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Posted on: Friday, October 4, 2013
Odessa Police officers reprimanded for excessive force, illegal search
   
 
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Four Odessa police officers have been disciplined recently, but Odessa Police Department Chief Tim Burton said the incidents in question are not malicious in nature and none of the actions will result in termination.

Disciplinary hearing reports and investigative files obtained from the Odessa Police Department show that in the month of August, four officers were disciplined for two instances involving a number of violations ranging from illegal search to conduct toward supervisors, subordinates and associates.

Burton said currently, with Odessa in the midst of an economic and population boom, the OPD is not only trying to keep up but also bring a relatively young staff up to speed in terms of experience and the ability to handle situations they may be encountering for the first time.

The documents describe an incident that occurred in March when two officers were reprimanded for illegally searching a home and one also was reprimanded for using excessive force while attempting to take someone into custody.

Another incident is described in the documents when, in April, two officers were reprimanded for threatening each other during SWAT training and their supervisor also was reprimanded for not documenting the incident.

Extensive documents were provided about an incident that occurred March 3 when Cpl. Josh Caid, Cpl. Joshua Aguilar and Officer Ricky Rodriguez were conducting a narcotics investigation in the 100 block of West Mable Street.

Aguilar and Rodriguez were reprimanded in writing and ordered to complete additional training on proper arrest, search and seizure procedures for violating the OPD standard operating procedure of arrest, search and seizure — specifically, for entry into a home.

Both officers said they thought they were protected by case law in their decision to initiate a search and that they had enough probability with alleged drug trafficking and a man they believed to be a fugitive within the home to make entry.

Burton said this kind of situation was possible for officers at any time.

“It was a bad decision in the course of a dynamic event,” Burton said. “Police officers are very quickly trying to discern what the appropriate legal action is at any time. Sometimes we make a mistake — that was one of those instances.”

All three men describe seeing multiple people standing outside 122 W. Mable St., conducting, what police believed to be, drug sales for an undetermined period of time before confronting the men, identifying themselves as police, and the men they believed to be selling drugs running in different directions, according to OPD investigative files, obtained by the Odessa American.

Aguilar stated to the Professional Standards Unit that he chased a man, identified as Darren Willis, 26, east across Grant Street and that Willis looked to have tripped on a curb. He stated Willis fell with his hands underneath his body, the documents state.

After several verbal commands for Willis to show his hands, Aguilar stated to PSU that he punched him in the face.

The documents state Aguilar told PSU that he had not seen Willis or anyone else at the location with a weapon. Aguilar stated he thought Willis may be armed because the house he and other officers were doing surveillance on was a drug house, the documents stated.

Aguilar stated that he used only the force necessary to affect a lawful arrest, but was reprimanded in writing for violating the OPD’s use of situational force.

Willis was charged with misdemeanor evading in connection to the incident and taken to the Ector County Detention Center.

While Aguilar chased Willis, Caid followed a suspect through the back door of Crazy 8, 14 S. Grant St., where multiple people pointed at the front door as Caid saw it shut, the documents stated.

Caid exited the front door and told the suspect, identified as Dwayne Lenard Thurman, 55, to lie on the ground, where Caid took him into custody.

Thurman was charged with misdemeanor evading in connection to the incident and taken to the Ector County Detention Center.

Caid stated in the documents that he and Aguilar retraced their steps to find any drugs that may have been dropped over the course of the pursuit, but did not state whether or not any were found on the path back to the residence.

Caid was part of the surveillance team along with Aguilar and Rodriguez, but was not reprimanded for any of his actions.

Both Aguilar and Rodriguez stated to PSU that they believed a man, identified as Kortney Powell, 28, was at the residence.

Powell was wanted on a warrant out of the county for theft, a state jail felony charge, the documents stated.

Rodriguez stated Powell’s grandmother had told him that Powell was currently residing at 122 W. Mable St., but he and Aguilar never checked to make sure who owned the home.

The documents state Rodriguez believed Powell was standing with the group of men in front of the residence on March 3 and that is when the officers set up their surveillance.

After Caid and Aguilar made it back to the home on West Mable Street, Aguilar got approval from a sergeant by radio to clear what they believed to be an open run down shed, but not a residence, which they later found it to be.

The incident was explained thoroughly in the documents obtained by the OA.

Two people came out, according to the documents, and one was identified as Christopher Webster, 21. Aguilar stated within the investigative files, that Webster was believed to have dropped a baggie of crack cocaine that was found near a washing machine and was charged with possession of a controlled substance, and misdemeanor evading, in connection with the incident.

The other person, Aguilar stated in the documents, was Glenice Johnson, 37.

The documents stated Aguilar said Johnson told the officers there were two people inside, and when asked if one of them was Powell, “she stated no, but shook her head yes.”

Johnson, the documents stated, was taken to the Ector County Detention Center in connection to outstanding warrants.

Aguilar and Rodriguez, the documents continued, went inside the residence and found a black male “pretending to be asleep.”

The male was eventually detained and identified as Toronto Clayveron Williams, 29, and not Powell as Aguilar and Rodriguez originally thought, the documents stated.

Aguilar stated, within the documents, Rodriguez told him he believed to have seen crack/cocaine on the kitchen counter of the home as they escorted Williams out, but the documents never state whether his belief was true.

No one was charged with possession of a controlled substance except for Webster, who, the documents indicated, was determined to have dropped a baggie of crack/cocaine outside the residence.

The documents stated Williams was charged with evading in connection to the incident and taken to the Ector County Detention Center. His charge was higher than the other, the documents stated, because he had a previous conviction of evading from September 2011.

Burton said the officers made their mistakes on good faith but that they still needed to be reprimanded so that proper procedures were followed in the future.

“It was an error made in trying to do the right thing and that’s going to happen from time to time,” Burton said. “That’s how we learn in a real world setting.”

The disciplinary process at OPD, Burton said, is progressive and each incident is looked at individually.

He said two main things internal investigations work to figure out is what exactly the officer did and what their intention was at the time. Then a decision is made based on the different factors and what intention was present at the time.

Burton said the department recognizes the departments’ youth and that because of supervisor to subordinate officer ratio is least a one-to-four ratio or one-to-six depending on the workload, so to minimize any inexperience that may come up.

Aguilar has been with the OPD since June 2010, while Rodriguez has been there since January of 2012. Neither officer has worked at another department.

Aguilar was also involved in the incident that took place in April involving Cpl. Shannon Davis and Sgt. Kevin Chance.

The documents stated the officers were involved in SWAT training, specifically in a competition to see what team could hold a railroad tie the longest.

Davis, the documents stated, jokingly sat on another team’s railroad tie and that Davis said he was two steps away from the tie when he was pushed in the back by Aguilar.

The documents indicate Aguilar said he pushed Davis off the tie to prevent the members from dropping the tie and losing the challenge.

Davis did not react at the time Aguilar pushed him, but became more upset as the day continued, the documents stated.

During the Easter egg hunt, the documents stated, Davis squeezed Aguilar’s shoulders and threatened to “kick his ass” if he pushed him again.

The documents stated that both Davis and Aguilar challenged the other to a fight.

Chance, the documents continued, stated he was present but did not intervene because he did not believe the two men would fight.

He continued he did not report it because he believed the situation had been settled.

Aguilar and Davis were both reprimanded in writing for violating the OPD standard operating procedure — specifically, conduct toward supervisors, subordinates and associates.

Chance received a verbal reprimand for violating OPD standard operating procedure — specifically, required conduct and administrative investigations.

Burton said the atmosphere of SWAT training is much like an athletic team and in this incident the competition was heated.

“It is not over the top for that to happen when it’s a heated competition like that,” Burton said. “However, it is the work environment, so while you understand how that can happen, it is the work environment and if it is that heated, we are obligated to do something.”

Burton said the department follows violations and disciplinary actions closely and that at the end of the day, the department has a large investment in the officers they hire and they want to see them serve the city and its citizens well.

Source: OA ONLINE 

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