Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Smart man.

Looks like a fully justified major vote of no confidence in the DA.

Chief says future probes of epd will go to Department of Justice

Chief Garr Nielsen of the Eureka Police Department announced Monday that the California Department of Justice, rather than the local Critical Incident Response Team, would handle any future investigations involving EPD officers.

Nielsen said his department “would still be active partners in providing resources to any other agency at any time when requested for major criminal investigations, but any case involving use of force or criminal allegations against our officers will go directly to DOJ.”

The decision, Nielsen said, is intended to increase public confidence in the outcome of investigations.

“DOJ has a great deal of experience in investigating these kinds of incidents,” he said, “far more than anybody locally, and I believe they have a greater level of expertise.”

While Nielsen did not specifically link the decision to the CIRT investigation of the death of Martin Frederick Cotton II, who died Aug. 9 in police custody, the chief said he wished he had sent the Cotton case to the DOJ.

“Not because I think necessarily they would have done the investigation any differently or any better, but I think having people at the (Humboldt County) District Attorney’s Office closely linked to the department could compromise the appearance of objectivity,” Nielsen said.

Chief Investigator Mike Hislop from the District Attorney’s Office was involved in the Cotton investigation and previously worked as a traffic sergeant for the EPD.

Former EPD Traffic Officer Wayne Cox also now works for the District Attorney’s Office as one of Hislop’s investigators.

When asked if it made him uncomfortable to have his officers investigated by their former co-workers, Nielsen said, “Yes. To some degree it does. It’s not to say they inherently have a bias, but I think it’s very difficult to take personalities out of it when you’ve moved on to another organization.”

Nielsen acknowledged that Hislop and Cox were not the only local players to switch teams, and said he believed the community would have more confidence in investigations conducted by the state.

“I think the DOJ will lend a sense of impartiality to these investigations that isn’t necessarily there with people who have associations with local law enforcement, either because they’re former employees or have close personal relationships within the agencies being investigated,” Nielsen said.

Written guidelines created by the Law Enforcement Chiefs’ Association of Humboldt, or LECAH, state that primary investigative responsibility for critical incidents lies with the “venue agency,” meaning the office or department within whose jurisdiction the incident occurs.

While the LECAH guidelines “strongly encourage” use of CIRT protocols for investigations, they make clear the venue agency is under no obligation to do so.

“The DOJ has always been an available player,” Humboldt County Sheriff Gary Philp said Monday, “and certainly they can be brought into an investigation. It really falls to the agency of jurisdiction to decide.”

Though he called including DOJ resources “a good idea,” Philp said his office would likely continue using CIRT.

But Chief Randy Mendosa from the Arcata Police Department left open the possibility that the APD might also use the DOJ.

“The amount of resources and the level of expertise of the DOJ investigators is quite impressive. The DOJ option was not available to us when the individual department policies and the LECAH CIRT agreement were written,” Mendosa said.

“I have not yet talked with anyone at DOJ about this issue, but if they were willing and available, I would certainly amend our department policy to include the DOJ option.”

Nielsen said he made the announcement within the department Thursday and notified the heads of allied agencies Friday. The change took effect immediately.

7 comments:

  1. Its about time...what day is it in the Cheri Moore fiasco? 526? I lost count.

    No, Gallegos can't do his job and make a decision. Have the AG do it.

    And for the CRT team, with Hislop on it and Gallegos pulling the puppet strings, the whole team needs to disband unfortunately. The reason being is that with those two linked to it, nobody will trust what comes out of it.

    Man this is a sorry state of events for Humboldt.

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  2. Two traffic cops = chief investgators? Two power hungry extraffic cops who weren't very well liked in charge of investigating people who didn't like them. pricelss.
    IMHO

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  3. Garr Nielsen is a tactful man, and it looks like he chose his words very carefully. I don't think anyone has picked up on how huge this is.

    It also looks like Nielsen is a decisive man who isn't going to let the bs go on.

    Very impressive.

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  4. Hislop has no investigative experience, has serious violence issues (both work and domestic) and has delusions that he is the top cop in Humboldt.

    I wouldn't have him involved with investigating my tennis shoe.

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  5. I think your suspicion might be misdirected here Rose. The CIRT is not under Gallegos' thumb, quite the contrary, its made up mostly of good ol' boys from the Sheriff's Dept. and DTF. Nielsen's move is huge since it keeps them from covering up any more EPD-related deaths. As much as I am suspicious of the feds, I'm suspicious of the good ol' boys a lot more.

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  6. Anonymous 2:44PM Your statement lacks factual basis. The CIRT is comprised of investigators from the DA's Office, EPD, APD, FPD, and the SHeriff's office. There is no DTF involvement. If there is a "critical incident" an agency can call on the CIRT for assistance and the participating agencies send one or more investigators (depending on availablility and need - correct me if I'm wrong). The idea of the Sheriffs Office and the DTF covering up for EPD is laughable, more like someones demented dream.

    It would appear that the DA's office may think it is in charge of the CIRT. I don't know if that is the way the guidelines are set up. Do you ?

    I picked up that this is a very big step. It keeps the DA's Office out of the investigative loop and brings in an independent agency to chair or lead the investigation. There seems to be very little trust (as in EPD trusting the DA-with good reason).

    Is Arnie Klien really trying to push a grand jury investigation to charge half of EPD on the Cheri Moore incident? Don't know but that is kind of the rumor.

    Rose is almost always right on the mark, almost but not quite.

    This Moore issue saved the last election for PVG and is a continuing source of frustration for many in the community. And that is the fault of PVG alone. Whatever happened to "the buck stops here"?

    I have a plane to catch.

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  7. Thanks 4:17,

    Maybe it would help people is the acronym were spelled out CIRT is Critical Incident Response Team. It is a big deal when one of the participants cannot be trusted.

    It's kinda like if you had a neighborhood watch group and one of the members is the one whose kids are breaking into everyone's houses. Do you tell the group you're going on vacation for two weeks?

    Here, you've got a key member of an investigatory body acting with an agenda that threatens the integrity of the investigation.

    And, yes, I've been hearing that Hislop/Gallegos, who have no real understanding of protocol, or investigations, are throwing their weight around.

    Gallegos seems to be embracing the notion that he is top cop without any understanding of what his position really is. Thus you have the planned assault team and now this.

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