic violence and “the other person left.” Such a notion is ludicrous because I told the dispatch repeatedly my dog was hit and that was the reason for my call. (And guess what? Even if I were a victim of domestic abuse, I still deserve to be treated fairly. )
- The officer claimed I never asked for a report to be filed, which is completely untrue. I explained to the officer repeatedly that the dispatch officer informed me since I had a license plate number of the offender, I could file a report, which is why an officer was dispatched to my home in the first place.
- The report claimed I lacked credibility. The reason for such a claim is unknown to me. I’m an educated media professional often called upon to make speeches and participate in forums in the course of my duties at the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper. In addition, my friend who was present during the incident is highly esteemed in the education arena and holds a PhD.
- The report alleged that my complaint against the driver who hit my dog was inconsistent because I respectfully referred to the reckless driver as “a gentleman” when speaking with the sergeant. I suppose the officer would have preferred I call him a thug or some profane expletive.
As I listened to the report the sergeant provided, I was appalled mostly because I could not believe such an effort was made to protect an officer who was simply rude, which is a relatively minor offense. It made me think what lengths would be taken to protect someone who committed a more severe offense. That realization terrified me, and sadly substantiates some of the claims people make about cover-ups in police departments.
I didn’t want the officer who behaved so inappropriately to be terminated or even harshly disciplined. I simply wanted the officer and others in the department to participate in various trainings that teach them how to treat the public. I believe when most of us know better, we do better. To further ensure such a notion, we must also be held accountable and regularly reviewed and screened by our superiors. And our superiors must also be reviewed and screened to ensure they are doing their jobs correctly and effectively.
I hate to admit it, but I felt defeated as I left the City County Building that evening. I thought of my job as a journalist and the countless times I’ve worked alongside the police in an effort to encourage the public to respect and value our public servants. How can I continuously tell the public to respect officers of the law when there are some “bad apples” in the barrel and some officers don’t respect the very citizens they are charged with protecting?
There must be mutual respect from both parties.
I have tremendous respect for Public Safety Director Troy Riggs and IMPD Chief Rick Hite, but they have to do more to combat the layers of deceit that is evident in their department. I’ve now witnessed it firsthand. If they don’t, it is only a matter of when, not if, that something more severe and detrimental occurs that will expose the ugliness of the department. I’ve reached out to both of them and shared my perspective as well as offered to help be part of the solution in whatever manner they deem appropriate.
Police are here to protect and serve, but the real questions are who are they protecting and what purpose are they really serving?
In my view, the jury is still out on those answers.