STATEMENT BY CITY OF ROHNERT PARK REGARDING
CONCLUSION OF INVESTIGATION INTO JULY 29, 2015 INCIDENT
October 28, 2015
Background: On July 29, 2015 a resident of Rohnert Park filmed an encounter with a Rohnert Park Public Safety Officer, and posted it on-line. The City commissioned an investigation of the incident by an independent third-party investigator. The investigator had full access to all requested City witnesses and documents and no party interfered with, or attempted to influence, the findings of the investigation . . .
The investigation is complete. Because this matter received a great deal of public attention, the City is issuing this statement. The City is unable to release additional information because the information is confidential pursuant to California Penal Code Sections 832.5 and 832.7. In addition, releasing information collected as part of a confidential investigation could stifle the willingness of subjects and witnesses to participate in future investigations. The information that is included in this statement has been authorized for public release.
Initial Contact and Drawing of Weapon: After a thorough review of available information,1 the investigator made the following findings regarding the Officer’s decisions to stop the resident and to un- holster his gun:
– The Officer reasonably exercised his right to stop and have contact with the resident, and did so for legitimate reasons and not for the purpose of harassing or mistreating the resident.
– It was reasonable for the Officer to un-holster his duty weapon at the point he did during the encounter with the resident.
Factors Contributing to the Incident: The Officer was in the neighborhood in response to complaints that someone in the neighborhood was violating City parking codes. While checking registration on cars he noticed a man standing on the sidewalk by a truck. The officer saw the resident quickly duck behind the truck after his patrol car came into view. The officer considered this suspicious behavior, and decided to investigate further. After the Officer got out of his patrol car, he also noticed other unusual behavior, including the resident’s agitated demeanor and his initial refusal to comply with the officer’s instruction to remove his hand from his pocket, which had a bulge in it.
Current Status of Involved Officer: The City of Rohnert Park’s Department of Public Safety includes Police and Fire Divisions. Officers regularly rotate between these Divisions. The officer involved in the July 29, 2015 incident currently is assigned to the Fire Division, per the City’s normal rotation process and at his own request, made in early July, 2015, prior to the incident.
Background on Investigators: The investigation was led by Sue Ann Van Dermyden of the Van Dermyden Law Corporation. Ms. Van Dermyden is a licensed attorney and licensed Private Investigator. She is experienced in internal investigations involving public safety officers. In preparing her report and reaching her conclusions, she consulted with and relied upon input from Ed McErlain, a retired law enforcement officer with thirty two years of experience. Mr. McErlain has authored several articles on leadership and ethical issues in law enforcement and has conducted over 300 Internal Affairs and Administrative investigations.
City’s Response to Investigation: The City appreciates the thorough and unbiased investigation into the events of July 29, 2015, as well as the public interest in this incident. We can assure the public that we have taken this matter seriously, and will continue to review and improve the City’s practices.
The City has great confidence in the Department, and regularly receives positive comments from members of the Rohnert Park community on the behavior of our officers. In this incident, we recognize that there is the opportunity for improvement in some areas. The City is committed to continuing its efforts to strengthen the positive relationship between the Department of Public Safety and the Rohnert Park community.
1 The resident who is the subject of the incident, through his attorney, initially agreed to be interviewed as part of the investigation. His attorney subsequently cancelled the scheduled interview and declined numerous further requests to have the resident interviewed. The investigation, however, closely examined all aspects of the video tape of the encounter and also reviewed the resident’s social media postings in order to attempt to understand his version of the events.